A constitution is one of the important policy documents an organisation holds. So a change to the constitution needs to be regarded in the light of our raison d'être The proposed constitution that has been put before the members was only agreed upon after I left the constitution sub-committee. There is such a difference of opinion between my view of the ASV and that of the rest of the committee that there was no resolution or compromise possible. So for what it is worth - here is my commentary on the proposed constitution.
My contention is that to change the membership of the ASV from being an association of sculptors to an association of people interested in sculpture is such a radical change as to make it a different organisation. For example the change would make our website an invasion of privacy for non-sculptor members. Similarly enlarging the membership base is likely to exacerbate rather than ameliorate our problems in gaining a quorum at meetings. I made a proposal for the membership structure – it's on the Sculpere blog site.
In general the constitution is very light on providing for accountability. This is something which we now have an opportunity to address.
● I would like to move that the annual report (including the financial report and the president's report) of the association be sent out or otherwise (e.g. through the website) made available to members three weeks prior to the AGM
● since the annual exhibition falls between the end of the financial year and the annual general meeting there is the possibility that a proper report would not be made until 18 months after the event. So I think it reasonable that for each exhibition and other major event the members should receive/have made available a full report including a financial analysis. This would not be particularly difficult to do if we develop a proforma for each event.
In general, annual elections and lots of elected officer bearers is a façade of democracy – in actual fact we have volunteers who offer to undertake tasks and they are “declared elected”. We have become so obsessed with filling the executive functions that we have lost sight of the policy decisions that need to be made in every organisation. Policy is made on the run by the volunteers without reference to either the membership – or the bigger picture of the mission statement of the ASV. If we are revising our constitution let's take a good look at governance and be creative about how we balance the technicalities of getting the work done against the need to keep our policy and motivation in front of us. I think we might consider a new way of running our organisation:
● we could elect a board of three or five individuals to manage policy
● that board would then appoint staff/systems/sub-committees/volunteers to undertake the tasks of running the association.
● The board would be answerable to the members in the reporting system outlined above and at general meetings throughout the year. They could serve a three year term, with an option to serve longer if re-elected.
● We would then need to define carefully what administrative standards we need – but taking time to think about this is an advantage: in the proposed constitution no mention has been made of the work of the membership officer. Few people in fact realise how much work is done by that officer or how important this work is to the running of the ASV. I don't say this is the only or even the best way of organising ourselves but it has the advantage that we put policy in the hands of elected sculptors and give greater flexibility in how we achieve the administration of the activities. I do believe that this is worthy of discussion.
I believe the proposed constitution is going to run into trouble here. The Associations Incorporation Act allows for the Public Officer to hold another position but says that a member may only nominate for one position on the committee – this would indicate that the clause allowing committee members to hold more than one position is invalid. If we are going to make a revision then we should look at the whole governance issue – as above – and discuss our plans with the relevant authorities and Arts Law.
One of the reasons the ASV set about to change the constitution was to reduce the quorum required at general meetings – because we were having so much trouble achieving the numbers. At the moment the constitution states:
Eleven members personally present or 25% of membership members personally present whichever is the greater (being members entitled under these rules to vote at a general meeting) constitute a quorum for the transaction of the business of a general meeting.
What with having such a large country membership this is a fairly onerous requirement for a normal business meeting or AGM. On the other hand there is no separate quorum given for special resolutions such as amending the constitution in either the current or the proposed constitution. I suggest we reduce the quorum required for normal business and retain the more rigorous quorum for special resolutions where wider policy considerations are at stake.
The existing constitution allows for an aggrieved member to appeal to a general meeting – I can't imagine the spectacle! So the proposed constitution reduces the right to appealing to a full committee meeting – hardly likely to lead to any resolution other than a resignation. The Associations Incorporation Act model constitution suggests external mediation – a free mediation service is offered by the Disputes Settlement Centre – so I believe this is an appropriate clause for us to adopt.
I would like to move that membership fees be reduced by $15 per annum for those members receiving their newsletter via email. I think the current subscription rate is too high in the light of the directive given by the members some years ago that they preferred exhibition fees to rise rather than annual fees – a sort of user pays scenario. The treasurer said that this measure would “cost” the ASV $1,000. That $1,000 or thereabouts has been saved by the change to electronic distribution of the newsletter – if all the members elect to go back to postal delivery we can't deny it to them and then where is the $1,000? The distribution of the $1,000 is a policy decision that has never been debated at committee or general meeting level – hence my proposal.
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