Guidelines for Multi-League Groups

WHAT IS A MULTI-LEAGUE GROUP?

Local Leagues often join together to work on problems or issues of common concern. When these problems affect regions that do not coincide with existing League boundaries, and when the need for collaboration is likely to be long-term, the Leagues involved will want to develop a method for cooperating across formal organizational lines. 

A number of such multi-League groups have been formed over the years, most often to address environmental and land use issues. Some of these have had a shared river basin or one of the Great Lakes as their focus. Others have worked on issues needing regional solutions, such as urban sprawl and transportation.  

Although participating Leagues sometimes adopt a procedural agreement that details their cooperative arrangement, these are "informal" groups; they are not provided for in the LWVUS Bylaws. They differ from Inter-League Organizations (ILOs), which are formally recognized by the LWVUS Board after fulfilling the requirements adopted by the national convention. [1]

The following guidelines outline the steps involved in forming a multi-League group and detail the procedures to be followed when a multi-League group wishes to take action. [2]

FORMING A MULTI-LEAGUE GROUP

Multi-League groups differ in various ways: the number of Leagues involved may be large or small, they may be located in a single state or spread over several states, and the geographic focus of their work will be defined differently for each one. Basic League policies, principles, and procedures, however, apply to all.

Getting Started

The first step is to find out whether a reasonable number of Leagues are interested in working together on the issue of concern. The state board member who oversees state League work related to the issue — the program vice-president, for example — should be contacted early in the process. If the group is to include Leagues in more than one state, this state board member will want to consult with her counterpart(s) in the other state(s) before the local Leagues in the other state(s) are contacted.

If an initial inquiry indicates that there is substantial interest in group cooperation, arrangements can be made for representatives from the appropriate Leagues to meet together, perhaps at a state or national council or convention. Here they can discuss various organizational possibilities, gauge whether the affected state and local Leagues will be able to give sufficient attention and financial support to the effort, and discover whether there are enough individual League members willing to devote time to such an arrangement.

State board representatives can be very helpful consultants at this meeting and throughout the process. State board approval will be necessary for groups whose work may involve action at the state or federal level.

Getting Organized

If interest in forming a multi-League group remains strong, a chairperson and a small steering committee should be chosen to draw up a statement reflecting the sense of the meeting and a proposed procedural agreement for cooperative work. Detailing the arrangements for collaboration at the outset can help the group avoid misunderstandings in the future.

Topics to cover in a procedural agreement include:

•  Purpose of the group
•  Membership
•  League representation
•  Financial support
•  Governance and decision-making
•  Communication
•  Procedures for action
•  Method of amending the agreement

The statement and procedural agreement should be sent to the president of each local League in the geographic area of focus and to the president of the appropriate state League(s). Each state and local League board should be asked (a) to decide whether the members of that League want to become part of the multi-League group and (b) to suggest changes to the proposed organizational structure. In reviewing the agreement, the state board(s) should give special attention to ensuring that the group's proposed procedures conform to state and national League policies and bylaws.

After the procedural agreement has been revised to reflect this input and has been approved by the state board(s), it is ready to be submitted to all prospective member Leagues for approval. The steering committee, in consultation with the state board(s), will need to determine whether the response is sufficient to establish a viable and balanced multi-League group. Factors to consider:

•  Have at least a majority of the eligible Leagues agreed to join the group?

•  Are there enough Leagues to share the work and financial responsibilities?

•  Are the member Leagues well distributed over the proposed area?

•  Are the member Leagues characteristic of the area as a whole? Are they located in different types and sizes of communities?

Communicating

All the Leagues in the area that will be affected by the group's activities — whether or not they decide to join the multi-League group — should be treated as members, supplied with materials and kept up to date on the group’s activities. Often Leagues that show little interest at first are drawn in as opportunities for action develop or as they perceive decisions approaching that will specifically affect their areas. Keeping in touch with all affected League boards and members is essential because their continued involvement is the key to the group’s success.

Copies of all multi-League group communications must be sent to the state League(s) involved.  

TAKING ACTION

Multi-League groups serve a key role in initiating and coordinating action on the issue/area of concern to their member Leagues. They monitor local, state, regional and federal proposals that affect their issue/area, gather and distribute information to their member Leagues, and make recommendations to the appropriate League boards for action. Since only recognized League entities may use the League name, the action itself must be carried out by the local, state, and/or national Leagues. Multi-League groups may not take action in their own name.  

Criteria for Action
Whenever the group wants action taken (by a local League, state League or the national League) the steering committee should first determine that it meets the following criteria:

•  The action falls within LWVUS principles and is supported by relevant national, state or local positions.

•  Members of the Leagues in the group understand the reason for action, agree with the stand, are sufficiently informed to take effective action, and are interested in the outcome.

•  Most of the boards of the affected local Leagues wish to take the action.

•  None of the boards of the affected state Leagues object to the action.

Action at the Federal Level

When a multi-League group sees a need for action at the federal level, the steering committee should begin by contacting its state board(s) about the proposed action. The steering committee, with the approval of the state board(s), can then consult with the LWVUS about the intended action. (Action at the "federal level" includes any effort aimed at influencing the decision on a federal issue, such as communicating with an elected or appointed official, joining a coalition, taking part in a press conference or rally, or writing a letter-to-the-editor.)

The LWVUS consultation process is designed to help make League action as effective as possible, to ensure that the League speaks with one voice, and to coordinate and reinforce the League's advocacy messages. As part of this process, the steering committee will be asked to provide the following information:

•  the proposed action and the message to be conveyed

•  the LWVUS position on which the action is based

•  the League(s) in whose name the action will be taken

•  evidence that the issue is a priority for the Leagues involved

•  evidence that the proposed action has been endorsed by the state board(s)

LWVUS board and staff work to implement this process in as timely and helpful a manner as possible. LWVUS staff may have suggestions about key points that could be made, for example, or ideas about which League(s) or level of League should take the action for maximum impact. (In some cases, the LWVUS is the only appropriate level of League to speak for the organization.)

In all cases, the intent of the consultation policy is to enhance League action. On rare occasions, when the proposed action would interfere with LWVUS action on a priority issue — when the member of Congress to be contacted, for instance, is a key swing vote on a high priority bill — the proposed action will have to be delayed until the time for the crucial vote or decision has past. Very rarely is an action request denied because the intended action is not consistent with League positions.

Once permission to act has been received and the action taken, copies of the authorized letter or testimony (or a summary of the phone conversation or personal contact or authorized activity) should be sent to the LWVUS, the state board(s), and the group's member Leagues.

Action at the State Level

Action involving contact with state officials — state legislators, governor, state agencies — must be authorized by the appropriate state League board(s), following a consultation process similar to that used by the LWVUS. Among other things, the state board(s) and the steering committee will want to decide whether the action should be taken by the state League(s) or by the member local Leagues in the group. 

Action at the Local Level

When the multi-League group sees a need for action at the community level, the steering committee may contact its member local Leagues directly about action strategies aimed at local decision-makers.

Basis for Multi-League Group Action

Multi-League groups typically rely extensively on LWVUS and state positions dealing with natural resources, the environment, land use and energy.

There may also be times when a multi-League group wishes to address a problem or question related to its issue/area of concern that is not covered by existing League positions. In such a case, the steering committee should bring a recommendation to the appropriate League boards. These Leagues can then decide how to proceed, for example, by adopting a state or local study and seeking member agreement on the issue. If the issue will require action at the state or federal level, the decision rests with the state board(s); if the contemplated action will be aimed a policy-makers at the local level, the decision rests with the boards of the affected local Leagues.

If the League board(s) decide that a study is warranted, the multi-League group can serve as the resource committee for the study. In this key role, the group can develop balanced, unbiased study materials and draft consensus questions — or a proposed position statement, if a concurrence process is being used. The League board(s) involved will be responsible for approving the consensus questions, or the proposed position statement, for submission to the members and for determining whether member agreement has been reached. 




[1]  Articles IV and V of the LWVUS Bylaws discuss the League entities — local, state, and ILO — that are formally recognized by the LWVUS Board. The seven League Requirements are listed in the annual President's Packet.

Inter-League Organizations are comprised of local Leagues within a county, metropolitan area or region that form to address county, metropolitan or regional governmental issues.  They adopt bylaws, hold annual or biennial conventions at which all Leagues in the ILO are represented, elect officers and directors, choose program and approve a budget.  ILOs are formally recognized by the LWVUS Board and are entitled to send one voting delegate to LWVUS conventions.

[2]  These guidelines do not apply to Inter-League Councils, another type of "informal" group, typically comprised of local (or state) League presidents (or their designees) who meet to discuss common concerns.