Yet another end of a era – or maybe just a change of focus?   Leave a comment

2016 is proving to be a year of celebrations – and change, with many things ending after many years of involvement, but also some new adventures – and some changes to how things continue into the future.

So far I have retired as a registered childminder; gained enough credits to be awarded my degree; held a very successful celebration event marking my retirement from childminding and my involvement as a volunteer and campaigner; and been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours for my volunteering.

Still to come are the ceremony where I will be presented with my BEM;  my degree graduation;  my eldest grandson’s 18th birthday; my 40th Wedding anniversary.

And a few more end of era things!

Mid July saw one of these  end of era things -namely my involvement as a volunteer with the Pre-school Learning Alliance.

However, I will still have some involvement until end of 2016  – and a possibility of a change of focus.

Those of you who have followed my involvement with the Alliance (or who have read previous blogs) may be surprised that I will not be an Alliance volunteer after the end of 2016.

I think it is fair to say I have been a very proactive Alliance member over many years – including before the name change from Pre school Playgroups Association to Pre-school Learning Alliance.

Since 2010 when I rejoined the Alliance (after a period of 7 years when it was deemed a conflict of interest to be a member,  due to my employment by Worcestershire Early Years) I have been a key player in re establishing the Worcestershire sub committee. I have been the duly elected chair since 2013, working hard with my colleague Linda to build the committee from just the two of us in 2013, to a effective sub committee of 6 elected members and two ‘Friends of the Committee’ – so a team of 8.

I also volunteered to represent Worcestershire at divisional level, and was voted in by divisional colleagues to represent them on the Volunteer Strategy Group.

Although not part of my official volunteer duties, I have also worked closely with / alongside  the Alliance on such things as the Ratio issue, baseline testing, 30 hour funding, and childminding agencies.

I have to say it is a bit of a surprise  even to me that things are going to change, as I really thought I would continue my volunteer roles with the Alliance  forever – well for as long as I had breath in me!

However, in life there always have been and always will be things that change, and times when you have to make difficult personal decisions – and earlier this year one of those situations happened.

A decision was taken by the Board of Trustee’s to change sub committees and remove the need for elected officers. I was not personally happy about this and had lots of questions ahead of the Emergency General Meeting (EGM) in April, and I attended the EGM to ask more questions – and as a member, to vote.

In the end I voted for the proposals because although I remained personally unhappy with the responses I received to my questions – I could see that for the Alliance this was a positive move forward, and I had to put the needs of the Alliance over and above my own opinion.

I then had a very difficult, and very personal decision to make -should I continue to be involved as a volunteer – and in particular as a lead volunteer once the changes were implemented in mid July?

I should say at this point, that I did have other reasons for considering my involvement as a volunteer which although not something that would have been part of my decision had things not been going to change anyway (ie were not of a critical issue on their own) they did need considering as part of the bigger picture.

On a few occasions my tendency to always be totally honest and up front about what I did and said – did not always follow the ‘correct’ procedures. I do understand the reasons for these procedures, and I have never shared confidential things with those I should not share with,  BUT as a campaigner and an advocate for children and early years settings – I have always (and will always) speak to anyone and everyone who is prepared to listen and to debate. In my humble opinion, following procedures is one of the ways that stops an individuals voice being heard, and stops like minded people coming together to bring about change – as a campaigner this aspect is vital – like minded people must come together – otherwise we are but one voice.

So as I say, my other reasons were not the reason I finally decided after many sleepless nights and debate with myself – that I should end my involvement with Worcestershire sub committee as a lead volunteer.

My main reason was actually quite straight forward and part of who I am and what I believe in.

I personally do not think that I (or anyone else) should have authority to make decisions about things in a membership organisation – unless have been voted in by the members to act on their behalf. Previously this has happened at local AGM’s, where local members have voted in the officers / the sub committee members. To me this means that they are trusting you to make inform decisions about things that impact on members and services provided. It also means if something goes wrong or members do not think you acted in their best interests – you have to be accountable but not responsible for the decisions you make.  In my opinion there is a huge difference between accountable and responsible, and if members don’t like the decisions you make, they can hold you to account and don’t vote you in next time! In addition having a committee and committee meetings means each of the people voting has been elected by the local members thus ensuring that one person does not make decisions alone.

The new system means any member can come forward to lead on projects, and none of the people making the decisions have been voted in by local members (so in my opinion there is the possibility of only doing things that are in the interest of those making those decisions).

Other associations who no longer have subcommittees, have moved in a different direction and make the decisions nationally which are then implemented at a local level, which for me would have been a more acceptable approach as far as my values, principle and ethos is concerned.

I am not saying the new system at the Alliance will not work – and to reassure readers there will be a member of staff and a finance group over seeing things. In fact I hope it does all work out and the Alliance volunteer structure proves successful in encouraging and engaging with more members.

It is just that it is not for me (and together with my need to be able to communicate with who I want and when I want without worrying about procedures) – I decided that when the changes came into place I would no longer volunteer in the same way as previously.

So as from mid July I am no longer a lead or key volunteer for the Pre school Learning Alliance – I am saddened by this but I must remain true to my own values, principles and ethos.

I do still have a couple of divisional and national commitments to fulfil – and I will of course do this. And I have offered the Worcestershire sub committee my continued support – they know where I am!

Moving forward I had hoped to be able to remain a volunteer for the Alliance – but I am not sure that this will be possible – so I am exploring ways to work WITH the Alliance rather than FOR the Alliance, as this may support my campaign work and enable me to work more WITH other organisations and associations.

So an end of era that I did not foresee, and did not want to happen, but remaining positive, I hope that more doors will open than have closed. I will be remaining a member of the Alliance as they do represent many of my values, principles and ethos (just not around the need to have elected people leading sub committees).

I end with wishing the Alliance and in particular the Worcestershire sub committee all the best in the future – and because I am remaining a member, I will stay in touch you all.


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