By now, Aurovilians have realised that it is not easy to organise the ever-growing and changing township. For, even when aspiring for something new and something of a higher order, it has never been very obvious what this something new or higher is supposed to look like. From the beginning certain problems seemed to recur. The community of Auroville has to come to terms with such issues as giving 'authority' and 'powers' to working groups. The working groups, in turn, often struggle to have their decisions accepted, since none of them has ever enjoyed the full support of the community at large. Without police or other enforcement agencies (the officials of the Auroville Foundation do not fall under this category), the only way out seems to be to convince everyone to co-operate of their own free will, or ask them to consent to a decision even when opposing it in part or in whole. Another problem of the small working groups is how to communicate the contents of the often lengthy processes by which certain decisions that concern the community as a whole were made.
These problems still form an acute challenge to the residents of Auroville.
Meetings on internal organisational structures, on the way meetings should be held, and on the way working groups should be appointed and hold office, and their powers, have been always occurring in Auroville and still occur with great regularity.
General meetings about organisation and coordination, open to all Aurovilians and newcomers, have been held since 1969. After 1975 these general meetings intensified due to legal problems of that time. Many early meetings were held in the Pour Tous office, and so the 'Pour Tous meetings' began on a regular basis in various locations. Later these meetings were called 'General Meetings'. Gradually the need arose for a small sub-group of these meetings to become its executive arm and engage in general coordination, in meetings with government and other officials, and deal with disputes. This group has been called the Cooperative, the Executive Council, the Auroville Council. In the latter period, when the population of Auroville became too large to refer to a general meeting, a Core Group was formed to which the Council referred. This continued till the Auroville Foundation Act came into force, which prescribed a Residents' Assembly and a formal Working Committee.
Like its predecessors, the meetings of the Residents' Assembly have not always been functioning satisfactorily. While these meetings have shown themselves to be good forums to air opinions, the experience is that they are not suitable for decision-making. Normally, between five and fifteen percent of the residents of Auroville attend such meetings and the experience is that a meaningful dialogue is not very likely to happen when over 60 people are assembled in one room. It is also not always clear whether those five or fifteen percent carry the power to make decisions that also affect all those who have not attended the meeting.
Hence the topic of decision-making is an ongoing one, there is no agreement at present on how decisions should be taken which affect the community as a whole. Some people feel that a group of about eight-to-twelve of our most wise and conscious people should be in charge of the community, who would make decisions based on what the Mother has indicated. Others may feel that the community as a whole needs to be consulted on major decisions and that ideally consensus should be reached. In the event that this proves to be impossible, the will of the majority should prevail. With the community now reaching some 2400 residents, there are also Aurovilians who feel that a combination of both of these views would be best, which would mean an enlightened leadership working in close collaboration with the community at large.
In this context it may be interesting to note an observation by Prof. Norman Myers, one of the IAC's previous members, who said in 1999 after attending one of Auroville's lively general meetings:
"When I visited Auroville for the first time last year, I was very struck by your accomplishment in afforesting this formerly barren land, and by your work on clean and renewable forms of energy. In terms of environmental initiatives worldwide, you are definitely at the sharp end of the pack. But two things impressed me even more. Firstly the spiritual aspect, the fact that people here are fully committed to the ideal of human unity and, secondly, your attempt to organise yourselves through a process which I have heard described as 'creative anarchy'. I'm struck by the way you discuss and discuss issues until a decision bubbles to the surface - you don't so much take a decision as see what emerges."
Various attempts have been made to involve more Aurovilians in matters of general importance. The concept of "Local Area Meetings," where people who live in one area would meet, discuss the topics, and through a representative feed their views back to a more general meeting, failed. The creation of a Representatives Group, representing the major work-areas of Auroville, has also not been entirely successful, but may be taken up again at a later stage. The concept of "sociocratic decision making" developed in The Netherlands was extensively studied, then dropped. Attempts are currently being made to change the quality of our general meetings. Experiments to come to a meaningful dialogue, such as were conducted with the concept of 'the Platform' in Spring 2000, continue. Many people feel the strong need for an overview body or town council and the concept is currently being worked upon. This body would make sure that activities which now tend to happen in isolation were coordinated and moving in the direction of the ideals of Auroville.
Presently, most, but not all, working groups take community feedback into consideration. As per the by now well established agreement, announcements regarding policy or other decisions are put in the internal weekly newsletter, the News & Notes and the community intrant portal Auronet, with a given time frame for feedback from the community. If no major objections have been raised within that time, it is considered that an OK has been given to go ahead. Email based data collection forms are also being increasingly used by various working groups to collect feedback.
Although there are many forceful personalities in Auroville, there are no leaders as such; each person is responsible for the collective becoming of Auroville. There is a strong emphasis, born out of necessity, on practicality in Auroville, and many find themselves taking up different occupations from those they had before coming to Auroville. The Mother once said that the ideal organisation today could be described as "flowing and organic" as opposed to rigid and stratified, - adapting, growing, changing, according to the community's needs and its vision of itself.