Monday, December 17, 2012

$1200 prizes for #UBC blogs covering @AMSElections

The University of British Columbia's student union -- the Alma Mater Society (AMS) -- will give $1200 in cash awards to student bloggers who cover their January 2013 elections. Info & entry form:

This is the 7th annual UBC AMS VoterMedia competition. For background on how the idea developed and its potential for reforming democracies and corporations, see "Experiments in Voter Funded Media" at

Questions about VoterMedia? Contact me: mark[at]

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tech Credit Union members' revolution! @stayacu

It's reassuring to see that credit union members can wake up and say no when their directors seem to be acting against members' interests. The members of Technology Credit Union in San Jose (California) recently voted down their board's proposal to convert the credit union to a mutual savings bank.

This article in Credit Union Journal quotes reactions from both sides of the controversy.

Now the leader of the revolt is proposing to members that they should replace the CEO, the board chair, and maybe other directors as well. (See also his Twitter posts: @stayacu)

This further confirms the references in my recent paper We Want Our Co-ops Back (page 3) about how co-op and credit union boards sometimes put their own interests ahead of members' interests.

Congrats to Tech CU members who stood up and said no!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#CIRA Election: Who I plan to vote for

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is holding its annual board election. I'm planning to vote for these candidates:
Members' Slate:
- Michael Geist
- Kevin McArthur

Nomination Committee Slate:
- William Gibson
- Bill Sandiford
- Dave Chiswell
If you're a CIRA member, you can vote Sept 19 - 26 (deadline: 9am Pacific time Sept 26). If you have a .ca domain, you can join CIRA or check your membership status at

How I chose who to vote for:

My professional expertise is accountability of elected leaders to voters, in all types of voter communities, from democracies to corporations. Like most large organizations, I find CIRA rather lacking in accountability (reasons are in this paper). So I looked for director candidates who give priority to that.

In particular, I focused on candidates' responses to these questions in the recent campaign forum:

- Question concerning Governance Reform

- Year-round CIRA members forum

- Critique of CIRA governance

I especially appreciate Michael Geist's emphasis on upholding the public interest -- mentioned 6 times in his nominee statement. He's an experienced CIRA director, and a law professor at Carleton University with a well deserved reputation for public interest advocacy in internet law and policy.

In addition to his technical expertise, Kevin McArthur has some great accountability planks in his campaign platform. My favourite: "Advance a transparency culture at CIRA by removing bylaws that censor the disagreements of board members."

William Gibson would bring his valuable experience from chairing the board at Mountain Equipment Co-op. Among the nomination committee nominees, he was perhaps the most responsive in the campaign forum, especially on my proposal to create a year-round online forum for CIRA members.

You can see that my voting this year is consistent with last year -- see my post on the 2011 CIRA election.

I plan to wait until the last day to vote, so I can learn from others' opinions. Please comment below or by email to mark[at] I thank all candidates for offering to serve CIRA and Canada's internet!

Monday, September 17, 2012

We Want Our Co-ops Back @MEC @Vancity #CIRA

Today I released the first draft of my paper We Want Our Co-ops Back, along with a spreadsheet Co-op Democracy Scorecard. From the paper:
We can reform all our large voter organizations, including democracies and corporations, by starting with reforming our co-ops (including financial co-ops such as credit unions). Most large institutions lack effective democratic control by voters. Even though citizens of democracies can vote, corporate shareowners can vote, and co-op members can vote, those voting rights are ineffective if voters lack the information, insight and nomination rights necessary to elect the best leaders. This paper outlines how we can better implement the fundamental co-op principle of democratic member control, even when co-ops grow very large. Later we can apply these ideas to our democracies and corporations.
This paper proposes rules to improve the democratic accountability of co-op leaders to members, organized in nine topic sections. To contrast these proposals with existing rules, I cite examples from three Canadian organizations where I am a member: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), Vancity Credit Union, and the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).
I welcome your comments!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

@Vancity credit union election results: biased by info control

Insiders on the Vancity board have successfully used their control of information flowing to Vancity members, to tighten their grip on power over the credit union.

The board-appointed nomination committee recommended five director candidates, who competed in the election with eight other members running independently. Not only were the chosen five listed first on the ballot, but their names were in bold face, with the word "recommended".

Making it even harder for challengers to distinguish themselves, Vancity election rules severely restrict other information from reaching voters. Candidates are prohibited from saying who has endorsed them, from criticizing Vancity policies, and from saying what policies they would advocate if elected. I quoted the specific rules in this earlier post.

Sure enough, the five anointed candidates finished in the top five spots -- see election results here.

Members who took the time to understand what is happening have been speaking out against this slide toward oligarchy. Some of us spoke from the floor at the AGM yesterday. Others have been commenting online -- e.g. see these Georgia Straight links: April 12 and May 4.

But unfortunately, most Vancity voters are busy people who do not take the time to investigate beyond the information most readily available. So information control can sway the majority of votes, and effective member democracy will not kick in unless some spectacular crisis gets everyone's attention.

The Vancity board claims that members are more satisfied with the new voter information system. This claim is based on responses to surveys administered under board supervision. As any pollster knows, survey results too can be biased by how they are worded and what information the respondents have.

Fortunately however, the board seems to be listening to member complaints, and will hopefully be willing to return Vancity to real democratic member control, living up to the fundamental co-op principles.

I think the best way forward is an open, information-rich election system, as I described earlier. As a first step, at the AGM I suggested that we should have an open online member forum on the Vancity website.

I'll write more on this going forward. Meanwhile, your comments are welcomed!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Keep Canada's internet democratic: Oppose #CIRA insiders' power grab proposal @OpenMedia_ca

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority's board is proposing to eliminate CIRA members' right to nominate directors. Instead, the board-appointed Nomination Committee would decide which candidates would be on the ballot. I'm amazed to see such an anti-democratic move. It's like what we just saw at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Fortunately, CIRA is inviting advance comment on the board's proposal, via email to before May 2, 2012. Detailed info is at, especially page 3 of this document. I'm emailing them this blog post:

Thank you for requesting member feedback on this important governance proposal. I especially appreciate your advance notice to members, which lets us discuss the issue well in advance of voting on it. This contrasts with the recent move by Mountain Equipment Co-op's board -- see my post-mortem blog post at

I hope you drop this proposal. But if you do submit it to CIRA members for a vote, I strongly urge you to open an online members' forum where we can discuss it with each other well in advance. And I urge you to include a link/reference to the members' discussion from the ballot and from any voting info you circulate.

As I read the proposal, it seems that you are proposing that we members should give up our right to nominate board candidates without screening by a board-appointed nomination committee. I think that's a very bad idea, so I would oppose it.

I think this proposal would concentrate too much power in the incumbent board (or rather, whatever majority currently dominates the board), thus disempowering CIRA members and making the board less accountable to members. Accountability to members is the best way I know to ensure that CIRA is run in the best interests of Canadians generally.

Lack of accountability of elected leaders (in governments and in corporations) is the main root cause of our recent financial crisis. So it is clearer than ever that we should strengthen accountability, not weaken it by letting incumbents control the nomination of their own successors.

There are better ways to make sure we get excellent people onto the CIRA board, while simplifying the process and improving accountability to members. I would suggest we do something like this:

- Continue to let both the nominating committee and the general membership nominate board candidates.

- Don't separate the nominees into two slates as we are doing now.

- Expand the online election candidate forum to enable us members to communicate with each other as well as with the candidates.

- Let the nominating committee express their opinions on candidates in the online forum, but not on the ballot. Let all of us members express our opinions on candidates in the online forum.

- Change the ballot to a preferential one where we rank our favoured candidates 1, 2, 3 etc. Determine the winners by Single Transferable Vote. This would ensure a broad representation of various member interests, while reducing vote-splitting, wasted votes, and the need for strategic voting.

- Ensure free speech for all candidates and directors, especially for those who criticize CIRA's current policies. We members need this for accountability.

- To help voters process info about candidates, let voters allocate at least $10,000 per election among blogs competing to provide insightful coverage of the candidates. The effectiveness of this "votermedia" system is described in these two blog posts, along with the reasons for similar reform proposals at MEC and Vancity:

As I'm sure you know, other CIRA members also strongly oppose this proposal -- see for example

I'm posting this email on my blog at

Feel free to contact me to discuss any of this. Again, thank you for your work on this important issue!

Mark Latham

Friday, April 27, 2012

@Vancity credit union election: Links to news & blogs @CarlitoPablo @BillTieleman @SunCivicLee @DonCayo

Voting ends today in Vancity's director election. Here are links to election coverage -- endorsements of candidates, and critiques of the voter information process (recommendations, gag rules etc). For priority reading I'd suggest the 2012-04-12 piece (& comments!) and my 2012-04-15 blog post:

NWDLC endorsed Yaron, O'Brien, McDade.

Ivan Doumenc interviewed & endorsed Greg McDade.

BCGEU endorsed McDade, O'Brien, Yaron

Wilson Parasiuk criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot. Many interesting comments.

Kim Griffith (former director) endorsed Holm & Barrett; criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot.

I endorsed Barrett, Yaron, Holm; criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot & restricted speech; proposed reforms.

Bill Tieleman endorsed Yaron, O'Brien, McDade. Some interesting comments.

Jeff Lee criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot.

Comments in response to 2012-04-12 article.

Vancity gag rules prevent director Bob Williams from expressing his opinions.

Don Cayo criticized Vancity's gag rules that prevent candidates from campaigning on policy issues.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mountain Equipment Co-op AGM: Democracy slipping away @MEC

Democracy took another hit at Mountain Equipment Co-op's Annual General Meeting yesterday. Intentionally or not, MEC's board has deceived MEC members into voting for a resolution that shifts power from the members to the board. This is bad governance, harmful to the members, and harmful to MEC.

The board proposed a Special Resolution, and approved the following description of it in the election booklet mailed to every member:
"Specifically, the changes would place responsibility on the Committee for identifying and presenting a qualified, diverse ballot of candidates to the membership each year. In essence, the changes result in:
  • Better communicating board skill and knowledge needs so we can clearly identify qualified candidates and inform members of the same;
  • Ensuring we present a qualified and balanced election ballot each year so members have a positive voting experience;"
[full text here]

Whether by intention or by accident, the above language is deceptive. It does not make clear what power we members would give up if we approve the resolution. Most MEC voters wouldn't have taken the time to click through the two levels on MEC's website to read the actual text of the resolution. Those few of us who did found this passage:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

@Vancity credit union election: Who I plan to vote for & why


I plan to vote for LISA BARRETT, GIL YARON and WENDY HOLM.

My main reason: strengthening the connection between our board and us Vancity members. I am concerned that our system of election rules shifts power from us members to whatever group currently dominates on the board. We should change those rules to make the board more accountable to members. I think Lisa, Gil and Wendy are the most likely to help us do that, as well as being highly qualified candidates.

[BTW I hope to learn more in the next week or so, and may yet change my voting plans & update this post.]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How I plan to vote in the Mountain Equipment Co-op election #MECelxn

[For 2013 MEC election endorsements see this 2013-03-18 post.]

[Post edited 2012-03-19 thru 2012-03-27 to reflect new info received.]

Breaking news 2012-03-21: Candidate Morrie Schneiderman has signed the Open Letter opposing the Special Resolution -- check it out at! So I changed my voting plans below:


I plan to vote for Drew Anderson, Mike Wearing, and Blair Hammond Morrie Schneiderman.

(I think Morrie Schneiderman Blair Hammond and Robert Campbell are also great candidates -- my 4th & 5th picks.)

I definitely plan to vote NO on the Special Resolution!

My main reason for the above votes: strengthening the connection between the board and MEC members. I asked all candidates their opinion on the Special Resolution. Opposing it is a major plus factor in my choice of who to vote for -- see Open Letter at

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vote NO on Mountain Equipment Coop Special Resolution @druojajay @mec

I am shocked that the directors of this great Canadian cooperative are proposing to give their appointed nomination committee veto power over any member nominees for director elections.

This blog post from Dru Oja Jay explains it well:
"...if any future board runs amok, it will be very difficult to displace them, because they can simply screen out any members which challenge their power."
Please vote NO on the MEC Special Resolution, and share this info with your friends. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

$5k for Student Media at ASUC Berkeley @asucpres @dailycaleditor @jrue

I'm looking forward to visiting U C Berkeley next week to meet people in the student union (ASUC), the newspaper (Daily Cal) and the School of Journalism.

On Monday Feb 27 I'm scheduled to meet ASUC President Vishalli Loomba, staff members Janice Crowder and Marilyn Stager, and Elections Council Chair Pamudh Kariyawasam. We'll discuss's offer of $5,000 in matching funds for the ASUC to try VoterMedia to improve voter information and engagement -- see briefing paper at Sample ballot at

On Tuesday Feb 28 I'll meet with Daily Cal Editor Tomer Ovadia. I see he's co-proposing a referendum to raise student fees to fund the Daily Cal and other campus publications (Facebook event announcements here and here). Community funding for community media is a great idea! VoterMedia is similar to this plan, except that the funding is allocated by student voters through time, and any campus media can compete for funds. This keeps the media accountable to students -- see interviews of UBC students, including their newspaper editor, in video Mainstream Media vs Voter Media.

The ASUC allocates over $50k annually to various student publications -- see 2011-2012 Budget. A VoterMedia competition is designed to support those media that create the most benefit for the student community per dollar cost. It's Participatory Budgeting for media.

On Thursday March 1, I'll talk with Susan Rasky's Political Reporting class at the School of Journalism. We'll discuss the media economics underlying the VoterMedia blog contest design, as outlined in Newspaper Sponsorship for Municipal VoterMedia. I'll also meet faculty members Jeremy Rue and David Cohn.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Newspaper Sponsorship for Municipal VoterMedia #bcmuni #bcpoli

[BTW in case you missed it, got some in-depth coverage at The Tyee the other day: A Math Wiz's Idea to Revive Local Journalism]

I recently drafted this proposal -- would appreciate your comments & advice. Summary is below; full 7-page version here.

Newspaper Sponsorship for Municipal VoterMedia

This paper proposes an experiment in political media reform, in which competing newspapers would jointly sponsor a blogging contest to cover a city government and community issues. The goal is to test whether the VoterMedia design for a blog contest will generate enough public interest journalism to make it worthwhile for municipal taxpayers to fund such competitions in the future. This could become a new source of revenue supporting journalism that covers not only cities, but also other voter communities, including democracies and corporations.

To give newspapers a near-term incentive to sponsor (in addition to the long-term incentive of a potential future revenue source), the competing blogs would be required to grant the sponsors non-exclusive rights to publish their blog posts, with attribution and link-back. To simulate a taxpayer-funded competition, entry would be as open as possible, admitting any individual, group, or organization. This would include amateur bloggers and professional journalists, whether free-lance or on staff of a sponsoring (or non-sponsoring) newspaper. So for example, sponsors could enter the competition and try to win some of their money back. The contest should therefore be administered independently from the sponsors. (a nonprofit project) is offering to administer the proposed competition for free, including hosting the voting -- see for example The VoterMedia contest design has been tested and refined for the past five years at the University of British Columbia's student union, and in some municipal elections in Metro Vancouver, Canada. Experimental results at UBC are discussed by participants in video interviews at

[Complete 7-page proposal here]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New video: Expand VoterMedia to Municipal Politics #bcmuni

We just released a video: Expand VoterMedia to Municipal Politics

In it, UBC students (and a poli sci professor) discuss the idea of VoterMedia blog competitions that cover municipal governments. They have already had a positive effect on UBC student union politics -- see video How VoterMedia Affects Election Campaigns. A quote from Andrew Carne (Blogger, UBC Insiders):
You get these smaller media outlets, that actually do their own investigative work, they are able to present a different outlook on a story than the mainstream media does. So you get different opinions out there, and you may even get more facts, and information, than you do from the CBC or whoever's reporting.
We are pursuing two promising avenues for funding municipal blog contests:
  • Participatory Budgeting -- a global reform movement that lets voters allocate part of municipal budgets.
  • Sponsorship by newspaper publishers.
Here's a current muni contest ballot:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

$1,000 for UBC blogs #amselections

The University of British Columbia's Alma Mater Society is sponsoring a $1,000 VoterMedia blog contest to encourage coverage of their annual elections this month. See: