Inherent conflict in defining mission statements for a democratic organization

in #daolast year

Consider some hypothetical organization. Let's say it has a clear mission statement and it also claims to be a true democracy, empowering the individual. What happens if individual participants of this organization start disagreeing with the mission (purpose) of an organization? Well, if it's a democracy, people should be able to change the mission of their organization, right? On the other hand, if we do this, we would be changing what this organization is, and proponents of its old purpose might feel betrayed. This is especially true if we define an organization by its mission, as is often done.

In a democratic organization there are two sources of intent from which everything else flows down:

  • Mission/vision, as expressed by the creators or participants of an organization;
  • Voice of the people (better, yet, consensus of the people);

What happens when these two sources start conflicting? Do we kick out the people who don't serve the mission anymore or do we change the mission? If we are talking about an organization, which is easy to join, this conflict becomes even more likely, because churn in the set of participants, might mean changes in the consensus opinion about what the mission of the organization should be.

Ultimately, what we are talking about is a set of values, one of them being a democracy, and the other being the goal as expressed by the mission statement. Organization needs to decide which of these is higher in its hierarchy of values.

Another option is to define a mission that would be more or less equivalent to democratic ideals. For example, if an organization claims that its mission is to listen to its participants and empower them by implementing their will as expressed by their consensus, then the mission statement of such an organization is basically saying that its purpose is to be democratic for its participants. So the conflict is avoided because the mission is made equivalent to the goal of being democratic.