|Guidelines for the Management of Professional Associations in the Fields of Archives, Library and Information Work (UNESCO)|
|4. Governance of the association|
Professional associations in the library, information science and archives world have not sprung from nothing, fully organised and their structures pre-shaped and entirely established. They have grown and developed under the influence of the individuals who were their founding fathers and in response to diverse and various pressures such as the counter-views of others, to meet the requirements of laws and registration procedures, to conform to the generally acceptable mould of the developmental processes of the country in which the association was established. The pressures will have been clear and obvious in only a few cases (eg. registration requirements) but normally they will have been subtle and almost unnoticeable. Such processes are quite natural. These same processes are still at work in associations and will continue to be so in the same manner as bacteria, generally unnoticed in the human body, continue to result in its subtle change and development.
An association is not unlike the human body. It will, as indicated, respond to the pressures that are at work within it. These are often political and emanate generally from professional issues and the association's management requirements. In the same way it will respond to, and be shaped by, the pressures from outside. These are often regulatory - such as the necessity to comply with laws for its registration or for the management of its finances - but there are others that are less precise and formal. These pressures usually flow from the social and political environment of the country in which the association operates. It is almost unimaginable that an association will successfully operate without conforming to, and being influenced by, outside pressures particularly when their source is the governance of the country. For instance if this involves the practice of one person one vote for elections of members to a parliament or a praesidium then it is unlikely that such practices will be ignored in making a decision about those to be used for the elections to the body with the ultimate authority in the association. If the country's political processes use more devolved methods of representation, such as elections at a lower level of the electorate for representatives to carry the mandate of their constituents to a higher level of political decision-making then it is likely that similar processes will be adopted in the association. The political processes by which the association is governed almost appear immaterial when what is really important is that they should be seen to be democratic and that every and each member has, and is seen to have, the ability by his or her vote to influence the management and decision making processes of the association.
These democratic processes are important because they provide authority for those who speak outside the association on its behalf and help all parties present to understand that this is the situation. Representatives who are obliged to speak on behalf of an association but who are known to lack the approved mandate of the membership, because the political processes necessary to reach views or even to elect that individual are suspect, define to a large measure the authority of the individual's representation and consequently the authority of the association itself. For members at the grass roots level their abilities, through the democratic processes, to influence, and know that they can influence, the affairs, policies and management of the association through the wielding of their votes is an important attraction to joining and remaining in membership.
This is the plenipotentiary body with sole authority for constitutional matters - where it exists. In some associations this responsibility rests with the Annual General Meeting (see later). It can also have responsibility for the election of the Council. If it does not this is achieved by elections embracing all eligible members.
The words 'ultimate authority,' 'Council', and 'Praesidium' have all been used to describe what is in hierarchical terms the body at the apex of the management structure of the Association. Other names that describe the position of that body should all be acceptable such as Board of Directors, etc. An acceptable name must be selected. (In this Guideline 'Council' is being used).
What matters more than the name is its function. It should be the personification of the whole of the organisation however many sub-organisations might also exist, and it should represent the association - in all its manifestations - but most importantly of all it should be seen to be the ultimate authority of the association that no other body can dispute and that is responsible, in the end, for all the association's actions, activities and decisions. The levels of responsibility that a Council assumes can be observed if the association is taken to the courts of law because it is this body's decisions, and the records of it, that the Courts will examine and make judgement upon.
These ultimate responsibilities include the financial management of the association. Incompetent management, particularly if resulting in bankruptcy or fraud or embezzlement will find the Council again answerable to the Courts. Decisions on policies or approval for courses of action or activities which, if in defiance of the law whether, wilful or not - will result also in the association being brought before the Courts. The removal, or withholding, of membership or the association's qualifications in so much as either action may effect individuals' opportunities to practice their profession, would be another situation where the Council would have to represent the association's decisions in the Courts. Serving on the Council is a serious responsibility not to be undertaken lightly.
For a Councillor or member serving on this body particular qualities obviously will be required. They must be dedicated to serving the interests and objectives of the association whatever the individual believes them to be; it would be well for a majority to be "elder statesmen" of the profession respected and well-known for their devotion to, and work on behalf of, the profession. They must bring to the Council's work a particular expertise and one, ideally, that reflects some of the interests of a particular sector of LISA practice and membership interests. They must possess time enough to voluntarily undertake much work both at home and away from it for the association. They will need to have managerial expertise, although with a full-time (and perhaps paid) manager in the headquarters this experience becomes less important. In the end however, whatever the qualities deemed to be required, the association has no choice but to work with the skills and expertise that the membership provide through elections of the Councillors. What is not required however, are time-serving individuals only interested in having their name appear on the association's note paper or prospectus and whose only motivation is personal ambition - although with this, taken along with other motives, there is nothing wrong.
In addition to being the "legal face" of the association and being ultimately responsible for decisions on policies, activities and financial management - all of which are concerned primarily with the association's internal management - the Council also has to guide the association's work with bodies external to it. Particularly are these governments both local and state. In an effective association these. relationships will be subtle and probably complicated and for their successful operation consumate political skills will be required.
There appear to be two extremes for these relationships with a wide variety of mixes between them. At one end are relationships where associations are very close to government where they are perceived as being expert advisers to be consulted on major issues by the relevant government ministry or department. Judgment of the success of this type of relationship is based on how much, and how often, the advice of the association is taken and realised into government policies and actions. In such extreme cases the association may benefit from government support in terms of human and financial resources.
At the other extreme are the associations and governments' departments firmly independent of each other with government taking the view that there are many organisations. with which it could consult - many with opposing views - and the government will take the final decisions either in consultation with, or without, the associations. In such situations associations are forced into the role of pressurising government along with the other bodies in order to get acceptance for its views. This encourages them much more into being lobbying bodies or pressure groups of associations onto governments. In such situations an association is unlikely to be financially supported by government; nor would it be likely to want such support for fear of comprising its independence. Between these extremes are a range of comprise positions. A Council needs carefully to consider, in the political environment in which it operates, what position it will adopt.
The size of the Council and the range of interests it represents and the number of activities with which it is involved, will to some extent, influence the number of times it meets. The full-time work of members, the distances that they have to travel and therefore the costs of calling the Council together and, of course, the business to be transacted will all be factors weighed in making decisions. Its responsibilities are unlikely to be so small as to permit it to meet regularly. to supervise and co-ordinate the day-to-day minutiae of the management of the association - hence the need for a sub-committee of the whole to be responsible for day-today decision-making. The Council's primary responsibilities therefore are for policy setting and direction and for programme development and control and the sub-organisation for its day-to-day implementation.
As the Council will be a relatively formal body there is no disadvantage in it conducting its business formally. The larger the number of members the more need for, and benefits from, formality. To conduct its business it will need a Chairman and a Secretary whose functions it will be to call meetings, prepare the agendas and take minutes - which, as we have already noted, need to be accurate accounts of the business transacted and to record the agreements reached. On major decisions the balance of votes needs to be recorded and even, in a recorded vote, (for instance on a contentious issue) the names of those voting for and against a motion. If the association is involved with large numbers of activities then the Council's agenda requires careful construction to permit full-scale debates on major issues - such as policies and resources - and only to formally agree and endorse decisions made by its sub-organisations when they are authorised to operate with limited executive authority. To ensure that business is properly conducted Standing Orders are desirable. From them each member will know what can, and cannot, be done and will understand how the Chairman will conduct the meeting so, if desiring to participate, the Councillor can plan the contribution and intervention beforehand. The behaviour and operation of the Council will help form, to a large measure, the judgement the people outside it have of the association.
[A set of Rules of Procedure as an example, are at Appendix I]. The decisions of Council should be communicated to the membership regularly as reports of its work in the newsletter or journal.
How the Council is formed will depend, as we have already noted, on a number of factors. Firstly the political environment of the country; secondly the manner in which political processes operate; thirdly the structure of other similar organisations. in the country. Members of Council should be elected and, ideally, elections should be open to the association's whole membership even if only certain sectors-representing particular areas of practice or specific geographical areas are involved at any one time. By this method the openness and the democratic qualities of the association can be demonstrated not only to potential members but also to governments and others with whom the association will conduct its business. If elections are the method by which the Council is formed then care should be taken to ensure that its entire membership is not changed at any one time. Continuity is required. Elections need to be by secret ballot and the methods by which this is done need to be carefully planned and controlled. Rules for nomination, ie the numbers required and the sectors of practice or the geographical areas from which they are to come, require careful formulation. The dates and whole election process requires careful thought and planning to take into consideration such matters as possible postal delays. A date for the election count, the manner in which it is to be carried out and the appointment of scrutineers to monitor and watch over the operation and record their approval that association procedures were strictly followed all need to be established. The actual method used to record and count votes will require selection. Whether it be a simple majority of the votes cast or one of the other and various methods of proportional representation is not for comment here. Finally the rules and regulations and dates for deadlines for particular actions all need to be well publicised to the membership.
As we observed in Chapter 3 when examining structures, there is often a need, created by the amount of business of the association and the size of the Council, for a sub-set of bodies at the national level to be established below the Council itself. The most important is an executive board or polit-bureau whose most important function is supervision of the day-to-day running of the organisation This it can undertake because it is small and will meet regularly possibly once a month. Council will be required to formally delegate some of its authority to this executive body or bureau. It should have four major functions:
* to conduct the day-to-day and routine business of the association or where staff are employed, to monitor and advise them on such matters;
* monitor and manage the finances and take decisions on resources or advise staff on these;
* approve policies and activities where decisions are urgently required;
* provide direction to programmes and activities being undertaken to implement them;
* co-ordinate policies and the work of other sub-organisations - particularly if they, too, have measures of limited executive authority - and specifically with regard to the allocation of resources.
If the Council is the Parliament, Congress, or Praesidium then the Executive Committee is the Cabinet or, Council of Ministers and its Chairperson is the association's Prime Minister. This analogy will help to an understanding of the various functions attached to the post. Who should be elected Chairperson by the Committee's other members - peer-group selection being the most satisfactory although not the only means of finding a chairperson for what is in most situations a rigorous post - should be the business of its first meeting.
The Committee itself, which will benefit from being small, must be composed in the main of members of Council. How they are selected or elected will depend on the size of the association and the amount of work it conducts. If it is large with many activities it will need in addition a series of subcommittees or Standing Committees of Council. If this is the situation then the Executive Committee will do well to be formed from the Chairpersons of these Standing Committees given the functions they have to perform. If however this is not the situation then its membership needs to be selected by, and from amongst, Council members. Ideally the processes by which the Executive comes into existence should be a 'bottom up' approach rather than 'top-down'. This committee too will require servicing by a calling of meetings, the provision of agendas and the production of minutes. This could be a function of a Secretary - a paid member of staff if one exists - or an elected Honorary Secretary selected from amongst the members of the committee.
If the Association is large or active with much business to conduct then below the Council, but responsible to it, there will need to be created sub-organisations at a lower level. These are likely to be known as Standing Committees or Subcommittees or Working Parties, Boards or Tasks Forces. They will have the following general purposes:
* to relieve Council of much business, of a detailed nature, better undertaken in bodies with smaller memberships;
* to provide fore for expertise from elsewhere - mainly other sub-organisations of the association;
* to establish fore to provide expertise and advice from outside the association and not available to Council from amongst its own membership;
* to provide an avenue for representation of the geographically remote sub-organisations and specialist-interest groups of the association where considered to be beneficial and relevant;
Standing Committees, Sub-committees, Working Parties (and Commissions or Task Forces) Boards and Panels will require clear definitions of their functions. They might be as follows:
Standing Committees of Council - should be established by Council to advise Council on policies and other matters in the areas assigned to them. Subject to the need to seek prior approval from Council for major changes in policy and for decisions which have significant costs and staffing implications, each standing committee might have delegated authority to act on matters within its terms of reference.
Sub-committees - may be established by these Standing Committees, subject to the approval of the Executive Committee, to assist on specific matters referred to them. The need for sub-committees should be reviewed annually as the length of their life need not be pre-determined but should be consequent upon the work and monitoring roles assigned to them.
Working Parties - may be established by committees or subcommittees. A working party for very specific purposes should not be appointed for a period in excess of 6 months except with the consent of the Executive Committee.
Boards - may be established by Council on the advice of Standing Committees. Boards should be placed under the authority of a standing committee and should report to that committee. They may be appointed in circumstances where a measure of independence from the parent committee is appropriate.
Commissions - usually will have the same definitions responsibilities and terms of reference as working parties.
Task Forces - should also have similar terms of references and responsibilities as working parties.
Panels - may be appointed on much the same terms as working parties although they are likely to be less formal in the ways in which they work and therefore may have little legal standing.
Editorial Boards - will be required to manage the publication of any journals, newsletters or monographs. They shall have a measure of independence to develop publications free from too heavy an association influence.
Definitions such as these should be included in the Byelaws to ensure their legitimacy and the status, the memberships and work of these bodies.
Standing Committees should be established to deal with only major sectors of association involvement i.e. education, bibliographical activities, standards, salaries and conditions of service, continuing education, membership services etc. In passing it is worth noting that if the association is large enough to justify, and to be able to employ staff (in a full, half-time or honorary capacity) then their responsibilities, and any departments that are established to assist their work, might well reflect the standing committee structure of Council itself.
If advice or expertise or the representation of outside organisations, ie another professional organisation or the national library or archive office or a government department, is required then the machinery enabling this to occur is usually by co-opting members or inviting observers.
* A Co-opted member shall have all the rights of a full member eg. expenses paid (when this applies), the right fully to participate and to vote. Normally some restriction on the maximum number of co-opted members needs to be agreed by Council with any exceptions only approved by Council or the Executive Committee. It is not normal to have co-opted members or observers on Boards.
* An Observer will be exactly that. Such a person will have no formal rights of intervention or to vote although chairpersons may relax the rule regarding participation in discussions. Their attendance shall be at their own, or their organisation's cost.
A number of points, finally, should be emphasised; despite the sub-structure below Council - of Standing Committees, Subcommittees, Working Parties (Commissions or Task Forces) and Boards - ultimately it is the Council that is the final authority. Also that one of the Executive Committee's functions is the co-ordination of the work and interests of the Standing Committees and through them the Sub-committees, and Working Parties etc. and that these will normally report to, or be the responsibility of the Standing Committees that established them. They will not have direct access to Council except through their parent organisation or through the Executive Committee. These rules should not be ignored otherwise chaos in the governance of the association will ensue.