Published: 13 September 2013
MEMBERS FIRST -- LINES OF COMMUNICATION
In July 2012, I submitted an 850 word article, titled “Members First, Past Present and Future” to be published in the booklet ‘ I am a Co-operator ‘, which was referred to in the August edition of ‘ Housing Futures ‘, and which all members will receive a copy of, early next year hopefully.
In summary, I gave a brief personal history of my life as a Co-op member, and referred to some of the political squabbles and debates with econocrats, and officials of Govt. over the years, and also just generally about the ‘community’ atmosphere of those earlier days. There are discussion points in the article about the concepts of accountability and transparency, and also the importance of open communication and consultation with members, before decisions are passed down as a ‘ fait accompli ‘.
This aspect of good clear lines of communication, is a vital part of how Co-ops should function, ideally. However, there is a continual need to work on improving all aspects of timely information flow, from bureaucratic to Board level and so on down to members.
I attended the National Housing Co-ops’ Conference at Zinc in Federation Square in March 2012, and one of the speakers was Rob Wardell, general manager of United Housing Ltd., an organisation resulting from a merger between the former Footscray and Essendon RHC’s. What he had to say mirrored remarkably some of the problems that have existed in our South East Co-op over recent years, re. a ‘ disconnect ‘, or a lack (or loss) of empowerment for members. He spoke about the clear need to give back some control to members, which would allow them (us) to feel more involved, or at least more able to ‘buy in’ to many of the important decisions made by the Co-op board.
A few weeks ago, I submitted a nomination to be a Board member, as from the 2012 AGM. If the members are willing to accept my nomination, it would always be my intention to try and bring important news to their attention, whenever possible, and I would hope that the word ‘confidentiality’ would never be used as a way to deprive members of information that they ought to know, before policies and draft plans become fact, “ after the fact “.
In other words, more openness and transparency, rather than secrecy or lack of scrutiny by the members, is what I believe should be the true basis of “clear lines of commun