Recently I have become increasingly aware of a disconnect between the direction the Society is taking and the way in which I, and I hope others, believe that it should be progressing.
These views centre on the role of the membership in the Society and the perceived view of the membership by both the senior management of the Society – the staff - and senior volunteers.
For many years it has been said that the membership does not “make money” for the BCS. Over recent months this has become even more apparent with the additional comment that not only does the membership spend more than it generates but it also spends money that the “business” has generated in terms of a surplus. Membership, in this respect, covers everything from joining and accreditation through to member group budgets etc.
Over recent months numerous changes and restructuring activities have been undertaken to such an extent that the membership of the Society now seems to be secondary to the role of the ‘business’ of the Society. In this context ‘business’ is meant to cover the income generating aspects of the Society that are not related to membership in any way.
All of the changes and statements are being made and supported by a very small minority of senior volunteers and staff without proper and careful due process and consultation with the rest of the wider and active membership to see if they concur. And it would appear that few members have been made overtly aware of the transformation programme or what effects it will have apart from general communication in press and media.
Therefore the only conclusion I can make is that the role of the membership in the Society is declining. This is no more clearly seen than in the effects on the member groups over recent months. The relative importance of the member groups in the Society as a whole seems to be diminishing, with the removal of their Management Committees and the corresponding reduction in the number of Council seats they are allowed to populate. There seems to be a shift in the Society’s objectives from that of supporting / serving a group of professional members, to that of a Business that sells products to professionals - one such product being CITP. However, there are few professionals in control of that selling or consultation of the membership as to how the Society should move forward.
In addition, I have recently discovered that an internal election has been deferred and as far as I am aware this has not been discussed with the body involved. Personally I find this reminiscent of the events that can usually found where governments don’t want the population to have a choice.
Sadly, I feel that this is not the Society that I joined 30 years ago and up until recently the change from a member-focussed to a business-focussed Society was not the aim of that Society.
If one looks at the current Strategic Objectives (http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.11281) of the Society, drawn up by senior volunteers and staff as part of the new transformation programme, there is no mention of membership.
On the other hand if one looks at the Royal Charter and Bye- Laws (https://wam.bcs.org/wam/MenuLoadMaint.exe?LDGP=21721&LDITY=F&LDPID=1) held under the Governance – Regulations item) they do imply that the members and other individuals interested in computing should be encouraged to meet and communicate to further all aspects of computing. Indeed in doing so BCS members are working for the public benefit. The note on ‘public benefit’ at the Charities Commission website http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Charity_requirements_guidance/Charity_essentials/Public_benefit/default.asp makes it clear that it is acceptable for member associations to be charities, and for members to be supported.
Moreover, a recent ruling has made it a requirement that all future member meetings must support the Strategic Objectives of the Society - which, as an aside, do not include the recruiting or support of members themselves.
The Bye Laws of the Society also contain a large amount of information pertaining to membership.
An interesting point also to note is that I found it impossible to find the Charter and Bye Law documents on the public Society web site. The links above are to documents on the secure site, for members only, and even then they seemed buried.
All this has brought me to the point where I, together with other members to whom I have spoken, no longer agree with the direction of the Society being taken by senior volunteers and staff. Although this has been brought by myself and other members to the attention of the senior volunteers and staff of the Society they seem to show little interest in listening. Indeed, there is almost the feeling that the Trustees and Senior Staff know better and are just pandering to those of us that raise these issues.
There only remains the decision of what to do about it. In reality, there is very little that a member can do, as the Trustee Board has absolute power. Moreover, it was stated recently at a Council meeting, by one of the Society’s legal advisors that the Trustees are not there to represent anybody, only to run the Society as they see fit.
I believe therefore that the only option is to send a message to the Trustee Board and the whole membership that there is something wrong, by proposing three motions to an Emergency General Meeting, an EGM.
To do this, 50 members are required to support the motions and this is why I am coming to you, as personal friends and close colleagues. I hope that if you agree with my feelings and support my proposals you will “sign” the motions so that we can take this forward and hopefully return the Society to the direction we agree to.
The Motions I propose are outlined:-
1) A vote of ‘no confidence’ in the current Trustee Board.
2) A vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Chief Executive, David Clarke.
3) To suspend any further expenditure on the "transformation programme" until there is full, open and transparent disclosure of all financial accounting relating to this programme to-date
Thank you for your time and hopefully your support.
Please feel free to pass this on to any BCS members that you feel may be of a like mind and that would be willing to support the motions as to provide a list of more than 50 supports would further emphasis the strength of feeling in the Society.
Len Keighley, FBCS, CEng