The enthusiasm I received for nominating for the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) board was touching, to actually be voted in by members is an honour. For most people outside of my network, which has mostly been in the not-for-profit technology sector, I'm sure there have been many that said "who is this person?".
No doubt it was my experience starting #NotMyDebt that has brought me to people's attention. #NotMyDebt is a snap shot that epitomizes the way I build community, participation, and importantly voice. I don't believe people are complacent about issues. I don't believe they are passive and don't care. I don't believe people don't care about digital rights and privacy. I do think we need new strategies to enable people to work more effectively together. #NotMyDebt was successful because its success hinged on people caring, on people contributing to conversation, on the collective benefit of small pieces of time from many volunteers; and crucially on creating ways for those people who cared to act.
On the whole for complex problems all too often we know the solutions, we've done the testing, we know the research and the outcomes, but to reach a mass of people we need engagement and action. #NotMyDebt did that, and we did it with passion, compassion, and energy. But back to EFA.
EFA is one voice in an important and complex puzzle. I believe when it comes to digital rights we need clear lines in the sand, and EFA is one of the necessary pegs holding up the string. Digital Rights issues are interconnected and global. What we do in Australia will set a benchmark for other Governments and businesses around the world; and if we don't exercise clarity of policy and law why should other countries?
So far my observations of EFA have been interesting, there are clearly pressure points. None of these seem particularly remarkable when compared to other organisations across Australia. However, unchecked, the issues of member engagement, member numbers, funds and fundraising, and volunteer and employee capacity can very quickly see an organisation implode.
With four new members being voted in for five positions, it is clear that the membership feel it is the time for fresh energy.
In a meeting that went for just shy of four hours (honestly, this is a problem), it was the final resolution: "Adoption of new constitution and reincorporation as a Company Limited by Guarantee" that needs clarification on my position. Clearly this has been in the works for some time and considerable time has been spent on it. The move itself is not something I'm opposed to. However, there is no transition plan for members. Although great work was done in the lead up to the meeting to provide clarity and insight into the organisation and the finances, even getting the fundamentals like board meeting minutes promised on the website were difficult to obtain.
During the meeting hairs were plucked over the auditing of the organisation; concern was raised over the time implications of getting the current financial year audited over the next three months. Ultimately more than two hours into the meeting the decision was that auditing the current financial year was a new motion that could not be moved in an AGM. Yet the discussion on the new "draft" constitution and process was much more vague and conflicting. Despite a process that has taken a long time it was clear that there was member confusion over how the process would occur, whether and by what means the draft constitution could be changed, and there was still no transition plan in place. A proposed amendment was that the board provide a complete transition plan within three months, this seems far more complicated than having an auditor review books that should be in order, yet the audit was met with resistance due to impact on volunteer time.
As I wasn't involved in the process I could have abstained from the vote, but given that I'd just been elected to the board, and I now carry a responsibility to lead the future prosperity of the organisation a decision was more appropriate. It is my responsibility as a board member to be accountable for the process and decisions of the board and the organisations direction. A move to a new constitution and reincorporation makes sense, and I'm committed to working with the new team on progressing this for the organisation and members. Within a new structure board members will also be directors, there is a personal and professional responsibility we are taking on too; I need to be confident and accountable.
New members, and particularly new board members necessitate discussions on operations, process, and financial sustainability. It's clear that as a primarily volunteer driven organisation these things have been stretched in recent times. Understanding, resolving, and evolving these issues requires a level of transparency and communication that EFA members and the board will benefit from.
I'm looking forward to the journey. I hope to hear from many members through the process. I'm excited by the depth of knowledge, wisdom and collective background of the members I do know of, those that we will work alongside, and new members we can invite into the fold. It's a critical point in time for digital rights in Australia and across the globe.
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