Advice for Forming an Affiliate

There are many factors to consider when forming a new BIEN affiliate (or any other basic income network). Here are some suggestions from existing affiliates and people at BIEN to keep in mind:

A. Structure and Membership

1. Your network should include, at its center, a core group of supporters who are committed to the idea of an unconditional basic income. Most of BIEN’s affiliates have a core group of about five to ten individuals.

One caveat: it is important to have a broad base of “core” or “founding” members and to stay politically neutral. Aim for a coalition of individuals who are from different political backgrounds or who are not party-political. Academics and scientists (BIEN-Denmark, for instance, had a prominent physicist as a founding member), as well as representatives of other social movements, are often (although not always) conducive to neutrality in this sense.

2. Consider formalizing the structure of the network’s leadership. For instance, the core group might become the board of directors or executive committeeIn this case, you additionally need a set of statutes that delineate the remit of the executive body. Furthermore, it is typically advisable to have a formal division of roles within the executive (e.g. chair, treasurer, and secretary).

3. Consider additional roles to include on the executive committee or board of directors. Some groups, for example, might wish to have a dedicated web person, media person, and/or news person. It is generally a good idea to have at least one person devoted to outreach, who serves as a liaison with BIEN and other networks (possibly including political and social networks not exclusively focused on basic income) both within and beyond your region.

4. Develop a formal way to designate membership. It’s typically also a good idea to require a small fee for membership. BIEN has “Life Members”, which can justify charging a slightly higher fee (100 euros in this case) while also signaling commitment. Some affiliates require monthly or annual membership dues. In either case, it can be useful to show prominent names of members  on your documents and/or website.

5. Create a structure for elections at some form of general assembly (GA), either annually or biennially. (BIEN’s statutes provide one model here, but affiliates are not constrained to model their own elections and GA after BIEN’s.)

For a national network, you might have an annual GA, but this is more difficult for a global network (although BIEN is now adopting the model). It is important to have some continuity in leadership, which is one reason why BIEN has so far preferred biennial elections.

There are various options for administering a vote. BIEN currently conducts elections by a show of hands of members present at GAs. However, many members have been uneasy about this and have requested the adoption of a secret ballot. There is also concern that voting has been limited only to members physically present at the GA, with other members excluded from the process. Thus, BIEN is presently considering electronic voting as an alternative. BIEN’s Canadian affiliate, the Basic Income Canada Network, is an example of a group that presently uses electronic voting.

B. Meetings 

1. Local groups should hold regular informal meetings for all members, ideally in-person (although meetings by phone or Skype are also possible). These meetings might involve, for example, reading and discussion of books or articles on basic income or the viewing of videos on basic income. Or, for another example, a group might arrange lectures or presentations in a university, public library, or similar setting.

2. The “core group” or executive committee of the group should meet regularly, even if the meetings are short and limited to phone, Skype, or other remote communication.

3. In general, regional groups should plan regular public events regardless of the size and scope of the network. For example, a group might host a small event at least once per year, combined with a bigger event every two years. Smaller events can be useful for networking with other groups, since there is likely to be less attention to internal matters such as elections and less media exposure. Bigger events can be useful in other ways, such as drawing the attention of the media and attracting a global audience.

C. Media / PR

1. Create a website. The website should have a professional appearance, as this reflects on the image of the group. In addition to information about the group itself, the website might include (for example) a section on important international developments in the basic income movement.

2. Maintain an active presence on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

3. Consider circulating basic literature and video material on basic income to all group members and/or all interested members of the public.

4. Try recruiting journalists to join the network, and encourage them to write about the group and/or basic income in the mass media. Keep track of media contacts in a database, and send press releases to them when something exciting happens.

5. Inform the editors of Basic Income News when your network engages in noteworthy activities or when other basic income news transpires in your region. The editors will then be able to work with you to promote your network to our global readership.

6. Try recruiting artists who can develop posters and pamphlets.

D. Projects / Objectives 

1. Have a set of limited focused projects and objectives. For example, one new affiliate is interested in promoting a pilot study in its region. Such a project could either be charged to the executive member tasked with outreach or delegated to a special task force.

2. To guide the development of projects and objectives, conduct a simple analysis of the welfare system in your region and the advantages (and any potential disadvantages) posed by a universal and unconditional basic income. This analysis could serve as a key point of reference when advocating for a basic income in your region.

3. Avoid involvement in party politics. Depending on what legal status you choose for your organization, you might even be legally required to restrain from direct political action. It should be clear in your website and documents that, instead, your network is a base for spreading knowledge and encouraging discussion and debate about basic income.

E. Networking 

1. Attend BIEN’s annual Congresses and/or other regional gatherings of basic income supporters and activists. (See Basic Income News to keep up-to-date on upcoming events.)

2. Join the BIEN affiliate Slack channel to communicate with leaders and core members of other affiliates.

3. Contact BIEN’s Outreach Coordinator Jenna van Draanen (jennavandraanen@gmail.com) to remain apprised of current opportunities for connecting and sharing with other affiliates.

4. Stay in touch with others in the basic income movement, both within and outside of BIEN.


Last updated: January 24, 2017

Credit to Jenna van Draanen and the BIEN Outreach taskforce, Jason Murphy, Louise Haagh, and Kate McFarland