How to Foster a Bylaws Amendment Discussion at Your Branch Meeting

Video screen grab of staff members in a meeting discussing an upcoming project.

Bylaws are both a legal document and a roadmap for an organization’s success. While good governance demands that bylaws be frequently reviewed for compliance and incorporation of latest best practices, amending bylaws can lead to varying opinions as to the changes being proposed.

The Basics

Just as advocacy issue forums allow for community dialogue on current events or issues of relevance to AAUW we recommend you host an AAUW Bylaws amendment discussion at a branch meeting to facilitate debate and an exchange of viewpoints.

Panel discussion:

Invite two representatives from each side who are both passionate and knowledgeable about the issue and include a moderator. It would be helpful if the moderator were undecided themselves or had previous experience facilitating this type of discussion between opposing viewpoints. Panelists will discuss the issue with each other by answering questions posed by the moderator or reacting to the views and opinions of other panel members. Provide time to field questions from the audience.

Town hall:

Town hall meetings are similar to panel discussions but allow for more participation from the audience. An issue expert, or panel, should kick off the discussion before opening the floor to members for their questions and comments.

Best Practices for a Successful Event

Choose great speakers.

Invite speakers with demonstrated knowledge of the effects of the proposed amendments. A side is always represented best by someone armed with facts, not just feelings, about an issue. Have a more tenured member and a newer member speak for each side to get varying viewpoints. Select people who are passionate but can channel that passion into a useful dialogue. Your panel should also represent a diverse population of your membership so different voices are included.

Publicize your event well in advance.

Be sure to let members know that this is an opportunity to join in the discussion and have their voices heard.  Schedule your discussion at a convenient time in a convenient place. Hold the meeting when the largest number of members are available and make the location central for easier access. Is your location accessible by public transportation? Is it held at a time when people who work during the day can still attend? Can you arrange carpools for members who don’t drive? Engage members who don’t use email with a quick phone call to share the details. Look at this as a great opportunity to build a feeling of community in your branch.

Think through details.

What will you need on hand? For example, the number of expected attendees will determine whether you need microphones. If so, we suggest you use microphone runners instead of microphones on stands. Empower microphone runners to hold onto the microphone and to firmly indicate when a speaker needs to wrap up their question or statement. Conversely, you can have members write down their questions on paper as they enter and then select the most frequently proposed questions. Strive for members to leave knowing their voices and opinions mattered.

And don’t forget to vote!

We applaud you for engaging members in this important process of issue education and discussion. It is even more important that they exercise their right to vote. Show this video at the close of your AAUW Bylaws amendment discussion to remind members of the importance of voting in the 2018 AAUW Bylaws Amendment Vote. Many branches in prior years have turned one of their monthly meetings into a polling place to facilitate voting for members. It’s fun and surprisingly easy with a few laptops!

Watch video on YouTube.

 


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