The BCS has emailed 50 members who are backing calls for an Extaordinary General Meeting, with the following response. We reproduce it in full below.
Response from BCS Trustees and CEO to the EGM Statement
EGM Statements in italics.
1) 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.
Response: As part of our restructure there has been much consultation on a whole host of areas. In the membership area in particular, Trustees have set up an Interim Membership Board, which actually includes one of the EGM signatories, to help establish the framework for a new Membership Board which will have a much broader remit than before. A major objective is to attract a larger proportion of our industry into BCS membership. This is not an action that would indicate membership has a “secondary role”. The new board structure is to enable the BCS membership organisation to participate much more in a whole raft of activities. What members need to understand is that our professional products and services generate each year the money we need for the BCS membership as a whole to achieve our corporate objectives.
2) The direction the BCS seems to be taking is towards that of a business that sells services, of which membership is purely an income stream, rather than its original purpose of a professional membership charitable body.
The “direction of BCS” is one which was determined by Trustees after extensive research and consultation, and is completely in line with our Royal Charter. This is very clear, and it is this document that defines our purpose. (see http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.6038). We have one objective defined in the Charter, to promote the study and practice of computing/IT and to advance knowledge and education therein for the benefit of the public. BCS members and the executive team work closely together to deliver this objective – funded by our very successful business activities.
This direction has also been widely acknowledged and praised by members, who voted in the latest member survey to show that 83% were satisfied with their member services and 85% knew about the transformation.
Another key point here is the major misunderstanding that member subscriptions pay for non member activities. Not only is this not the case, but the truth is the complete opposite. For many years now, our commercial activities have supported member activities and paid for all of BCS’ charitable activities. Because we knew that some would challenge this analysis, Trustees took the decision to commission an independent review by KPMG of our costs and expenditure. This analysis found that in the current financial year, although BCS shows a net zero surplus in the overall operating plan, the membership activities are being funded to the tune of £2 million from our commercial activities. This cross funding has been the case for many years and should indicate that membership activity is critically important to BCS, but without our commercial operations many of our member activities would have to be severely cut back.
The direction of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, is away from a reputation as “old-fashioned”, “out of touch” and “irrelevant”, to become the world-leading organisation for IT that is totally relevant to both current and future IT professionals.
3) 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.
The reality is that the changes have been made as a result of very extensive research and consultation with both members and non-members, and the actions planned and ratified by Trustees wishing to do the best for our professional body. The criticisms being levelled as part of the EGM call are themselves supported by a very small minority of a huge membership who have not been consulted, which is why the Institute welcomes the opportunity to hold an EGM despite the unplanned expenditure of a very significant £100,000 that this action forces.
No less than 34 individual surveys have been done with various groups of our members, and accumulative totals of this communication comes to over 155,000 individual requests over the last 14 months. In addition to that, there were twelve communications just on CITP development between end of July and end of September 09; many web research workshops and desk research on member needs and thoughts; usability workshops; webmaster workshops; Board and Committee presentations; individual volunteer contributions; a social network survey which alone was 2000 members plus members of all branch, section and SG committees who were invited to complete a survey; a Member Network Beta with another 2000 members; the brand development research included no less than 10 different stakeholder groups; an in-depth research programme specifically into the academic world and our Student members around the term “IT” and, finally, consultation with all 8 Boards, our Branch and SG Chairs, CPHC and Membership Assessors. This was all communicated to Council, we would concede a little later than it might have been, but in no way can the charge of changes “being made and supported by a very small minority of senior volunteers and staff without proper and careful due process and consultation” be levelled at the above extensive list of consultation and involvement.
4) 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.
Not only have there been multiple updates through various ITNow issues including a special edition in September 2009 and an update included with the most recent edition, a Top Team event in November 2008 , letters, email contact and two Member Conventions, but we have member research that shows 85% of members are aware of the transformation – this is not “a few”.
5) The general membership has been given next to no opportunity to be engaged in the decisions regarding the future of the society’s direction.
Please refer to (3) above
6) The restructuring of the Membership operation within the BCS has been badly managed and has resulted in the disenfranchising of the volunteer member groups and individual members.
Please refer to (1) above
The restructuring does remove a level of management committee and replaces it with greater use of electronic communication, for example through the new Member Network. Many have welcomed this change but some of those who sat on the committees (one of which was chaired by Len Keighley) may feel they have lost influence.
7) Specifically, the active membership/volunteers are constantly put down, particularly by the staff directors, on the basis that they only represent the views of around 5% of the membership.
Evidence for this? Staff Directors work extensively, and happily, with the “active membership and volunteers”. The assertion that the “active” members only represent 5% of the membership is, however, correct and the new Membership Board will seek to increase the proportion of members who are actively involved with the Institute. The staff team work with ALL of our members in different ways and in many cases the staff work is the only contact members have with the BCS. The staff team would never consider referring to the 95% of members who are not “active” as “dormant”, as one prominent signatory of the EGM request calls them.
8) 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.
See (1) above and note that the new Membership Board’s broader remit will include responsibility for all member groups including branches and specialist groups. Two years ago, an Electoral Reform Working Party was commissioned to look at the Council seats in total. As a result of this independent work, and approved by Council over a series of meetings, the agreement was that Branches and International numbers remained unchanged, the SG elected seats went from 6 to 5 with YPG receiving the extra seat, and Forums reduced from 6 seats to 3 seats. The number of Council members elected by the membership at large remained unchanged at 12 . These changes were approved by the membership at the recent AGM with over 96% of members voting in favour of the changes.
9) There appears to be a deliberate attempt to reduce the involvement and influence of volunteer members, for example, the very recent directive that ALL members groups must produce a plan for the 2010/11 year (Sep-Aug) by the end of March. If no plan is received they will be given NO funding.
All parts of the BCS are being encouraged to understand and contribute to our five new strategic objectives. As part of this we have asked all Member Groups to think about the ways in which their activities, as well as meeting the needs of their members, can work towards one or more of these objectives so that we get the combined effect of all BCS activities contributing. The only groups that get no funding will be those that are inactive (and thus do not respond) or those who choose not to recognise that BCS has a new direction.
10) The project management and financial control of the Transformation project has not been reported in sufficient detail to Trustee Board for that body to be able to make effective decisions i.e. no Project Plan, Risk & Issues Log or Expenditure forecast has been made available to anyone.
Trustees have discussed the Transformation Programme at length over the last 18 months. Within the limits of commercial sensitivity and prudence, all our funding and project management has been completely open and shared with Boards, Council and the general membership. All suppliers have been independently managed by a contracted, independent Project Director, and the status of our 100+ major programmes reported monthly. It was only through excellent and open project management that we delivered on time and under budget
11) Selection of 3rd party suppliers for the development of the Transformation programme does not appear to have followed normal business practice for a charitable organisation for their selection e.g. competitive tendering where large sums of money are involved.
This is totally wrong. The processes used are the standard BCS processes which are subject to both our own external and charity commission audits. Please also refer to (10) above
12) The published BCS strategic direction excludes any membership strategy, although a recent ruling requires all future member meetings to support the Strategic Objectives of the Society – which do not include the recruiting or support of members themselves.
If the publication “Enabling the Information Society” is opened, this is the document containing our published strategic direction and there is not a single part of it that does not refer to our members. Two of the five strategic “pillars” are very specifically for our members and another one of the remaining three is specifically for those in academia. Lower level marketing strategies such as those for the recruitment and retention of members would not be expected to appear in a top-level briefing on strategic objectives.
13) The strategic aims of the Society, published on the website and agreed by the Trustees, contain no mention of Membership, yet Membership IS mentioned in the Royal Charter
Please refer to (12) above. BCS is a membership organisation that exists to enable the information society, and the strategic aims set out what the members have agreed for themselves (through consultation and through their representatives on Council and the Trustee Board.) Remember that we are a charity which exists for the benefit of society – not a guild that exists purely to profit its own members.
14) Repeated attempts by Council, member groups and individuals, who are genuinely concerned, to discuss and/or amend the changes being pushed through, have been met with apparent disinterest, and disparagement.
This is a subjective observation that seems to be an extension of point 7 – please refer. The main source of disquiet with the changes has been the perception that members are not important, and that the Transformation Programme has been funded at the expense of membership activities. Both are incorrect perceptions which we have already sought to put right, but we will continue to work on our already extensive communications about these issues.
15) There are planned reductions in the number of elected members to various Boards and Committees, in favour of those being selected as Vice President by the Nominations Committee (which reports only to the Trustee Board) or BCS staff.
It has always been the case that those who chair our main Boards are selected through a process where anyone can be nominated, reviewed by our Nominations Committee which judges relevant skills and capability, endorsed by the Trustees and finally voted by Council to become Vice Presidents of the BCS. None of this has changed, although some pushed to change to a process which would put popularity before capability.
For any board to function effectively, the members of the board have to be competent to work in the area of the board. Many boards need a complex mix of skills and knowledge to function properly. Some of those calling for an EGM have always resisted any attempt to seek relevant competency for elected members, and whilst this situation persists, the Chairs of these boards have no option but to co-opt people on to their boards with the required skills and knowledge
16) There appears to be a desire to have BCS staff members on Boards and Committees with full entitlement to vote.
BCS is fortunate to be financially strong enough to employ around 300 permanent staff, some in administrative roles but many leading experts in IT and related qualifications and services. Our activities are a joint activity between staff and volunteers and it is right that all expert members of a Board or Committee should have a say in decisions. If BCS staff members are required to be a member of a Board or Committee, rather than for example support the board in taking minutes etc., then they have to have the same voting rights and responsibilities as anyone else on the board or committee. We do not subscribe to the view that the members are the masters and staff our servants. In the 21st century, this is about team work of the highest quality.
17) There have been poor communication of the Transformation impacts and changes to the general membership, member groups and Council.
ITNow in March, which began production in February, carried an extensive update on transformation impact, as did the agenda for the February Trustee Board. Launching in September, no impact can be sensibly evaluated in less than three months and remember this is a 10 year strategy for the future health of the organisation, so there will be impacts that will not truly show and be measurable for some time to come. Council members have received information from the initial analysis of the impact of the transformation as part of the regular detailed reports they receive from our CEO.
18) There has been poor communications between the Trustee Board and the rest of the BCS.
If some people don’t understand enough about the changes to BCS, the mission, vision and strategic direction, then no matter how much we feel we have communicated to the membership so far, there is clearly more we need to do. We will take this on board, but it didn’t need a call for an EGM with a £100,000 price tag to make this point.
19) No information has been provided to the membership of the charitable performance of the BCS i.e. there is no information available as to the percentage of income used to fulfil the charitable aims. Whilst this must be of a level necessary to satisfy the Charity Commission, it is not available to members
Please read the Annual Report and Annual General Meeting statistics. All our income, whether from membership subscriptions (£4.5m) or from products and services (£19m) goes to fund our charitable objectives – we do nothing else.
20) In conclusion we can only assume that Trustees are diminishing the role of the membership in the Society.
We believe that based on the above evidence and all of the facts, this conclusion is totally wrong. The statement is without question completely wrong.
Elizabeth Sparrow David Clarke
BCS President BCS CEO
1st April 2010