Principles and Governance

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The mission of the Great March for Climate Action is to change the hearts and minds of the American people, our elected leaders, and people across the world to act now to address the climate crisis.


On March 1, 2014, hundreds of marchers will set out from Los Angeles, CA, walking 3,000 miles across America to Washington, DC, inspiring action to resolve the climate crisis. This will be one of the two largest coast-to-coast marches in American history.


This is a collaborative/pluralistic movement wherein we provide the necessary structure for organized change. Through marching, we orchestrate a highly-visible, eight-month public display of human dedication and self-sacrifice. From this foundation, participating educators, affinity organizations and business partners are given a platform from which to discuss education, policy reform and sustainable development relevant to climate change.

Foundational Principles

From March 1 – November 1, 2014, the Great March for Climate Action will operate as a participatory, decentralized mobile community guided by ten foundational principles and governed by a democratic structure.

1. Common Purpose. We are deeply concerned global citizens of a planet on the brink of an unprecedented, human-induced climate crisis. Our goal is to change the hearts and minds of the American people, our elected leaders and people across the world to act now to address the climate crisis. We aim to accomplish this through our March across the United States. We are committed to putting our bodies, familiar comforts, stability and lives on the line to inspire others to act, and to motivate popular support for immediate and focused action to avert and mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

While we as individual members of the March community are concerned about a wide range of issues, as participants in this March our message is focused like a laser beam on the climate crisis. While expressing our unique characteristics that define us as individuals, when communicating the message of the March through our words, actions, signs, clothing and other visual and auditory presentations, we will not detract from the core message of the March.

Within the parameters of this focused message, we recognize the importance of a structure that provides the freedom for all members, groups and affiliated organizations to feel empowered to independently develop campaigns and tactics that advance our common strategic vision.

2. Nonviolence. We embrace marching as a form of direct, nonviolent action and maintain nonviolent discipline within the March community and with everyone we meet along the way.  We recognize that maintaining a disciplined commitment to nonviolence is one of the greatest challenges to the success of our March. Acts of violence – either physical or verbal – by members of the March community quickly lead to loss of active popular support, which is central to our success. Nonviolence means we do no physical harm to people or property and that we refrain from using language that is hurtful or derisive. We work to bring all people into the movement to address the climate crisis, even if their past or present activities may be counterproductive to our goal. In the spirit of nonviolence, we believe that all hearts and minds can change. The movement will grow with the active engagement of average individuals, but also as leaders in government and business come to understand the urgency of taking action. Our commitment to nonviolence instructs us to be welcoming and ready to listen to everyone, acknowledging their viewpoints and fears. This human to human connection allows exchange of our viewpoints and fears. In the end we may agree to disagree, however everyone will have a broader view of the big picture on which to base future actions.

Every individual, group and organization participating in the March must accept the following tenets of nonviolence:

– We will use no violence, verbal or physical, toward any person.

–  We will maintain an attitude of openness and respect toward all we encounter.

– We will not destroy or damage any property – public or private.

– We will carry no weapons.

– We will refrain from using illegal drugs (and from abusing legal drugs, including alcohol) while on the March, either in camp or elsewhere.

– We will exercise personal and collective responsibility to ensure all participants   understand and adhere to these principles.

3. Strategic Unity. We act within a shared vision to empower individuals, affiliated organizations, business partners, and communities through which we travel to take focused action to address the climate crisis. In addition to changing hearts and minds, we want our effort to help create, grow and empower the network of grassroots organizations supporting the broader goals of the climate movement. Ultimately, this strategic unity will create the foundation for a platform of popular support to encourage both legislative and personal action.  As individual marchers, we share our personal stories, i.e.,  why the climate crisis concerns us and why we march. As a community of marchers, we share our collective story and showcase the change we want to see in the world through how we operate the basic systems that sustain us on the March, and through how we communicate our lifestyle as a community of marchers.

4. Inclusion & Anti-Oppression. We welcome the participation of all who embrace these principles and work to create an empathetic community in which everyone is affirmed and may develop as a leader. We welcome and respect visitors and marchers who join our community for even a short time. Other than embracing these principles, no prerequisites exist for participation in our community. We are an inclusive movement – anyone who affirms and is committed to the Great March for Climate Action’s mission, vision and principles is welcome, and people of all genders, ethnicity, races, religions, national origins, sexualities, abilities and political ideologies are encouraged to join and embrace active roles in our community.  We respect, affirm, and seek to build solidarity and cooperation among our marchers, volunteers, supporters, and affinity groups in the pursuit of our vision.

We commit to open, honest sharing grounded in empathy – feeling and connecting with the emotions, experience, and needs of ourselves and others – as a basic relational commitment to each other as an essential practice that enables us to build a strong community. We affirm the courage to be vulnerable as essential to effective leadership and a healthy movement. We commit to create a space of affirmation, empathy, and support free from shame and judgment. We believe in individually and collectively reflecting on the resources, privileges, challenges, and perspectives that each of us brings to the March and how we can most fully and deeply serve our community and grow as a leaders of change.

We vow to confront oppressive behaviors in our groups that limit or marginalize other members’ participation, e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, classism, etc. All members of the March take this as a personal imperative to confront oppressive behaviors if and when they arise in our community.  Confrontation is not permission to judge or shame, but to challenge all of us to move forward in love and understanding. We respect the diversity of opinions and beliefs that marchers bring to this movement, providing these are in sync with our principles.

5. Pluralism. We affirm that there are many different roles, organizations, and institutions that are important to our struggle, and we welcome partnership with any group that shares our goal of unified climate action, advocacy, awareness and education and with whom we may work with while upholding our principles.  We are a pluralistic movement of diverse backgrounds, and we recognize that we all share the same planet, same natural history, and have a responsibility of collective global stewardship.  We mobilize through our varied experiences, communities, cultures, organizations, and institutions different ways to contribute to the vision and mission of the March.  We respect, affirm, and seek to build solidarity and cooperation among all March participants.

Organizations that develop within the March, or existing organizations with whom we affiliate, are welcome to have their own process as long as they are not inconsistent with our principles. We only invite organizations to endorse the March and its actions if they accept our action objectives, non-violence principles, and message focused on climate action. We welcome, accept and respect unions, churches, and non-profit organizations and their diversity of organizational cultures, decision making processes, and identities.

6. Leadership as Service. We affirm leadership as an act and process – not of governance or profit-seeking – but of service, responsibility and empowerment. We respect and encourage leadership development, and consider our March a “leader-ful” movement. We encourage and rely on every member of the Great March for Climate Action to develop her/his leadership style and abilities and to become the strongest, most effective and empowered leader they can be. We encourage an acknowledgement and development of understanding that the best leaders know how and when to follow and serve in other capacities.  We believe this is a true and essential form of leadership. All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in the March are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive no real authority from their titles. They do not govern. There are many tasks and responsibilities that require high levels of experience and skills that can only be developed over time, practice, and training – and many that work best only when decisions are made collaboratively. We try to create many opportunities and training for this type of personal and collective development.

Within informal groups, leaders naturally arise. These emergent individuals will take charge of particular tasks or areas of responsibility. When they succeed, other group members will begin to respect their judgment. Their advice in these matters will be sought out and their opinions will be heeded. Finally, if they show themselves willing to communicate and coordinate what they do in a way that serves the group’s mission, they will acquire real authority with autonomy within their responsibilities. Their actions should always be subject to the review of their peers. It does mean, however, that they have gained the right to make decisions about how a task is to be accomplished and that everyone involved should respect this right and consult with them concerning matters that affect their mission.  Authority should be transparent and should not be confused with having power.  The process in which the March community instills authority in an individual should be determined by the group.

7. Volunteerism. The Great March for Climate Action is primarily a volunteer, non-professional movement. In addition to organizing the March prior to its launch and tying up loose ends when it ends, staff are there to provide essential support to volunteer activity, and are paid according to the ethic of voluntary simplicity. The Great March for Climate Action is not a money making operation, and no one should profit off it. We pay for services to be done only after first seeking volunteers to do the task. Those services may be compensated within clear, sustainable, transparent guidelines, and with an accountable structure.

As a primarily volunteer movement, we recognize the importance of each marcher pitching-in both with fund-raising (with a goal of $20 per day per marcher) and with daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, maintaining vehicles and equipment, sanitation, moving equipment, and greeting and talking with guests who visit our campsite.

8. Open Source. We are an open source movement. Any individual or organization may affiliate with the name and symbols of the Great March for Climate Action so long as their actions and statements are consistent with our principles. The Great March for Climate Action story and brand representation are meant to empower individuals, affinity organizations, and communities. Use of the brand is allowed by individuals and groups that uphold our principles.

9. Sacrifice. We are aware of the sacrifices each of us must make to accomplish not only the March, but to move society at large beyond the paralysis of inaction with regards the climate crisis. We offer up our own personal sacrifices in patience and love, provide support to our fellow marchers and to those with whom we interact throughout the March. We gratefully accept and embrace the encouragement and support of those who provide help to us in our personal and collective struggles.

10. Decentralized Structure. We collaborate using a participatory-democratic process. A City Council of seven members is elected to manage internal March affairs and daily decisions using a simple majority system of voting. Work Teams established by the City Council function in autonomous teams of 4 – 20 members, depending upon the type of work. A Coordinating Committee composed of support staff and representatives from the Work Teams meets regularly as needed to assure cooperative day-to-day functioning among various Work Teams. Marchers also elect a 3-person Judicial Panel to resolve disputes, and a perfunctory Mayor to network with officials in the communities through which we travel. Full details regarding this governance structure are laid out below, under “Governance.”

All established groups within the March are autonomous except in matters affecting the whole. Any action that breaks our principles has a negative impact on the whole of our movement and is therefore unacceptable. In particular, each Working Team should be responsible to no other authority than its own conscience and the demands of its area of work. But when its plans concern the welfare of other groups or the March as a whole, those groups or the broader March community must be consulted.

The Great March for Climate Action Working Teams, Coordinating Council, Judicial Panel, Mayor, or individual voting members cannot endorse any group, political agenda, candidate, party, or movement but can make recommendations for endorsements to the Great March for Climate Action City Council. Through the Council, the Great March for Climate Action groups can endorse actions and campaigns within our principles and consistent with our tax status.


Governance (verbatim from Article VII of our Articles of Incorporation)

§ 1. City Council. The day-to-day operations of the March are governed by an organization of elected marchers known as the City Council. The authority of the City Council to govern the day-to-day operations of the March shall be considered a delegated power from the Foundation Board of Directors.

The City Council shall operate only when the organization is actively participating in March activities. Prior to the initiation of the March and within fourteen (14) days of the March concluding, the City Council shall not exist or shall dissolve unless and until March activities resume. The Foundation Board of Directors shall retain the authority to determine whether the March is active or inactive, in the event the status becomes disputed.

For purposes of this Article, “marchers” or “active marchers” shall mean any individual who has been physically present for at least one week with the March and who subscribes to the goals and purposes set forth in the organizational documents of the Corporation.

For purposes of this Article, “March” shall mean the event set forth in the organizational documents of the Corporation in which individuals will march across the United States of America to support action and education pertaining to the issue of climate change, presently scheduled to occur from March 1, 2014 until November 1, 2014.

§ A. Formation. Within one (1) week of the initiation of the March, active marchers shall come together to form the City Council. An election shall take place, as described in § D, and those receiving the most votes shall comprise the City Council.

§ B. Authority and Purpose. The City Council shall be vested with the legislative function for the day-to-day operations of the March. It shall function in a democratic fashion, and shall make all decisions in a open and public manner. The City Council may adopt resolutions and policies which are 1) consistent with local, state, and federal law, 2) consistent with the purposes and goals of the Corporation, 3) which do not conflict with any action of the Foundation Board of Directors, and 4) which are for the purposes of aiding and benefiting the March and its participants.

Any action by the City Council which involves the expenditure of funds may be vetoed by the Foundation Board of Directors if the expenditure would run afoul of local, state, or federal law, the Corporation’s purpose or operational documents, or which would threaten or affect the Corporation’s tax status. The Foundation Board of Directors may, in its discretion, veto expenditures in excess of $2,500 for any reason. Expenditures in excess of $2,500 are subject to approval by the Foundation Board of Directors. All other decisions of the City Council shall remain not subject to review by the Foundation Board of Directors absent action to amend the Articles for this purpose.

All resolutions adopted by the City Council shall be recorded and published to the public. A record of such resolutions shall constitute the operative rules of the March and shall, nonetheless, remain consistent and inferior to the organizational documents of the Corporation.

§ C. Participation. The City Council shall consist of seven (7) individuals. These individuals must be participants in the March and must anticipate physical presence with the March for at least 50% of the period the March will take place.

To run for City Council, an individual shall submit her or his name for consideration at the initial community meeting in which the City Council is formed, or thereafter, when a vacancy arises.

Service on the City Council shall be for a term consisting of the duration of the March. In the event that an individual is no longer able to serve or chooses to stop serving in this capacity, a special election to replace that individual shall occur.  Other than the initial election, no minimum requirement of service shall be required for candidates for the City Council.

A quorum of the City Council shall be declared by the council upon its first meeting. In no event, however, shall the quorum be less than four members of the council.

§ D. Election. City Council elections shall occur within one (1) week after the start of the March, and thereafter, within four (4) days after a vacancy arises. Elections may also occur as described in 1-E of Article VII upon the submission of petitions for new elections containing signatures of 60% of active marchers.

Election shall be by secret ballot. Each voter may cast a ballot for the total number of seats up for election. A voter shall not be permitted to vote for more candidates than the total number of seats up for election. The candidates who receive the most votes among the field shall be considered elected to the council.

These election processes shall govern the initial election. However, special elections to fill vacancies or elections pursuant to a no-confidence vote may be conducted in any other way hereafter adopted by the City Council. However, the method of voting used must 1) maintain the use of a secret ballot, 2) must respect the rule of the majority, and 3) must be conducted in a fair and even-handed manner.

An individual elected in a special election shall serve the same term as an individual elected in the initial election.

§ E. Removal and No-Confidence Petitions. Council Removal Petitions: If five or more of the members of the City Council file a petition to remove a member of the City Council, the petition shall be submitted to the Judicial Panel and removal procedures shall proceed. The Judicial Panel shall allow the member subject to removal to explain why she or he should not be removed from the City Council. A vote shall take place no sooner than twenty-four (24) hours but no more than four (4) days after a petition for removal has been filed. It shall require a unanimous vote of the Judicial Panel to remove the individual. Thereafter, a special election shall be held. The individual removed may run for re-election.  An individual elected to the City Council shall be immune from Council Removal Petitions for a period of ten (10) days after the individual is elected to the City Council.

In addition to the procedure established above, the community of active marchers may, upon the submission of signatures from 60% of the active marchers, trigger removal proceedings. The proceedings shall play out in the same manner as stated above, except that the vote on removal shall consist of a vote among active marchers. If a majority of active marchers vote to remove the individual, the individual shall be removed and a special election scheduled. If the individual is removed by a vote of at least 60% of the active marchers, the individual shall not be permitted to run for City Council in the special election to replace the removed Councilperson. An individual elected to the City Council shall be immune from Marcher Removal Petitions for a period of ten (10) days after the individual is elected to the City Council.

Marcher No-Confidence Petitions: Upon the gathering and submission of signatures from 60% or more of active marchers supporting the same, a finding of no confidence shall be found against the City Council. Upon such a finding, a new election shall occur to replace the City Council. The election which occurs in response to a no-confidence finding shall consist of holding an election for all seven (7) seats on the council simultaneously. Such an election shall take place within two (2) days after the submission of 60% of the signatures of active march participants. Individuals subject to a no-confidence finding while serving on the City Council may run in the election following the no-confidence finding.

Similar removal provisions shall apply to the Judicial Panel and the office of Mayor, with the details of the process determined by the City Council.

§ F. Reservation of Power. Any provision pertaining to the operation and function of the City Council not listed in this Article shall be reserved for consideration by the City Council itself.

§ 2 – Work Teams.  A combination of volunteers and staff shall comprise teams of individuals willing to carry out the directives of the City Council and of the Corporation itself. The City Council shall have the authority to decide how best to utilize Work Teams and to what extent marchers should participate on Work Teams based upon their willingness to serve, their skills and experience, and whether they are on the staff of the Corporation. Work Teams shall have the autonomy to carry out the purposes of this Corporation.

The City Council may organize Work Teams by area or topic, may adopt measures to track time and resources dedicated to each function, and may adopt various rules or regulations to guide how Work Teams should function and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the Work Teams and of the marchers themselves. The City Council may impose limited restrictions on Work Teams unless the restriction would substantially interfere with the Work Teams’ ability to carry out the mission and purposes of the Corporation.  Work Teams shall retain substantial autonomy in deciding how to carry out the directives of the City Council.

Active participant on at least one Work Team is a requirement to being a marcher, as indicated in the Marcher Application.

§ 3 – Judicial Panel. A team of three individuals shall comprise the Judicial Panel of the March. The Judicial Panel shall be elected at the initial meeting of the marchers in the same election as the City Council. To be eligible for the Judicial Panel, a candidate must anticipate being present on the March for at least 50% of the March. Elections to fill vacancies on the Judicial Panel shall occur in the same manner prescribed for special elections to fill vacancies on the City Council.

§ 4 – Coordinating Committee. A Coordinating Committee composed of support staff and representatives from the Work Teams will meet regularly as needed to assure cooperative day-to-day functioning among various Work Teams, and to report to the City Council as necessary.

§ 5 – Mayor. A Mayor will be elected by Voting Members to act as a ceremonial figurehead representative of the Great March for Climate Action, especially in regards interacting with the mayors of communities we visit along the March route. The Mayor’s specific responsibilities will be laid out by the City Council.

§ 6 – Town Meeting. If 30% of active marchers petition for an issue to be brought to a vote by the full marcher community, the City Council shall set the time and location for a town hall meeting to hold the vote within three days of receiving said petition. The issue shall pass when approved by a simple majority of active marchers present. Proxy votes shall not be allowed, but marchers who are not able to be there physically may participate virtually. The town meeting shall last no longer than two hours.

§ 7 – Separation of Powers. Marchers shall serve in only one elected office at any one time. No action taken by any branch of March government shall dissolve or substantially limit the power of any other.

§ 8 – Order of Authority. Actions and resolutions of any department or branch of the March government shall be inferior to these Articles, and to any Bylaws of the Corporation that may be adopted, which in turn are inferior to these Articles. All actions of the Corporation are legally inferior to the local, state, and federal law applicable.