The 2012 Annual Conference & AGM
A retrospective view and comments from attendees

For a full summary of the conference, its programme, the dial tour, what delegates thought and many images taken at it go to:  www.bit.ly/bss2012
Here we look at the outcome of the Discussion Forum and AGM.  Information supplied by delegates.

 

The 2012 Discussion Forum

At the 2012 Conference a part of the programme had been set aside for a discussion about the Society's future. Late in 2011 the entire membership of the Society was circulated with a questionnaire.  A document summarising the responses to this had been prepared by the Council and was included in the delegate wallets at the conference.  This was to form the basis for the discussion forum.  That document turned out to be faulted.

Sadly there was insufficient time for many delegates to read the document before the discussion took place but those that did read it expressed considerable alarm at the way that the conclusions reached in the document did not accord in any way with the declared counts of the survey! The Conference Organiser was approached privately by several delegates to express their concern before the discussion commenced and a summary document of their concerns was prepared for delegates just before the discussion started [See "Delegates' Concerns" and the other links below].  Later and after the meeting, former charity trustee Graham Aldred, kindly prepared his own detailed analysis of the available survey results.  His conclusions agree with the points raised by delegates before the meeting and fundamentally differ from those of the Council.  In short a majority of the membership is entirely happy with the present format of the Society and its management in recent times and does not see the need for significant change.  Yet the Council Document attempted to suggest something quite different!.  What was going on? Read the documents for yourself here.

Original Questionnaire | Council's (Incorrect) Analysis of Results | Delegates' Concerns | Independent Analysis of Results | BSS website popularity |
|Members concerns regarding the future of the Reference Library |
 

As indicated in the above documents, delegates to the conference quickly pointed out that many of the conclusions drawn by the Council from the responses received were actually quite WRONG and that the Council's Summary Document is therefore and at best, confusing. In particular the numbers given in the Council's Summary Document do not accord with the conclusions.  Faced with this extraordinary position an independent analysis was later performed by Graham Aldred and was sent to the entire Council - see links above. Additionally, the 2012 Conference Organiser wrote an Open Letter to the Chairman on this point and on the extraordinary lengths that the trustees were going to to prevent the membership from finding out that their conclusions were false.  See the links to all of this above. 

The conclusions reached by Graham's independent analysis were:

 

- There is NO widespread call for change from members.

- There is NO greater emphasis on change from younger members than older ones.

- There is NOTHING striking about member's views of the website - It is in fact the most accessed and popular of all sundial related web sites on the Internet. See 'BSS website popularity' link here or above.

- 83% of members do NOT want a change to the events programme.

- 75% of members are NOT critical of Society's management up to 2011

- Opinion on society communication is NOT split down the middle - two thirds are satisfied with the present approach.

 

It ends:

 

"In view of these and other flaws members cannot be confident that this analysis has been conducted impartially.

There should be full visibility of the actual returns (made anonymous) so that the quality of the published interpretation can be reviewed by an independent sub committee. The returns have been very poor; only 1 in 6 members have replied consequently the published survey results cannot reliably be used to justify radical changes to the direction of the Society.."

 

After considering this, a Council response to the membership was included with the June 2012 Bulletin.  It does not however, specifically answer any of the above points but it does withdraw from the views expressed in the summary document and concentrates upon the Council's new realisation that it is now only necessary to improve the web site.  Yet, despite this expression of intent, until the beginning of 2013, the website had not been maintained or regularly updated since early 2012. Instead a similar web site has been designed...
 

The 2012 Conference Organiser welcomes for publication here any further reports of comments either made at the discussion forum or after learning of the revisions mentioned above.. So far we have received the following after the Council's response::

 

*** From a BSS Member in late 2012: "A victory for common sense"***

 

AGM The Annual General Meeting of the Society was held during the Conference.  The following persons, having agreed to serve, were duly elected:

Chairman - Frank King
Treasurer - Graham Stapleton
Secretary - Chris Williams
Other trustees elected without portfolio - John Foad, Jackie Jones, David Brown, Chris Lusby Taylor.

The Independent Examiner of the society's accounts (IEL) was reappointed.
_______________

After many years service as a trustee, the Bulletin Editor John Davis did not offer himself for re-election at the AGM but he will continue to edit the Bulletin as a Specialist.
Shortly after the meeting Richard Mallett stood down as our long standing webmaster. By his careful attention to standards, Richard has ensured that the BSS website is currently the most 
popular sundial-related site in the world. 
BSS Member Darek Oczki now takes on the role from his home in Warsaw.  [Note: Later in 2012 the position was taken up in part by Bill Visick].
_____________

A retrospective commentary on the post AGM discussion

After the AGM was concluded there was an opportunity for some discussion. One member who hadn't attended the 2011 AGM, complained that there was no delegate copy of the latest Society accounts in the Conference wallets. The Chairman explained that at last year's AGM (2011) it had been agreed unanimously by the members present (and later properly agreed and implemented as policy by the Council) that, for cost reasons, the full (12 page) accounts need not be provided to delegates in the Conference wallets because they had been properly approved, were available on display to all delegates throughout the meeting and would in any case be published to all members of the society in a subsequent Bulletin. A supplementary suggestion that if cost was the issue then the complimentary pens in the wallets could be abandoned, was not pursued.  Discussion over lunch suggested a general agreement that the pens are useful for over a year whereas separate printed delegate copies of the accounts would only go to delegates (that is only to some 20% of the society membership) and in any case several such copies are always displayed at each meeting for all present to study and even copy if desired.  Perhaps as a result of this, no Cheltenham delegates took advantage of the free accounts-copying facility that had been established by the conference organiser. In a further intervention during the discussion the member pointed out that many charities, for example the Antiquarian Horological Society and the North American Sundial Society publish draft accounts for all members to see in the journal before their respective AGMs and subsequent ratification by members. The Bulletin Editor thought that this was potentially feasible though it emerged in later discussion that in BSS's case there would only be a few weeks between the end of the Financial Year and the 17th February printing deadline for the March Bulletin.  Afterwards some members agreed that such a requirement, at a time when very many charities are also at their year end, may well increase the cost of the necessary independent examination and place a burden on the Treasurer.


Another suggestion was made regarding the BSS Reference Library in Nottingham.  A member noted that, having visited the library at Bromley House, the staff had stated that nobody seemed to use it, and he suggested that the council appoint a member who is quite independent of council members, past or present, to review the status of the library.  The Chairman said that the council would consider the suggestion.  A later comment by a member who had been present at the discussion was that the council had in fact already discussed this very matter some time ago and formally recognised that the library is an important Society asset.  In a later written comment on this he continued: "Members will be aware that there are several obvious values of the BSS library that are certain to be considered again by the Council. The Library only costs about 37p per member per year. It advertises the Society, it is available to the general public in a central position within the UK and because of this it provides a very recognisable and key contribution to the Charity Commission's requirement for the Society to demonstrate the necessary level of Public Benefit for it to remain a charity. In fact the BSS Library is probably the biggest collection of easily accessible general dialling works in the UK and it meets the core aims of the Constitution of a Society dedicated to disseminating a knowledge of dialling. The current replacement value of the dialling library (not the sale value) of around 16K has little relevance given that the Society has available reserves and savings of many times that and for which there is as yet no planned use".  [Note: Toward the end of 2012 a number of members became concerned at the Council's position on the library.  More information on this shortly.]

As in previous years, the 2012 conference organiser welcomes for publication here any further input or reports of comments made at or after the post-AGM discussion.

 

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