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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Making Agile Austin's Membership Participation Based

Hello all:

I'm proud to putting forward a change to the way we define members of Agile Austin.  This is an effort that came from the community and had many many thoughtful minds come up with the best path forward for our community.  I also believe that this may be used as a model for other communities, ensuring that goals are properly aligned when the communities scale.

Thanks to the folks that made this happen--I'm excited to see what comes of the vote next month!

All the best,



Howdy Fellow Members of Agile Austin:

The least you need to read:
In two days, in addition to the vote on the Agile Austin Board of Directors, we’ll also be putting forth the vote on how we define our membership.  We would like to change Agile Austin membership from being fee-based to being participation-based as It is more meaningful to have people who participate in our programs define the formal leadership of our organization rather than those that can spend thirty dollars. The board and I would like to wholeheartedly endorse this change to our membership definition and ask that each of you vote in favor of it as well. 
We need 50% of all MEMBERS to vote for this change.  We will not make the leap to the next level as a fully participatory community-aligned organization without YOUR help.  Feel free to join at by May 31st in order to help us make this change.  As a Board we cannot do this alone.

Where did this come from?
Over the past 18 months, we have decentralized the control of Agile Austin from a small board of directors to a group of leaders and individuals within the community working in concert with the board.  Listening to existing and former members, I engaged in a series of discussions to change Agile Austin for the better (“DeltaAgileAustin”), including the concept in a change of membership definition.  I’m not sure exactly where the idea came from, but it was definitely a joint jam among community members, board members, and anyone else whose ear we could tug on the subject.  A number of us continued to meet and refine the idea, and we spent a good amount of time in board meetings where we discussed the same.  The result is the language/vote that you see today.
Why?  What’s wrong with how we do it now?
At the dawn of Agile Austin, we had little in the way of resources to achieve our mission (  The framers thought rightly that if we charged a bit of money, we could cover food, supplies, and never be strapped for cash.  Since then, we’ve grown up and have a rich ecosystem of partners and sponsors.  No longer are we dependent on our membership for dues to fund our activities.  As a board, we have dispensed with every single benefit of paid membership, with the exception of voting for the board of directors.  We believe that it’s more meaningful to have people who participate in our programs define the formal leadership of our organization rather than those that can spend thirty dollars.  Frankly, it seems a bit distasteful to pay to vote as it can encourage unethical behavior.
We thought about giving the vote to anyone in the community, since that’s who we serve, but thought it made more sense to give a vote to one who meaningfully participated in our programs.  With about 20 programs per month, this gives everyone approximately 240 opportunities a year to participate.  We agreed that six meetings constituted “meaningful participation.” 
I also believe that this represents an innovative model in how a large and powerful user community can effectively be run, and may be used by other organizations.  Coupled with the other changes we have made, we have largely open-sourced the management of the community, which has been directly responsible for the growth and impact Agile Austin has on the software development community in Austin.
You convinced me—how do I make this happen?
You must be a member to vote for this—indeed we need 50% of our membership as of May 31, 2013 to vote favorably to make this change.  You can join here: (yes I get joining and voting for this will negate (eventually) the method of joining—just the way it works).  The vote will come out with the election vote in early June.
OK, we have sponsors now, what if that changes in the future?  What if people want to sponsor Agile Austin monetarily?
No problem—we can change the definition of membership in the future like we’re doing now.  There’s nothing preventing us from having a “personal sponsorship” either—we just don’t want the money to be associated with the vote.
But I’d like to make a change to the wording!
We have had meetings on this for about a year and we have had the language available for review for a while.  If it does not pass this time, we can consider it for the future. 
The full text of the vote and the details:
The Agile Austin board proposes that the definition of an Agile Austin member change from fee-based ($30/year) to participation based (attending at least 6 meetings in the last 12 months).  Note that at least 50% of members must vote for this proposal in order for it to be adopted.  If adopted, this proposal will take effect on September 1, 2013.
  •  "Membership in the Corporation shall become effective upon receipt of a properly completed application form, receipt of specific dues and approval of the application by the Secretary of the Corporation in accordance with the Bylaws and criteria developed by the Board of Directors of the Corporation." from Section 2.1 will be changed to: "Membership in the Corporation shall become effective upon confirmation of attendance of the minimum number of meetings specified by criteria developed by the Board of Directors of the Corporation.".
  • "Membership shall terminate upon the occurrence of any of the following: (i) nonpayment of dues by a member within 30 days of due date..." of section 2.2 will be changed to "Membership shall terminate upon the occurrence of any of the following: (i) failing to attend at least the  minimum number of meetings specified by criteria developed by the Board of Directors of the Corporation...".
  • Section 2.3: "Dues. Annual dues shall be established by the Board. No portion of the due paid by any member shall be refundable because their membership is terminated for any reason. Annual dues for new members are due at the time of application. Annual dues shall cover one calendar year of membership and are due for renewal in the month of initial application. The Board shall have the authority, upon application by a member, to waive or reduce the annual dues on a case-by-case basis, for that member." shall be removed.
Tracking of participation will be determined by the board and adjusted based on community feedback (i.e., we will inspect and adapt in an agile fashion).  Our initial plan is as follows:
  •  People in the community will register interest in becoming a member by giving their name and email address to an Agile Austin program lead at any Agile Austin meeting (this could be as simple as giving a lead your business card).
  •  On registration, potential members will receive an email from the Agile Austin Board with details on becoming a member.
  •  As currently, meeting participants will register for meetings via Eventbrite.
  •  At the meeting, Agile Austin program leads will check in people who are interested in membership via the Eventbrite app (or other means).
  •  Once a potential member has attended 6 meetings within a 12 month period, they will receive an email confirming their membership and their right to vote in elections and other matters.
  •  If a member gets to the point that they have not attended 6 meetings within the last 12 months, they will receive an email that their membership has expired.
  •  For Agile Austin's current paid membersmembership will remain effect until it expires (12 months from when membership started / it was last renewed).
  •  No new memberships / renewals will be granted based on payment of membership fees.
  •  If less than 12 months of data is available, membership will be determined by attendance in the time period from the adoption of this proposal to date. In other words, if a membership vote was done on September 1, 2013, those who paid for membership on or after September 1, 2012 and those who have attended 6 meetings since the adoption of this proposal would be able to vote.
I still have questions--can we talk before I vote?
Sure--feel free to send a message to or send a note to the Agile Austin Yahoo notification group to engage in public discourse.
All the best,

Matt Roberts
President, Agile Austin

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