The week before last, out of the blue, we were invited to the next meeting of the Steering Group meeting. What’s the Steering Group? Well you might ask…
Anyway, we said “yes, in principle.” And then we went and spoiled it all by… making some entirely reasonable – and entirely unrealistic - requests. The most important of these requests was around the Steering Group becoming transparent about its, um, total lack of transparency. This, unexpectedly again, led to the invite being withdrawn. The full exchange of emails is below.
I don’t think we have met personally but I follow your blog. I provide the administrative support for the MACF Steering Group.
I’m emailing to invite you along to one of the future sessions, to give a bit of a talk to the group and tell them about your network and blog.
If you have the availability, the next two sessions are 23rd August and 18th October. The meetings are 4-7pm, but you wouldn’t have to stay for the whole thing and we could arrange a time closer to the day. I’d have to confirm the 23rd – as we may not have enough space on agenda if you wanted to come along to that meeting, but I could guarantee a slot on the 18th October.
Would be good if you could join us - it wouldn’t be to formal or anything, it’s just a friendly invitation and I’m certain you’ll already know a lot of the members of the group anyway!
So we mulled it over for a few hours, and then sent this back -
Thank you for your unexpected email! We are very interested in
attending the Steering Group meeting on Thursday August 23rd, and will be happy to share information about our network(s) and activities.
As well as discussing our activities – with “Manchester Climate Monthly”, “Steady State Manchester (http://steadystatemanchester.net) and “Activist Skills and Knowledge” (http://askfortheworld.net), we would also expect there to be time during the meeting to engage in a discussion about the relative inactivity of the Steering Group as a body.
Given that our activities are available for Steering Group members to review prior to the meeting, we would suggest a one-to-two ratio of time for this (i.e if 10 minutes were devoted to “MCFly” etc, there’d be 20 minutes for discussion between us all of the Steering Group.
For us to be able to attend though, given our publicly-stated
opposition to non-transparency, some issues that would need resolving.
Obviously, we would regard the meeting to be on the record, and would feel free to report as we saw fit.
Most importantly of all, we would need, before we attended either the
August or October meeting, a statement from the Steering Group as to the reasons for its meetings not being public (the lack of publication of minutes, despite repeated assurances to that effect, is a separate issue).
The statement on private meetings would have to address the following questions;
Who made the decision for the meetings to be “not open to the public”, when, and why?
Specifically, was this decision taken by an individual (in which case, who), a subset of the Steering Group (in which case, who were these people), or was it made by the entire Steering Group?
Has it been reviewed since the Steering Group expanded to its current 31 members. If not, why not?
Is there any written statement on the costs and benefits of making the meetings private versus public – i.e. has any risk assessment been done?
Will there be a secret ballot of the 31 member Steering Group as to
whether the meetings will continue to be secret? If not, why not?
Finally, we’d like to mention that Manchester Friends of the Earth and Manchester Green Party have both endorsed the “meetings charter” that MCFly – with others – have set out.
We’d be very happy if the Steering Group were to have a discussion
about signing it too. But maybe that would be something we could
discuss on the day?
Arwa Aburawa and Marc Hudson
Very quickly (almost as quickly as you could hang up a phone), we received this
Dear Marc and Arwa,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to Sam’s email. I regret that having consulted with the rest of the Steering Group we are agreed that we won’t be able to meet your demands as set out below and as a result, we will now reallocate the place on our agenda to another Manchester project.
What’s interesting is just how quickly the entire Steering Group (“the rest of”) was able to make such a decision (less than 30 hours!). If only they showed such speed and decisiveness in, you know, doing the jobs they volunteered for? Just sayin’…
Although we won’t be at the meeting (and neither will you be, gentle reader. Please don’t confuse this with a democracy), we will be producing a handy guide to our activities and sending it to the Steering Group members beforehand. There in spirit and all that…
But we won’t, as per page 4 of the latest print issue, be spending any time or energy or ‘bandwidth’ worrying about something that is deader than a doornail. Wake us up when Steering Group 3.0 comes along.