Having gone on about the Bones Report so much on this blog I wasn’t going to miss the conference session on the topic. It was a consultation session and not a full debate so there was no vote. But it was an opportunity for members to raise concerns and issues with the report authors.
For an early morning session the hall was busy and apparently quite a few people put in cards to speak. The tone of the debate I would describe as being one of a critical welcome.
Various people raised specific aspects they were unhappy with. A good example would be the proposal in the report to make the Spring conference an English conference. A speaker representing the Federal Conference Committee opposed the idea and was then followed by a speaker representing the Federal Policy Committee who also opposed the idea. It makes you wonder, if the two main committees effected by a proposal are opposed to it, why on earth it made it into the final version of the report.
I put in two cards to speak. One was on the governance section which I was called to speak in. The other was about the role of the activist which I didn’t get to deliver. I wrote up both my speeches in order to help me prepare and so as not waste that effort I reproduce them below:
Governance and Management
I want to talk about the twin processes of governance and management.
Governance being the process by which the “owners” of an organisation decide upon its strategy and objectives, and monitors progress towards achieving them.
Management being the organisation of the activities that deliver towards those objectives.
When the report talks about management it is right.
It makes a number of welcome recommendations for improving our management and argues for a more directed, professional and hands-on approach to the management of our campaigning. This is right and the proposals should be implemented.
Where the report gets it wrong is on governance.
Governance in this Party is broken. The structures we have in place are not working properly. It is in urgent need of reform.
But the report does not propose nearly enough measures to reform the way we as members get to shape the direction of our Party.
The report is right when it says that it is important not to get governance and management confused. But the main reform it does propose, the Chief Officers Group, will actually further blur the divide between management and governance. It will make things worse.
In short. Right about management. Wrong about governance.
This is a good report, but it only does half the job.
The role of the activist
Second bite of the cherry. I want to talk about one aspect of the report that concerns me. What it says about the role of the activist.
The report is right to argue that we should value and appreciate our members and supporters more than we do. We must improve how we do this.
We know from our local parties that we depend on those volunteers who do a round of delivery, make donations, or do other jobs.
But we also know from our local parties that we depend on those who do much more. Those people, you may be one of them, who write the leaflets, organise the delivery of the leaflets, deliver a lot of the leaflets themselves – and serve on a local party executive committee – are probably a local councillor – and maybe even work at a regional or national level. These people do far too much, make far too many sacrifices in terms of time, money, maybe even career opportunities, to be called volunteers. These are the activists.
Yet the report is reluctant to talk about activists.
In the section on volunteers in the report it of course uses the word volunteer several times. But the word activist only once and that is in a negative context.
The report seems to have a model of a core of professional staff managing volunteers. But the party doesn’t and can’t work like that.
We understand the progression of supporter to member, member to volunteer, volunteer to activist, and activist to candidate.
But the report doesn’t seem to recognise this middle ground. It doesn’t properly recognise the role of the activist and in that respect it is flawed.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.