Clarke, on behalf of a a group of senior ACS members
Outline of 20 October 2019
This document is at http://www.rogerclarke.com/SOS/ACS-MembersNeeds.html
The ACS executive put a motion before a General Meeting that proposed to:
- re-constitute the Society from an incorporated association to a company
limited by guarantee.
This is not, in itself, an issue, and is arguably a
good idea; and
- establish a constitution that would:
- completely centralise power in the ACS executive
- remove the last vestiges of member involvement in the Society's directions
- disestablish the elected Branch Committees and replace them with Branch
Councils subservient to the ACS executive
- ensure that the future ACS executive was similarly-minded to the current
ACS executive, by enabling it to appoint a Nominations Committee with the power
to prevent people with alternative views from appearing on the ballot paper for
See here for
of these seriously harmful features of the proposed constitution.
The ACS executive bullied the proposal through the Branches and the Congress,
using the available time for pushing the case, and minimising the time for
discussion and opposition.
The ACS executive then misrepresented the motion to the memebrs, by suggesting
that it involved only relatively minor changes to the constitution.
The ACS executive ran a concerted campaign for the motion, and blocked
counter-arguments from being communicated to the membership.
A concerted effort from a small number of members generated a groundswell of
member concern, as a reasonable proportion (perhaps as much as 20%) of the
membership gained an understanding of what the proposal actually entailed.
[THE EXPECTATION, HOPEFULLY TO BE REALISED ON FRI 25 OCTOBER:
generated by that small proportion of the membership resulted in the proposal
This web-page presents proposals for:
A new constitution is indeed needed. But the need is for something
radically different from what the ACS executive proposed. Instead of member
involvement being extinguished, it needs to be reinvigorated.
The new constitution needs to satisfy a number of objectives. The notions of
Vision and Strategy are relevant, but so too are Values, Objectives and
Priorities. In addition, Member Services must be writ large.
The following is proposed as a balanced statement of requirements that enables
vitality, but also ensures maintenance of the Society's values, and enables
members to be involved in strategic diecsion-making, and to exercise control
over national activities in the event that they breach member expectations.
The Requirement are as follows:
- strategic and operational viability, through clear
delegations by the members to member-elected bodies (using appropriate titles
such as Board, Panel, Executive Committee, Branch Committee)
- control of staff by member-elected officers, not control
of members by staff.
This in turn implies:
- CEO Terms of Reference, and delegation of authority and
responsibility, that reflect the ACS's functions as a professional
society, and are very different from those that apply to CEOs of commercial
- assured flows of information to members, including:
- meaningful financial statements that are designed to disclose not obfuscate
- meaningful data about membership numbers
- proposals for significant initiatives
- consultation processes with members, rather than only
with elected bodies
- review of operations by members, to ensure consistency
with the organisation's values
- power in the hands of members to rescind, recall or vary
ACS executive decisions that breach member expectations
- centralisation of powers only where that is necessary in order to
fulfil the objectives (the 'subsidiarity principle'). This means, in
- national activities that are under delegation from the membership are
managed and performed by national office, whereas regional activities are
managed and performed by the relevant Branch
- regional member services, particularly events, are to be largely performed
by Branches and their staff, not the national office
- Branch staff are to be primarily under the control of the Branch Executive
Committee, not the national office
- distributions of information to the relevant parts of the membership
database are under the control of Branches not national office
- funding is to reflect the distribution of powers and responsibilities,
with Branches receiving a suitable proportion of the available funding,
according to a formula that reflects membership within the Branch, economies of
scale, and geographic distrubution of membership
Process to Address Those Requirements
The defeat of the motion is only the first step in rescuing the ACS.
The following further steps are now necessary.
A Congress is already urgent, to elect a new President to replace the
current President, whose term expires on 31 December 2019.
The Congress needs to also consider and approve the steps needed to address
Members' Requirements, and to instruct the Management Committee, CEO and staff
in relation to their implementation.
The process that led to the failed proposal was driven top-down by ACS
national office. Congress-members were unable to stem the tide.
It is essential that a Constitutional Review Committee be formed that has much
broader representation of members, and that can ensure bottom-up drive,
informed by information provided top-down.
In particular, aspects of the organisation's current operations are obscure to
the membership, and information needs to be placed on the table in relation to:
- the detailed sources and applications of funding
- financial commitments
- membership levels
- changes in them during the last 3-7 years
- the conditions attaching to key sources of funds
- the conditions attaching to key commitments (such as the recent
acquisition of operations relating to direct marketing)
The organisation's constitution and other governing documents must be
appropriate to its nature, values and mission. The ACS is not a commercial
business, and is not just any not-for-profit business operation. It's a
professional society. Of particular importance is provision for meaningful
member involvement in governance processes.
Governance Structures and Processes
In order to ensure that the Members' Requirements are satisfied, a structure
is needed that is rather different from the Society's existing arrangements,
and radically different from that which was proposed and defeated.
An example of such as a structure is as follows:
- a Board, incl. a Company Secretary, with nomination and
election mechanisms that assure openness, and that preclude self-perpetuating
dynasties of Board members (e.g. limitations on the number of consecutive
terms, limited influence by existing Board members on the range of candidates -
but allowing scope for achieving a mix of expertise, and for ensuring Board
members' familiarity with relevant laws, policies and practices)
- Convenors and Panels for particular aspects of the
(e.g. as at present, Membership, Community,
- the CEO and staff
- a representative Council (of perhaps 16-25 people, such
as 2 members from each Branch), with powers in relation to strategy
formulation, and delegation of authority and responsibility to the
Board members, Directors and the CEO would attend Council, would have
the right (and indeed duty) to speak, but would not have votes
- Branches (possibly, but not necessarily, only at State
level, i.e. possibly regional in nature), which would determine and run
regional activities, and provide channels for member communications
- a members' Forum, able to meet both physically and
electronically, with powers in relation to such matters as:
- the expression of organisational values, strategies and priorities
- recall of decisions by Council and/or the Board