Building DSA-LA Across All Los Angeles County

Proposed by: DSA-LA Steering Committee

Summary: To ensure that geographic branches are built in DSA-LA through a democratic, flexible, and iterative process.

Whereas:

  • The size of DSA-LA’s geographic jurisdiction is large,
  • Democratic practices require geographic representation to accurately reflect our region, and input from all members,
  • Broader, authentic geographic reach will foster deeper engagement with and the growth of DSA-LA,
  • DSA-LA members have expressed challenges with engagement due to meeting locations,
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee is empowered to call meetings throughout the chapter’s jurisdiction, per the DSA-LA Organizational Priorities,

Be it resolved that:

  • In 2018 DSA-LA will launch branch structures reflective of our membership’s geographic distribution,
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall convene multiple general meetings throughout our geographic jurisdiction, in consultation with members and neighboring DSA chapters,
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall convene a consultative and deliberative process open to all members to define the role of branches,
  • The development of branches shall not infringe on the powers currently apportioned to committees,
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall work with other Committees to adapt their work and strategy to include branches, and shall make non-binding recommendations to Committees,
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall produce an interim policy on branch development and governance by Fall of 2018,
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall convene a process to develop an amendment to the Local Bylaws at the 2019 DSA-LA Annual Convention formalizing branches.

Component I

Description of the Chapter Resolution, including a detailed timeline, and Local resources required.

DSA-LA today has over 1300 members, stretching from Canoga Park to Covina, and Castaic to Carson.  This reach and depth presents significant possibilities and challenges for our organization.  If we aim to build an independent, socialist political bloc in LA County, the massive size of the City of Los Angeles requires coordinated strategizing among DSA-LA campaigns and projects so that we may avoid fragmentation and work in concert with each other.  Similarly, the hundreds of members residing in other neighboring municipalities, such as Pasadena, San Fernando, and Santa Monica, benefit from being part of a large chapter with the resources and people-power that DSA-LA is building.  Balancing the need to be present in all neighborhoods with maintaining cohesion in our organization is a complex challenge, but one thing is clear - DSA-LA must become more accessible, and more local, if it is to facilitate deeper member engagement and continued growth.  

Other large chapters in DSA have sought to resolve this problem with the development of “branches” -- generally, non-overlapping, geographically defined subdivisions of their chapter.  Each DSA chapter has its own contexts, complexities, and needs, and it is for this reason that DSA-LA must learn from the experience of other chapters and thoughtfully prepare for the launching of branches in a way that reflects the current conditions of the chapter. The development and expansion of the Neighborhood Hangouts and Mobilizers programs can help inform where we may most successfully expand our geographic reach.

The DSA-LA Steering Committee currently has the power to call meetings throughout our jurisdiction.  With the passage of this Chapter Resolution, the DSA-LA Steering Committee shall be bound to convene chapter meetings throughout our geographic reach, in accordance with Article IV, Section 2 of our Bylaws. The locations of such meetings shall be guided by the number of engaged members in a given geographic area, and meetings shall be held in conjunction with members of those geographic localities. Meetings of this sort shall be called “branch meetings”.  Branch meetings will be primarily concerned with chapter-wide business, as our current chapter meetings are, but shall also have space for branch-specific matters.  All branch meetings shall be open to every member.

There are many unanswered questions on precisely how branches will be integrated into our chapter’s structure -- for this reason, this amendment shall obligate the DSA-LA Steering Committee to convene a consultative process with members to craft a temporary policy on the creation of branches, their governance, and related matters.  This temporary policy shall be published no later than October 2018, and will be set to expire at the 2019 DSA-LA Annual Conference, where it may be replaced by a permanent change to the chapter Bylaws.

Timeline:  

  • January-April 2018 - The work of Neighborhood Hangouts, Mobilizers, and the Membership Drive expands the level of engagement among our members across geographic regions, and informs branch development plans.
  • May 2018, target month - as soon as is feasible, launch the first geographic branch meeting.
  • September 2018, target month - complete member input and feedback process on branch development.
  • October 2018 - publish temporary, comprehensive DSA-LA policy on geographic branches.
  • April 2019 - DSA-LA policy on geographic branches expires, and (hopefully!) is replaced by a permanent change to the chapter Bylaws, introduced by an amendment enshrining the roles of branches.

Component II

Organizational Priorities with which this proposed resolution is aligned and motivation for the resolution.

This resolution recognizes and enacts at least the following four Priorities, as defined in the DSA-LA Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities:

  • Build organizational structures that can support and manage anticipated growth of the chapter.
    • As a growing chapter, a branch structure allows for members to engage in-person across the Los Angeles region, mitigating the challenge of long travel or lack of sufficient travel resources, and ensuring greater member-to-member communication.
  • Articulate ongoing numerical benchmarks and defined paths for member engagement, ensuring that we can meet every new and experienced member where they are at.
    • Geographic diversity increases accessibility, and is encouraging for new members or curious individuals to participate without requiring the commitment of extensive travel.
  • Develop internal capacity to recruit, engage and retain our members across the racial and socioeconomic divisions of Los Angeles, and connect members to each other regionally, while also challenging instead of reifying those divisions.
    • We recognize the historical and ongoing atomization along class and racial lines across Los Angeles. Branches will further encourage deliberate engagement with communities new to DSA-LA, and better cultivate leaders in specific neighborhoods and cities to address local issues with more capacity and participation.
  • Maintain systems and protocols that enable us to continually map and understand our memberships needs, strengths, and resources.
    • Having more active members in more locations across Los Angeles provides inherent sources of information and capacity. Our aim, in nurturing branch structures, would be to build both a deeper and wider base of the Left in Southern California.

Component III

Across all applicable Committee and Working Group platforms, identify relevant goals which this resolution supports and advances.

If facilitated thoughtfully and strategically, eff ective branch structure development will support the work of all committees and working groups in DSA-LA.  In turn, localized work carried out by committees will strengthen our branches.  By deepening our membership base throughout DSA-LA’s reach, more members will become engaged in the committees of their interest.  Similarly, committees that are engaging in localized work will benefit from having geographic structures in place to mobilize members in target neighborhoods. A branch system would support organizing work that is necessarily geography-specific, such as the Housing and Homelessness Committee's commitment to building tenant power, the Labor Committee’s commitment to showing solidarity to strikes and picket lines, and Membership Committee’s commitment to create opportunities for engagement and expansion of the local that reflect the diversity of the City and County of Los Angeles.

Members in support