This is the question some members have asked us in the last few weeks. Here are some thoughts on this:
Comparison with the current structure
The current structure has a number of different bodies. In total, they comprise around 81 people, compared with 63 proposed in the new structure (45 for Council, 11 for the Political Executive and 7 for the Board).
- GPRC with 20 members
- GPEX with up to 22 people attending
- Conference Committee with more than 6 members
- Policy Development Committee with up to 10 members
- Campaigns Committee with 5 members
- Equalities and Diversity Committee with at least 5 members
- International Committee with 5 members
- Green World Editorial Board with a minimum of 8 members
But it’s not just a numbers game. Of course, we realise that the current structure means that different groups meet separately and we recognise the concern that members have expressed that a body with 45 members is unwieldy.
We have done a lot of research into the governance structures of other Green Parties. For example, the French-speaking Green Party in Belgium, Ecolo, has a federal board of 73 people. The German Green party has a Council of the Regions with a minimum of 43 people and the Finish Green party has a Council of 40 people.
Examples from other organisations
We have also researched examples of other organisations with large governance bodies.
Quakers in Britain(covering England Scotland and Wales)
Quakers in Britain have a body of around 80 people that decide and set the direction of the organisation. It also plays a vital role in fostering communication through a Yearly Meeting and in reviewing and testing concerns referred to it by area meetings and gives guidance on policy issues referred to it.
The 80 members are appointed or selected by various regional groups and other groupings. As Quakers don’t have elections, this is not directly comparable to the process of electing Council members, as we propose, but there are parallels in that the people responsible for choosing someone to represent them make that choice.
Meetings are well prepared with papers; much of the work is done by small groups (there is a parallel to our Task & Finish Groups) and the larger body receives reports and makes decisions on the basis of that more detailed work done.
Local Authorities working together
In the run-up to austerity, 2008-2011, the Government introduced Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships. During the 3 years, a Return on Investment of £185million was over £1billion, achieved by local authorities working together better.
For example, to deliver the East Midlands Climate Change Programme, 46 local authorities worked together to define their priorities and to commission streams of work that delivered their required outcomes. To do this, a large initial meeting (and subsequent annual meetings) was held during which anyone could sponsor a proposal. Within the 46 local authorities, a wide range of ideas was put forward, but through discussion it was realised that the outcomes often overlapped. Proposals were then grouped by desired outcome and practical delivery methods were discussed. This led to a much-reduced list of projects, in which there was enough of a stake for all. This was voted upon and the top 12 projects were taken forward. Projects were commissioned by a couple of people and smaller groups of local authorities either led or engaged with certain projects and subsequently mentored other authorities to follow their path. This method of working ensured all 46 were positively engaged and it enhanced relationships across the piece, and eventually to other regions as well.
The key to success was trust and an effective communication strategy.
Warwick University(https://warwick.ac.uk/services/gov/howgoverned/28 August, 2018)
“The Senate is the supreme academic authority of the University. Whilst the Council is ultimately accountable for the efficient management and good conduct of all aspects of the University’s operation, within that the Senate has responsibility for the academic activities of the University including all aspects of the operations of the University that have a bearing on teaching, research and the welfare, supervision and discipline of students.
The Senate is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and has a full membership of 46 elected from the Faculty Boards and the Assembly. Membership also includes three representatives from the Students’ Union. The Senate meets up to five times each year and the greater part of its business arises from reports from the range of Senate committees responsible for specific academic matters e.g. Academic Quality and Standards Committee, Board of Graduate Studies. The Senate also oversees the work of the four Faculty Boards as well as the Research Centres and Institutes.”.
Purpose of Council and how Meetings Could be Effective
The purpose of Council is non-executive. Its role is to make broad decisions about what needs to be done and who should do it. It will therefore commission Task and Finish Groups to do the detailed work; receive reports from them and make decisions about their recommendations/proposals.
In taking the pulse of the party, in making sure that all parts of the party are broadly headed in the right direction, it is important for Council to listen (more than to speak), to hear what the membership, the Task & Finish Groups, the accredited groups, Wales, the Regions, Young Greens and elected Councillors are saying and to ensure that the party as a whole is able to respond to that flexibly and effectively. This will ensure that all of us, when we engage with the wider world (the public, Council, other elected bodies and so on) can be relevant and convincing.
Many committees and councils struggle to be quorate, especially when they are staffed by volunteers. Having a larger body ensures that there is a breadth of knowledge and experience of the Green Party at each meeting, even if some Council members aren’t available on the day.