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22 August 2014 – minutes

Facilitating Group call

22 August 2013 – Skype

Present: Ian, Elena and Cilla

New membership requests

It might be helpful to further clarify exactly what Edge is for and who we want to join. There is some confusion about our aims and values, particularly about what we mean by ‘radical’ and whether part of our role is around learning and movement building as well as grant-making.

There is an issue with us potentially being taken in a different direction according to who our members are. If we had lots of disabled people join we could end up funding lots of disability groups, likewise, having members with more moderate views could result in us funding more mainstream work. We need to keep radical and keep a balance of representation. We also need to remember that just because someone is from a ‘marginalised’ group doesn’t mean that share our values. We need people who will be active members too and that deserves consideration as well as how much their values are aligned to ours. Also, we shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s values according to their job.

Some suggestions:

  1. Is there a greater role for the Advisory Group in keeping an eye on application scoring and making sure potentially contentious applications, eg prison abolition, have a fair chance?
  2. Could we have a second stage application for applicants we are unsure of, which might consist of answering a couple more questions over the phone and scoring 10 applications as a trial exercise? (Scoring is a good way of seeing where people stand on different issues). After all, people haven’t written much about their politics in the answers to the three questions so it is hard to make a judgement. If there aren’t any questions raised about applicants they could join without the second stage.
  3. Can we involve the Advisory Group in making a final call on who can join based on the second set of questions? This would ensure that, for eg, our disabled members could be more involved in determining whether disabled people who apply to join share the more radical views of the disability movement. This could be done with support from the Welcome Group.
  4. Can we pay some members to do outreach work, such as events, stalls etc to reach more people who are not currently represented well and those who share our values? More personal contact could make a big difference. It would need to be people with a real connection to the people we’re trying to recruit. We should also make use of existing networks.
  5. Since time seems to be a big barrier, perhaps we could allow people to join only to score applications?
  6. The scoring could then take place during a special scoring day where we pay for the venue and refreshments and it becomes a more fun, social activity people might enjoy more. Whilst there are issues around dominant voices influencing others, working in pairs or having support from a buddy might be worth considering. (SP – maybe we could ask Advisory Group members to come in a more official capacity to give guidance to others about their particular community. Also, at the moment this first stage of scoring takes about a month – 2 weeks for AG, 2 weeks for members – so we could potentially speed things up a bit too. We could also potentially facilitate a process where each AG puts forward their 2 or 3 strongest applications for the final meeting using a similar chickpea voting process).

Some other thoughts

Just thought worth noting some other comments made outside of this call from other FG members and general members. There have been some mixed thoughts about the idea of having a support-only role for members. One other suggestion was that we ask people why they want to join and what they want to do, and if they say they want to help us fundraise then we can explain that they don’t need to be a member to do that and can be ‘supporters’ instead. We have already agreed that funders can come to our meetings to learn more about our model. Could other people come to meetings as ‘observers’?

It seems there are 3 main problematic themes with new member requests: 1) people who don’t share our radical values, 2) too many people from privileged backgrounds since they are most likely to have heard about us and have the time and confidence to apply and participate and 3) people who want to join to further their own development/ career. We need to look at all of these issues.

Most people seem to agree that turning people away is very uncomfortable but at the same time realise the risks involved with letting anyone in who applies. For a group that works by consensus its even more important to be able to filter who joins, unless we are happy being taken in whatever direction those who happen to join take it. In our case this would inevitably lead to a dilution of our politics and values towards the mainstream. It seems most people also agree that we should strive to have a good balance of people in the membership, having too many of any type of person would have an impact, but since we’ve already got a heavy weighting towards people from more privileged backgrounds we should really try to put something in place to make sure they don’t take over completely. ;)

To be continued….

Agenda for next time:

  1. Annual accounts for Financial Conduct Authority (everyone please have a look in the meantime)
  2. New members requests cont.
  3. Schedule regular FG calls
  4. Co-ordinator role
  5. Thoughts on paying members for jobs – clearer criteria?
  6. Update on Working Groups, power and privilege session, funding applications etc (including payment to Nim for planning/ facilitating the introduction to Edge session)
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