Based on an email 6/3/2016, typo-edited 7/3/2016 and updated 7/4/2016
help may be needed with accurate dating of past events – will be further edited for May meeting.
Dear Strategy Forum members
I’m writing in response to (a) an ICUK agenda despatched (rather confusingly) to individuals for next Wednesday’s meeting, (b) a consultative paper from Michael headed “ICUK Working Group on the Structures of Political Organisation”, which was sent to an open-copied list that he had put together himself (rather than to the Discussion List), and (c) a query from Brian about how to contact ICUK associates, both of which signalled that there was confusion about communication that need to be addressed within this group. My message of 6/3/2016 was an attempt to respond to this need – despite the fact that it was sent in good time for consideration at the meeting on 9th March, for which the “Ways of Working” should have allowed for new agenda items to be tabled, it was completely ignored, and not even referenced for future consideration. At this point I opened up a page to rework it for consideration at the April meeting.
Background on the context of ICUK Meetings
Some members will be aware of the evolution of CCMJ (founded as Christian Council of Monetary Justice in the late 60s) and the Global Table, which goes back for about 20 years. CCMJ began as a traditional association with an agreed constitution, and held committee meetings with minutes being produced on paper and an AGM attended by dozens of members. When attendance at these events waned, Peter Challen, who had taken over as Chair in the late 1990s, evolved the outreach device of hosting a weekly “Global Table”, using a “chaplaincy” model of sole facilitation, and emailing to a list, including original members and new associates, an ongoing agenda called “Matters in the Air”.
The wordpress site which we had added to the CCMJ website (recently separated off for Global Table), supports this method, by enabling constant updating to incorporate significant input from associates on the agenda page, so that anyone visiting the website can see the current version and access a page dedicated to forthcoming events, as well as the archived resource of past papers and links to external organisations. The weekly lunchtime meetings allow open attendance, with a small but regular coregroup attending, enabling other colleagues including overseas visitors to drop by.
The above background is mentioned because it was the context in which the ICUK project evolved, from about mid-2014, and occupying a time-slot before the open Global Table agenda. With the project’s founder Ray Sheath chairing, there was enthusiastic face-to-face attendance, with Peter acting as Secretary, both of them using wall-charts to illustrate their points and an enormous amount of creative work being done towards the project by Ray, Michael and Brian. An ambitious wordpress site was set up by a family contact of Ray’s but this proved too sophisticated for core group members to access, with an accumulating debt for website management at professional rates.
Meanwhile we were experimenting with another wordpress site www.democafe.uk which would have enabled members to upload their own posts, but most of those who were involved declined to participate in this way, necessitating the traditional process of webmaster uploading of their documents in the form of PDFs. This was the context in which the current website www.constitutionalists.uk was set up in traditional format. This enables “hand-coded” editing, which is more difficult in a standard wordpress site, which was judged to be essential if we were to incorporate the exacting designs, e.g. the House to Home page. A request has been noted for a “blog” which would enable up-to-date material to be uploaded (in the same way as can be done for Global Table), but it will not be feasible for this to be added until those who would want to be adding that material can be empowered (by individual training) to use the facility – otherwise as before, the work would continue to fall to an overworked Moderator and Webmaster, with a new learning curve being needed for both parties, and this is why for the time-being, we continue to use the existing facility on the Global Table website for agenda preparation.
Current Situation regarding Strategy Forum Meetings
Now that the founder is currently unable to attend, and two of the most enthusiastic participants are resident in France, face-to-face attendance has dropped to a small core attempting to follow the rubric of “Ways of Working” drafted by a non-attending member. Of those regularly present, one views websites “as little as possible”, another rarely disagrees (not wishing to offend), and it being deemed inappropriate for the Webmaster to holding an opinion, with the Moderator’s best efforts to facilitate, it’s a struggle to tackle the very large agenda which continues to accumulate. Note-taking of the January meeting was disputed, and it was therefore deemed not to have occurred, the February and March meetings featured ongoing attempts to agree updates to the official website, and consideration of whether or not to adopt the Chatham House rules of non-disclosure, and the current attendees are not sufficiently geared up to tackling the more challenging agenda items that are being proposed..
An attempt has been made to restore attendance levels by holding the meetings monthly instead of weekly, relegating the usual Global Table, which meetings at 12noon to the less accessible 10am slot in the same venue, with the Moderator also asking members of the Strategy Forum to commit to attend meetings, but this has so far failed to restore the situation – we will soon know if the situation has improved by attendance at the April meeting.
Meanwhile the structure of the Strategy Group has become more complex, with most of the business being done by two sub-groups, as set out here (foot): http://constitutionalists.uk/forum/index.htm and http://constitutionalists.uk/forum/working-groups.htm – the latter page indicates the small and overlapping membership of the groups. The effect of this is for the development work of the organisation to be done behind the scenes, and only presented to the Strategy Group in the form of a hugely complex monthly agenda, with very short notice to consider anything and no clear way of making an input. My feeling is that this performance is inadequate for a group attempting to reform aspects of our democracy, and that some modest changes may help to move the group forward.
Use of Discussion Lists
As already mentioned, along with the new website, we set up a discussion list [ICUK] (discuss@), which included the wider list of “Associates”, moderated by PC. However, within days of operating the list it became clear that most of these members only expected to receive occasional News Updates and instead they were receiving some, but rather confusingly, not all, discussion items, and this was not coordinated with the monthly decision-making meetings. After receiving feedback of TMI (Too Much Information), Peter has stopped using the list for ICUK discussions, with the only items recently circulated being the last two editions of the Runnymede Gazette, a very useful source of relevant information, but pre-existing and operating outside of ICUK. Thus it appears that the wider list of associates, whom we have gathered under the [ICUK] list are receiving neither agenda papers nor reports of meetings.
Firstly, we need to clarify what is meant by member of the “Strategy Group” (which I think is a smaller group of people who either attend or submit papers to monthly meetings), the “Strategy Forum” (which I think is about 20 currently being open-copied in receiving agendas, and notes of meetings, without any clear facility for discussion), the “ICUK Associates” (referring to the wider group that we put on the discussion list), in relation to tick-boxes on the Contact Us form, which has categories currently as follows: http://constitutionalists.uk/contact.php
I do not object to my details being held on a database to receive messages.
I would like to request information about ICUK’s progress.
I would also like be involved in the decision-making processes of ICUK.
I am willing to help with the running of the project by doing administrative work, and/or helping to organise local meetings – please put details in message box..
- PC to be asked to confirm or expand on the above description of levels of involvement in ICUK.
- A parallel News List to be set up for all Associates – firstname.lastname@example.org – which would include, amongst other items, regular short reports by the Moderator (or Ray, when he is able) updating all ICUK Associates on progress of the project, and encouraging those who wish to take part in discussions to also access the Discuss list.
- The membership of the current Discuss List to be reduced to that of the current Strategy Forum members, i.e. those who have opted to “involved in the decision-making processes of ICUK”.
- The Moderator being tasked to assign enquiries from the Contact Us form to the appropriate list, i.e. all on News, some also on Discuss.
- Moderation of both groups to be considered, with Peter continuing to operate the process of two lists in parallel, or opting to delegate one or both of the moderation tasks to other members of the Strategy Forum, to be periodically reviewed.
- The regular monthly meeting agendas to be dealt with as individual discussion items, which are circulated, initially by the moderator and later by the proposers (once the process is in place), with a time-frame being proposed for responses, normally about a week, to coincide with a weekly meeting.
- The list moderator to manage the process by deferring major new items from being circulated until the existing item has been cleared for decision, and ensuring that items are submitted to the most appropriate list.
- Weekly Strategy Group meetings to revert to the 10am-12noon slot (restoring the Global Table to open access from 12noon to 2pm), with a remit to consider the responses from the Discussion List, and summarise for further consideration, if appropriate, or else to implement decisions gleaned from the discussions, and if needed to help draft regular updates to the News List.
- Occasionally General Meetings to be held, with invited speakers to stimulate more people to attend
- “Ways of Working” to be updated to incorporate the above procedures.
For current and past agenda papers and notes see: http://www.constitutionalists.uk/papers/