In order to provide for the rapid and inexpensive communication of Independent Vaisnava Council members, many of whom will live great distances apart, we have begun to assemble an Electronic Meetings System for the Council's use. We hope these technological facilities will allow the Council to work in an environment that is highly productive and creatively supportive.

When it is complete, the system that will enable an efficient group decision-making process, allowing Council members to collaborate freely and decisively, arrive at consensus quickly with 100% participation, and ensure fully documented results. By conducting Council business on the Internet, participants can interactively and simultaneously enter, exchange, and process ideas. Our secure server will allow password protection to ensure confidentiality, as required, and will enable the Council leadership to quickly and easily change the status on individual pieces of information, either veiling them for purposes of confidential exchange, or releasing them to the Council's public archives.

Our electronic meeting tools will allow on-line brainstorming, commenting, prioritizing, and organizing. Documentation and prioritization tools will enable various point allocations, sequential ranking of items, numeric ratings and surveying, selection of top ideas, ballot voting, etc. The system can be used to set an "electronic" agenda, encouraging the establishment of clearly defined goals and desired outcomes.

For certain activities, the Council may wish to employ an anonymity option, allowing individuals to type in their ideas without having to identify themselves. This acts as a freeing agent, allowing people to be less inhibited about the comments they make and substantially more creative and candid in their contributions. This is not, however, a process totally without accountability; people have the capability, within the electronic meeting format, to comment on other people's ideas. So the dialogue among participants can still go on, but in a risk free, rapid and directed way. At some point during this kind of exchange, the facilitator might call for a return to name-identified activity, and the group will resume discussing/voting by name.

It is our hope that in this environment, the potential exists for group members to gain a sense of completeness in the collection of their ideas. When they move on to prioritization, they know that everyone's ideas will be considered. When ideas are "voted on" anonymously by the group, they will be evaluated on the merit of the idea itself rather than on who submitted it. All participants have an equal voice.

By utilizing the ICQ chat system, we can establish an exciting aspect of parallelism in group meetings, allowing participants to form sub-groups to discuss different agenda items during the same meeting (similar to concurrent break-out sessions). All the while, they can continue to monitor the larger group's on-line activity. We forsee the Council slowly adopting these various technologies to suit their needs, and doing so in a way that encourages comfortable learning without imposing complicated processes on the participants.

Perhaps most importantly, at the end of the session, a comprehensive documented memory of the meeting can be produced on paper or electronic media or both. The entire contents, including all ideas, evaluations, decisions, and assignments, are collected in process, without inhibiting the flow of the meeting (stop while I write this down), or the thoughts of the participants. No one has the burden of trying to recall later what went on at the meeting in order to produce the "minutes". Everything has been captured exactly as the individuals intended it to be. Readers can see exactly how decisions were made. This documentation is a valuable reference for future work, including the analysis and interpretation of results.

The beauty of our Electronic Meetings technology is that the results can accurately reflect what actually happened; with actual happening arrived at by the free and uninhibited flow of ideas, which become the basis for thoughtful conclusions and the evaluation of the results.

On a more mundane level, we will also utilize the now-familiar facilities of simple cgi-based chat room discussion, threaded discussion boards, and automated mailing lists. The Council has also been offered access to a privately run IRC "real time" chat system. We are in process of establishing a Bridge account with a large long-distance company, that will allow very cost-effective phone conferencing in North America. We have not yet determined if there are affordable conferencing facilities for worldwide calls.

Return to Process of Organization

Return to Independent Vaisnava Council