The SDC at the crossroads
The writer, Geoff Rudkin C Col FSDC was elected to the Trustee Board in 2014. A 40 year Member Geoff is currently the Chairman of the Midlands Region and additionally has seen service in the area of education and qualifications within the Society.
Most, if not all, members will be aware that history is in the process of being made in that the first ever EGM to be called by a number of voting members using our By Laws to exercise their right to this course of action. There was one other EGM called at the time of a fire at Perkin House.
Once such a formal action is taken and in train we might run the risk of not talking to our Members in all countries, universities, company members and our own student members particularly if they are not voting members.
To address this head on I feel that an overview in my own words of what the Society wants to achieve and the means by which its objectives can be more focussed would be of help to all concerned Members.
Your Society is described as the premier body and educational charity for professional colouration activities. Its mission is to communicate the science of colour in a changing world. Over the years it has published text books, set degree level examinations, commissioned distance learning schemes and most recently has ongoing training courses aimed at groups of trainee dyers. Its Colour Index and testing materials are recognised worldwide by many who only know of the SDC as the originator and supplier of these vital tools.
So why are we at a crossroads?
In 2013 the Trustee Board (the “directors” of the Society) announced that whilst the accounts could and are balanced every year due to gift aid and taking money from its reserves this wasn’t to be seen as the way for the future. By 2016 the target is that no gift aid should be used to balance the books rather that it be used to increase the reach and range of educational activities offered to people in the colouration industries.
Trustees have been deliberating on the options for either making savings in costs or increasing income. Recognising that the staff of Perkin House are very dedicated and hard working the debate settled on restructuring the way the staff works to drive all that is entailed to make significant increases in sales of our Colour Index and the various Membership options. These increases will be given the best chance to be achieved if we have staff with clear responsibilities and also if the staffing is strengthened where specialist expertise is needed (eg updating of the Colour Index).
Increasing sales is the best way of avoiding having to cut staff costs by simply reducing the numbers employed by the Society.
To make the restructuring plan become a reality needed the Trustees to ask the staff to apply for the jobs within the new structure, many being identical to existing roles. Some staff might choose to take redundancy as would be their right.
Members could not be informed of the changes before the staff had time to consider and consult.
Which direction is right for the SDC?
An EGM has been called at the formal request of a number of long serving members of the Society to demand that the Trustees answer the questions they have posed and then face a vote of confidence. There is no precedent for such a call in the history of the Society and so it must reflect the passion of those members to know that the Society is being managed to best effect. Only voting Members are able to participate in EGMs.
Trustees have written a response to the questions posed of them largely to help the very many Members who wouldn’t be able to gather on 8th November in Bradford for the live meeting. Upwards of 80% of the membership will need to await the outcome or consider if they wish to nominate a person to cast their vote (a proxy).
If Members end up declaring that they no confidence in the current Trustee Board the pathway for the Society is not clear as the status quo has, for years, failed to meet the aspirations of a charity that wants to do more in colour education. The worry would have to be that significant cuts in staffing would be needed.
If the Meeting supports the Trustees the plans for growth will continue and with that the Society will be much more outward looking and responsive to the needs of all those who support us with their Membership and training needs.
Lessons to be learnt?
I have read in social media exchanges that some members have already questioned the complexity of the SDC’s rules/By Laws and Charter. To an outsider our governing documents could be seen to belong to an age long gone. We have been able to use the internet to allow for secret balloting for the election of Trustees. Perhaps the rules of the SDC should encourage debate and the chance to question Trustees by the use of internet forums as the first action in any call for a special physical meeting?
I have great sympathy with a view of one Member who could partly accept that people attending the EGM would have their questions answered and be in a position to make a make a vote of confidence reasonable however it would be harder for the majority of Members who will be unable to attend. The Society has to address this and ensure that all Members are equally enabled.
If you aren’t allowed to vote due to the By Laws please feel free to make your views known using the SDC social media threads and via any voting Members you know. Typically your local SDC Region Officers will be voting Members.