You know it seems a bit rich to me when Beal accuses Freegle of being undemocratic. He is cited in The Guardian of saying, “If anyone had shown themselves to be undemocratic it was those who founded Freegle.”
However if you look at the facts, TFN shown almost no democracy in each of its 6 long tortuous years. What is worse is that any shred democracy disappears further with each minute that rolls by.
Am I talking rubbish? Let us look at the TFN credentials on democracy:
- Firstly Beal holds all the strings of power as he and his wife are the only real directors and shareholders.
- By shunning Neil Morris, looking back the only other director of Freecycle UK Ltd he has effectively killed any fragment of influence from the UK over their own affairs.
- The creation of MyFreecyle technology has always been about the use of public and grant money to centralise control away from the grass-roots movement. Even the term “group owner” no longer exists in the TFN vocabulary.
- Attempts in 2004 by moderators to add democracy in terms of polls are quashed as Beal bans Yahoo polls from all moderator groups.
- Attempts by any moderator to ask any question of the organisation, no matter how innocuous, leads Beal to put them on moderation. From that moment he, directly or indirectly approves or blocks all their posts before anyone else reads them. Any unwanted posts that “get through” are deleted. So the OIDG (Organisational Issues Discussion Group – a real misnoma if ever there was one) is cleansed of posts that do not discuss meaningless blabber.
- Secret rules have been at the heart of the organisation with Da-Hub being a law unto itself with no published rule book.
- TFN maintains a secret database on its moderators, logging any notes of dissaffection. It then uses this same database to control and even oust moderators, using insinuation as its primary weapon.
And this is a charity!
Over the last months an earthquake has been building within the UK Freecycle movement. The first overt rumble was the resignation of Neil Morris, who until then was the lead person in the UK in more ways than one. At the same moment the entire UK lead team also resigned. The Freecycle Network reacted by putting in place an interim lead team, which subsequently has been elevated permanently to replace Neil et al, headed by Janice.
Neil and many others in the UK moderation fraternity then set about creating IAFCMods, a pressure group to promote the needs of UK moderators within TFN. The succeeded wholeheartedly in creating IAFCMods. They did this with full democratic process, even to the point of Neil not being the automatic lead person.
And then they set about trying to work with TFN to get IAFCmods recognised. Well all hopes and efforts have been either totally ignored or rebuked. Time and time againg UK moderators tried to get The Freecycle Network to listen and react positively.
The reaction can be summed up in the following email sent by Deron Beal to Neil yesterday, published with permission:
“Arrived home tonight to find the following email in my inbox. The email below from Deron demonstrates and confirms the autocratic policies that I have been fighting to change for a considerable period of time. I think the email and actions speak for themselves.
I give full permission for this to be forwarded anywhere.
Begin forwarded message:
> From: Deron Beal <deron@…>
> Date: 8 September 2009 19:32:26 CEST
> To: Neil Morris <neil.morris@…>
> Cc: EastMidlands <eastmidlands@…>, “ukgoalead@…
> Janice” <ukgoalead@…>, NptonNorthCentralFreecycle@…
> Subject: Your volunteer role with Freecycle UK
> Dear Neil,
> We’d like to thank you for your efforts in keeping your local Freecycle group going. Your volunteer efforts have been greatly appreciated.
> However, we no longer feel that it is a good fit between yourself and The Freecycle Network at this time and would ask that you step down from all Freecycle volunteer roles.
> If you could please demote yourself from your local group as a mod or owner and unsubscribe from all leadership groups that would be appreciated.
> I’d ask that any fellow local volunteers wishing to continue volunteering contact me at this time.
> Please approve the interimmod@… address and promote them to Lead Mod of your group before stepping down yourself.
So, up yours Neil is the message. However Deron has spoken to other UK moderators in the same vein. And now the IAFCMods have reacted, again this is public domain information:
> From: ****
> Date: 9 September 2009 11:00:03 BST
> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: [UIFMS] Breaking News – IAFCM
> Reply-To: IntlFCMS@yahoogroups.com
> We the IAFCM Committee committee no longer see any way to negotiate
> with TFN or achieve our aims in the current Freecycle Network. Most of
> us are now moderated and believe we are targeted for removal from our
> TFN positions (and some are already removed). We are sorry we have
> failed to achieve our preferential aims..
> We no longer feel we can ask you to stay in the Freecyle Network.
> For this reason we will now focus the attentions of IAFCM Mods going
> alone, standing on our own two feet and launching a New UK led and
> democratically led successor Network. We have received many messages
> from member moderators urging us to prepare against this eventuality
> and have a successor Network ready to launch.
> The proposed network will not follow the organisational model of The
> Freecycle Network. It will be led by a consensus, have free
> elections and polling of group members It will be looser than TFN and
> groups will be free to choose their own names for their groups, but
> may, if they wish, choose to use the the network name to increase
> their visibility in the search engines and have a higher profile as we
> promote it.
> Thee may well be some groups that wish to stay in the Freecycle
> Network and if so we wish you well. We wish to be inclusive and we
> wouldn’t mind you having a dual affiliation but it we know it would
> result in you being kicked out of TFN so we wish you you well for the
> There will be a short delay before full instructions on how to
> establishing full links with the Network and cut the ties with TFN are
> We are aware this is a big step and is not exactly what we had in mind
> when we first started with IAFCMODS and though many members are
> “raring to go” others may feel a bit pressured and need time and space
> to voice any reservations.
> We wish everyone to feel comfortable and we are aware that the
> committee were working under constraints where we could not consult on
> this as much as we wanted.
> However such constraints are now lifted and there can be open
> discussion on on IAFCMods in which committee can fully participate.
> Fuller instructions as to how to safely rename your group will follow.
> Please regularly read messages on IAFCMods group for information.
> We will also be posting admin notices you can use to communicate
> with your group members.
> Now it’s open to everyone can help modify and polish up admins etc.
> Please use this group as we used to use modquad in the past to develop
> best practise and to freely comment on proposals – but lets think
> outside the box as we don’t want to repeat TFN mistakes.
> Post here if you are asked to stand down or your group is threatened
> in any way and we’ll support you in making the necessary changes.
> Carol, Caroline,David, Edward, Mark, Saira and Seb
> Your Interim Committee
Are you a lead moderator of a Freecycle group, especially in the UK? I just wonder at what point do you draw the line.
In my personal opinion I would not think it amiss if all UK groups – every single one of them – disassociated themselves from TFN immediately. I mean, Neil a total stalwart of UK Freecycle, who has tirelessly worked over many years to promote freecycling in the UK is now totally and clearly snubbed.
In my personal opinion any non-UK group should also consider its position.
If you are ready to leave The Freecycle Network check out the Yahoo group readytoleaveFc for resources to help you in the process. I recommend also the FCnext yahoo group for open debate on the subject.
The most monumental event in the entire history of freecycling concluded yesterday with a resounding success. I take my hat off to the Uk moderator squad. They achieved something against all odds amid tons of cynicism. They brought the first and only evidence of both democracy and openness to the freecycle network.
Until now the organisation has been a closed society with many of its key rules hidden behind closed doors amidst total secrecy. Yes the marmos could learn a thing or two about how to operate an organisation where some rules are open to viewing by anyone but the key rules are all kept behind under the thumb of one man, one autocrat.
No the new Uk moderators squad union has not done anything yet except form itself, but that is an achievement of which they should feel justly proud. What they have done is an amazing start but that is all it is. What matters is what happens next.
Yes they will formulate their demands. Yes they will negotiate that back and forth. But there are three important questions:
1. Will deron be able to smooth talk to avoid the key questions?
2. Will any answers be acceptable to the moderators who voted for the union committee?
3. And the most important question, what will moderators of groups that did not vote make of this?
The game is afoot.
Posted by Wordmobi