How to change a policy that's has always been this way but needs to be changed now?

Community Building Asked by Zerotime on September 3, 2021

I’m a member in a local community which is associated with multiple associations above it (think of it like statewide, nationwide and so on). There are a lot of layers to the community. However, the local community is mostly self-governed and independent, only few policies are internationally standardized across all communities.

One policy that has been standardized since the founding year is when you are allowed to join a local community. After a few decades, this was changed to loosen it up a little bit. This change was based on a high consensus among all levels so the change didn’t create quite a backslash. Furthermore, the change was still standardized so every community had to adhere to it and couldn’t make any individual changes.

Now this policy has been changed again. However, instead of an addition of a policy, a current policy was simply removed. This change hasn’t been highly controversial (as in paralyzing the whole organization or it would be the only topic right now) but it does indeed incite some emotional discussions. The removal of this one policy affects the whole process of someone joining our community as it was one of the definitive formal rules to decide when somebody is allowed to join.

We now are advised to design our own joining process without this policy in place, meaning the international standardization is mostly gone. In our country, we have decided to at least have some common ground, a guideline is being developed right now. However, it isn’t mandatory to follow the guideline once it’s out.

In our local community, this change also had impact. Some feel the removal of the policy was right, some don’t feel that way and yet another group of members want to take the opportunity and design a new process altogether. The only thing certain right now is that we have to change the policy (by which it’s also allowed to return to the old rule as long as it has a majority). Generally, more seasoned members favour to return to the old policy while newly joined ones favour the removal.

How can we get everyone onboard with a possible policy change? How do we avoid to upset long-time members when the old policy isn’t reintroduced? How do we avoid a vice-versa situation where the old policy returns on our local level and younger members are upset that everything is "as it has always been"? How can we take into accounts the members concerned with designing a new process?

One Answer

Sounds like a tricky situation that needs to be navigated with care. The mantra we have for our users is that you don't have to agree with every opinion but you do need to respect every user. It will be important to set expectations that, because there are differing opinions, it won't be possible to make everybody completely happy.

It IS possible to make everyone feel heard and that is a good place to start. Encourage your members to respectfully explain why they feel their solution is best for the community. Challenge them to try and see the other side's point of view and to see if they can find a solution they think the other side would agree with.

Ultimately, if both sides have merits, it has to be up to the community to decide which path to take. Allow your members to vote encourage them to respect whatever the will of the community is. It may not be possible to get everyone on board with the final decision right away but it should be reasonable to ask everybody to respect what the community decides.

Answered by Craig Lion on September 3, 2021

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