Active members & paths to membership

How to get involved, and how Active Members drive what the OES does.

Welcome to Part 1 of our practical guide to how the OES operates, and how you can get involved. In this first part, we want to explain how membership works: What the various forms of membership mean, and how membership is determined. We want you to feel welcome to participate in the Organization for Ethical Source (OES) at whatever level of involvement works best for you, and this guide will help you understand how that works.

At the heart of this structure is an important idea that is worth highlighting early. When designing the governance structure, we wanted those doing the work to be the ones making the decisions. This is really important, because we’re turning the usual governance hierarchy on its head. We’ll go into more details as to how we do that in Parts 3 & 4.

Becoming a member

Let’s suppose you’re new to the OES, and you’re excited about what we’re doing and you want to get involved. Our community chat platform is open to everyone who is interested in getting involved, and is where most activity takes place. Even before you decide what you’d like to do, you’re welcome to join us, and learn about the community and the actions currently underway. Then, there are two pathways you can take.

1. Contributing Time and Energy

The first is by contributing time and energy to an existing Working Group, or getting a new Working Group approved and operating. We’ll talk more about what a Working Group is in Part 2, but for now it’s enough to say these are the organizational units of the OES that do the hard work of realizing our mission. Contributing to a Working Group automatically makes you eligible to be an Active Member. Nominations for active membership are reviewed and approved on a regular basis (by The Committee, more details coming in Part 4), which might sound authoritarian until you understand that The Committee is appointed by the existing Active Members. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The most important perk of being an Active Member is that you get to participate in the overall decision-making process (the General Assembly, which we’ll get to in Part 3), and you get a vote on the final decisions that need to be made. We’ll talk more about the significance of voting in Part 3. Once an Active Member, you retain that status until you decide to stop contributing, at which point you may opt to transition to being an Emeritus Member. Emeritus members are still welcome to participate in the conversations around the decision-making process, but no longer have the right to vote.

2. Contributing Money

The second way to get involved is by donating money. If you aren’t able to contribute time and energy to a Working Group, you can still help out by helping fund our efforts. Your donations fund the OES’s activities, and are an important way of helping make things happen. If you choose to get involved through donation, you become a Supporting Member. Supporting Members are entitled to participate in the conversations around the overall decision-making process (the General Assembly, which, again, we’ll get to in Part 3), but crucially you do not get a vote. The reason for this is two-fold. First, we want to encourage you to contribute to a Working Group. Second, we want to ensure that people can’t simply buy themselves a vote. You can retain your Supporting Member status by continuing to contribute once a year.


That’s a lot of moving parts! We’re trying to keep the focus on one aspect at a time, so if you find yourself a little confused about what Working Groups or General Assemblies are, or what The Committee does, we’ll get to that in later documents. Right now, the key points are:

  1. You become a member by getting involved, either with your time or your money.
  2. Members drive the decision-making process.
  3. Those who do the work get the final say in decision making.

Here’s a flowchart to help you navigate the different options for participation in the OES:

A flowchart of the membership flow.

Active Members are folks who are actively contributing to one or more Working Groups, and are the backbone of the OES. They have full voting rights, because we want the people doing the work to make the decisions.

Emeritus Members are Active Members who have for one reason or another ceased contributing to a Working Group. They can participate in the conversations around decision-making, but they do not get voting rights.

Supporting Members are folks who generously donate their money to fund ongoing operations. They can participate in the conversations around decision-making, but they do not get voting rights.

Next time: Working Groups, the functional organizational unit of the OES!