This is an outline describing a new committee, which has been formed in one chapter on an experimental basis. It is our hope that as this committee proves to be successful and value-creating, it will be adopted by other chapters as well.
This committee is intended to function as a compliment, not a replacement, to the present system. It is meant to provide a voice for the general membership up, as well as empower every member so that our organization will become fully functional, allowing every member to fully display his capability and contribute his voice, vision and viewpoint to the movement of world peace. Currently, our organization operates in a "top-down" fashion. This committee, formed at the grassroots level, will allow it to also operate in a "bottom-up" fashion, making for a more holistic approach.
We must reiterate, this is not a formation of a separate organization but only an enhancement to the one that is presently in existence.
This outline is meant to compliment the companion essay, Victorious America, a thorough explanation of the basis of the
People's Representatives Committee (PRC).
Fundamentally, the purpose of this committee is to provide an avenue in which people have a voice in the organization that they have worked so tirelessly to create. It will also provide a safeguard against persons in responsible positions acting irresponsibly, thus resulting in accountability on the part of the leaders toward the people.
This idea was given birth over fifty years ago by President Makiguchi. President Ikeda says:
"Mr. Makiguchi insisted that the constituent members of a body or organization must direct the actions of the leaders."
His vision opened the doors to the empowerment of the people and the accountability of the leaders to the members in our organization.
The committee acts as an addition, not a replacement, to the current organizational structure.
The committee exists within a
chapter or area depending upon size of membership. It is made up of
2-3 members from each district that are not in a leadership capacity.
The committee's purpose is to represent the concerns, problems, wishes, ideas, etc. of the members. They are representatives primarily and must make every effort to actively solicit the concerns, problems, wishes, etc. of the members they represent.
Any committee serves for one year, meeting at a minimum of once every two months, more often as they deem necessary.
All members on the committee are required to read Victorious America, the accompanying essay on the
foundation of the PRC.
Committee members can be picked in one of two ways:
A committee member may be recommended by an active member of the district. The person recommended is publicized to all active
members. If they approve the recommendation, it is accepted.
A member may recommend himself. Again, after all active members are made aware of the recommendation, and if they approve the person to represent them, the person is accepted.
General Review of Activities
When the committee meets, they conduct a general review of the local activities to confirm that they are proceeding according to the guidelines of faith in True Buddhism.
If a conflict arises among members or leaders that is detrimental and if it has not been resolved by the line leaders, chapter, area, etc. in an acceptable period of time (2 weeks to one month), then the problem is relegated to the
PRC for resolution.
This committee is then responsible to meet with the conflicting parties, verify the facts and come to a solution within a reasonable time - 2 weeks to one month. The final resolution and decision rests with the committee.
At the time of any new leadership appointment, the name of the person recommended for a position at the Area up through
Zone level should be released to the membership before the actual appointment. If any person has a serious reservation about the appointee, because of that person's abusive attitude or other unacceptable behavior, they can report to their
PRC. It is up to the committee whether the quantity and
substance of the objections to the appointment justify opposing the appointment officially. If that is found to be the case, the committee will meet with the appropriate leaders to discuss
the appointment. If the discussion reaches an impasse, then the decision
of the committee is final.
Up to and including the Chapter level, recommendations must be approved by the Committee, acting as representatives of the members, before the recommendation is official.
Additionally, if any person feels that he or she would like to take an organizational position in the current structure and they have been overlooked, or been regarded in a prejudicial light, they can report this to the committee. After an inquiry, if this person is shown to have great merit and that he or she would be an asset to the organization and its growth, the committee has the right to recommend and approve
that person's appointment.
Conversely, if a person has been dismissed by the current organizational structure and that dismissal is found to be prejudicial, after a thorough investigation and thorough dialogue, the committee
may overturn the dismissal and reinstate that person within the organization.
Accountability of Leaders
If there are complaints from different members about the behavior/attitude of a person in a leadership position within the current structure, and they are sufficient in number and seriousness, the committee has the right to address this with the leader in question and engage that leader in dialogue with the purpose of bringing the leader to rectify the behavior.
If all attempts to rectify the unacceptable behavior are unsuccessful through dialogue, the committee has the right to relieve that leader of their responsibilities in that particular chapter. This is not a dismissal from their opportunity to hold a position in general, it is a statement that that leader cannot hold a position in that particular chapter. But if the abuse is serious enough that it warrants the dismissal from their position as a leader, then the committee has the right to proceed. The decision of the committee is final.
Whenever the CEC meets, they will meet together with People's Representatives Committee members from the various areas. They will receive the
recommendations and reports from the committee members. Before the CEC can initiate any policy changes or activity guidelines in the organization from their agenda, they must gain approval from the
PRC members in attendance. This will ensure checks and balances of power protecting both the members and the leaders alike against abuse of power, the ultimate parasite which can destroy the organization.
It is the vision of the founding committee that by the year 2002 or 2003 there will be
PRC's throughout the country and that they will have a convention at the FNCC. At that time, the agenda could be something like this: 2 days of meetings to formalize recommendations. On the third day, selected representatives will meet with the CEC to offer their recommendations and plan together with the CEC for the future.
This is the fundamental outline of how the committee functions. Further details of these procedures and processes can be expanded as we proceed.
As we move into the 21st century, grow and become more visible in society, it will be necessary to present ourselves as an organization that is in harmony with the standards and goals of our American society. We will have to be regarded as an organization, which holds itself to the highest standards of behavior.
This would protect us from anyone who would falsely accuse us of being a cult.
The PRC's could draft a set of standards, based on common sense and Buddhist principles, which would serve as a foundation for our organization.
The benefits of the PRC's are unending: people's empowerment and an organization in which they feel their voices are heard thereby actualizing Sensei's guidance to truly feel as though they elected their own leaders without actually voting. In the
current vertical system, there is always a tendency toward politics and the formation of cliques. But with the addition of the grassroots
PRC system, this tendency would be counteracted, people would feel they had a voice, unleashing boundless energy to build the Gakkai.
Of course, the question arises: are the people on the committee capable to handle such responsibility? Would they know when members might just be using their committee for endless complaint? Wouldn't it be too political? Wouldn't the members use the committee to "hang the leaders"? (as one leader has mentioned)
The answer lies in the nature of the people. Gakkai members are in general tremendously patient and broad-minded. In addition, their capacity has developed rapidly over the years under Sensei's guidance. What the leaders might feel is that the members would perhaps be in a mad rush to challenge the mainstream of the organization, but this is unfounded. But what must be noted is that when unhealthy situations exist and continue to be left unattended, the people have the right to take the necessary actions to correct what is wrong.
The benefits to the leaders of this system are great. Leaders will no longer be obliged to support their fellow leaders who might act in an irresponsible way toward the people. Feeling that they have to work together as partners, there is a hesitancy to say what must be said in order to avoid conflict. This of course supports the maintenance of a cosmetic unity, which would be counteracted by having the leaders directly accountable to the members. Thus sincere leaders would never have to be put in the awkward position of protecting those who would act in an irresponsible fashion.
The American spirit is based on all people having a voice. Now is the time to take our organization to new heights. This committee may act, we hope, as a catalyst to take us there, for it is built on the nature of the American spirit.
We have great confidence that the ideas and principles presented in this text will stand on it's own merits, leaving the final judgment of it's validity to the people.