ROC-NH staff

Parliamentary procedure: A freedom fundamental

By ROC-NH staff

Parliamentary procedure makes it easier for a cooperative's  board and members to work together effectively and accomplish their goals.

When you think of parliamentary procedure, do you think of men wearing white wigs from yesteryear?  Do you wonder why we encourage co-ops to keep up a tradition that’s so … outdated?

At a co-op board meeting a while back, a member commented that following the bylaws, rules and parliamentary procedure seemed like being in prison. I thought this was an interesting perspective because parliamentary procedure was actually developed with freedom in mind!


Following parliamentary procedure helps make meetings more productive.

"I move to ..."

Parliamentary procedure is a code of rules/ethics for meetings. It gives boards direction and makes it easier for the board and members to work together effectively and help the co-op accomplish its goals. Properly followed, these processes free both the board and the membership.

For example, one parliamentary procedure is about making a motion, which is a proposal to take a specific action on a particular issue, project or problem. All business items start with a person making a motion. That person raises their hand to be recognized by the chair. The motion is stated positively.

If another person seconds the motion, that means there are two people who want to talk about the issue. A discussion follows and is voted on. If no one seconds the motion, that means no one wants to discuss the issue. Then the motion is lost and there is no further action.

While this procedure may seem slow, official, and authoritative, like prison, all these steps make it easier for the board to be consistent and fair with each motion.

Adopted from British parliament

If we look at history, British parliamentary procedures were adopted by the American colonies and became the foundations of legislative procedure in the United States. Lewis Deschler is quoted in the U.S. House Rules and Manual: “They are perhaps the most finely adjusted, scientifically balanced, and highly technical rules of any parliamentary body in the world. Under them a majority may work its will at all times in the face of the most determined and vigorous opposition of a minority.”

Parliamentary procedure is the essence of a democratic society because it safeguards fundamental principles of democratic discussion.

So instead of a prison sentence, parliamentary procedure gives a co-op a process that is fair to everyone. It’s based on the principles of allowing the majority to make decisions effectively and efficiently. It ensures fairness to the minority, and gives each co-op member the right to voice an opinion, then vote, which determines the outcome.  

The white wigs may be outdated, but the concept of freedom continues in New Hampshire’s cooperatives.

By ROC-NH™staff

ROC-NH™ is a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Inc. and a ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider.
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