How to Write a Good Motion

How to Write a Good Motion

 

Union General Meetings are a well structured form of democratic participation and policy motions need to be submitted in a certain format. This guide was put together for the workshop ‘How to Write a Good Motion’ delivered in 2018 by Dan Thomson from the Educational Institute of Scotland; Scotland's largest and most effective teaching union.

 
 

What is a motion?

A motion is a formal written request for a new union policy or a proposal to change an existing policy that each and every full member of the union has the right to submit at the AGM. Motions can be on any matter a member or group of members believes to be important. It may regard how the Union is run, what its aims are, its strategy, campaigns, wider political issues, changes to the constitution, every day running of the Union, and how it spends its money.

All good motions share common characteristics

  • Specificity: The motion must be clear, specific and unambiguous in its terms. 

  • Accuracy: Motions must be accurate in relation to any references to documents, reports, policies, bodies, etc. and, if a motion contains false or inaccurate information, it should be declared incompetent. 

  • Concise and unambiguous: The terms of motions deemed to be competent for debate should, as far as possible, be concise and unambiguous giving a clear indication as to what is to be done should it be passed as a resolution. 

  • Wording: All motions will begin with the appropriate wording "That this Annual General Meeting believes..." or whatever wording is set out in the union rulebook. 

  • Re-affirmation of existing union policy: Motions which merely re-affirm existing policy will be given low priority.

Before you start

Considerations:

  • Be as succinct as possible, a motion should be no more than 100 words.  

  • Think about how your motion will make a difference to your fellow members.

  • Make sure you have the correct facts and figures to back up your motion.

  • Be prepared to campaign for the issue.

  • If my motion is passed, what are the equality, democratic, welfare, financial implications?

  • Who will be responsible for the implementation and development of the motion once it is passed?

  • Be realistic about what is achievable

  • Are you prepared to work with the Union to achieve this motion?

Getting started

Every motion has three main sections: ‘notes’, ‘believes’ and ‘resolves’. Below is a brief guide of what goes in each section. The key to a good motion is a clear, succinct and short piece of text that is structured in the following three sections.

When constructing a motion and in writing down what you/your branch wants to the union to do you need to identify:

  • The clear policy/campaigning/organising objective. Strong motions feature a clear focus on outcomes.

  • Who should ask on the motion?

  • By what means should they act on the terms of the motion? For example lobby, influence, organise, call, write to, meet with, work with, produce guidance, conduct a survey...

  • When should this be done? It can be helpful to identify where issues are acutely time sensitive but arbitrary deadlines are not helpful. 

Constructing a motion

Section 1: This Union Notes… 

Explain the situation and/or context including research and evidence that supports your motion. The detail in this section must be factual and correct at the time of submission and can include one or multiple points. If you make a point in this section, make sure it is 100% factual as this is the backbone of your argument and will help you during debate. Always know where you got your facts from so that you can back up your points, and if you feel it necessary include a list of your resources as an additional paper. 

Section 2: This Union Believes...

This part of the motion explains what is wrong with or what needs to be amended with the situation explained in the section “This union notes…”. This is the part where you explain why you believe this motion should be submitted; state your beliefs and connect them to the point you are making.

Section 3: This Union Resolves 

This part of the motion is where you outline the definitive action, what you believe should happen, the actions or steps the Union should take to resolve the issues raised. This is the most important section because it will determine what actions are taken should the motion pass.

Example

This Union notes that artists are among the lowest paid workers with 83% earning less than £10k per year, 59% have never received public funding, and 75% don’t receive a fee for participating in exhibitions. This Union believes that the prevalent economic inequalities in the arts hinders artists’ ability to survive within the greater economy. This Union resolves to create an industry standard rate of pay which will be available for all members to access and use in their negotiations, and for institutions to refer to as good practice in paying artists.

Summary

  • Make it snappy, concise and comprehensible!

  • Include facts that back up the motion and provide context.

  • Demonstrate a clear opinion that will aid the passing of the motion.

  • Be clear about what you want the Union to actually do and who will do it.

  • Be prepared to do the work and support your Union officials in executing the motion should it be passed.
 

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