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AGS Events: AGM 2011

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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by David Nicholson, 25 November 2011, 15:47. Go to bottom of this page.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 12 November 2011, 16:44top / bottom of page

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the AGM this year. Is any member able to give a summary of proceedings? Or will these be given on the website later on cf. Margaret Young's question after the 2010 AGM? I would find this very useful as a reflection of member's views. Thanks.

Contribution from Val Lee 14 November 2011, 17:18top / bottom of page

Tim, sorry you were not able to attend the AGM this year, it was a good day out, busy but a pleasant and informative day for all who attended. What follows is a brief, unofficial report of the day as I remember it. Doug Joyce took lots of photographs to record the day in pictures, which will no doubt be up loaded as soon as they are ready.

Once again the Society's AGM held in Stratford was very well attended. Thanks to Chris. McGregor and her staff, together with a willing group of members who volunteered to help, the meeting flowed smoothly and provided an opportunity for many members from around the country to meet and enjoy the social occasion.

After receiving and approving the Mins of the last meeting and the Committee?s, Treasurer?s and Auditor?s Report, Val Lee was re ?elected as President for a further year. The meeting then ratified the appointment of Professor John Galloway as the Society?s Treasurer and Ray Drew as Director of Shows, following the retirement of Colin Smith and Jim McGregor. Other Officers were then re-elected to serve for the ensuing year.

Three nominated members ? Diane Clement, Richard Horswood & Eric Jarrett - were then elected to Committee for a period of three years.

The appointment of Dr. C. Grey-Wilson (Kit) and Mr J.J. McGregor (Jim) as Vice Presidents of the Society was approved by the meeting.

I then introduced the new Constitution and asked the Chair of Committee ? David Haselgrove ? to explain the reason for slimming down the governing body and answered any questions raised by the members. The Constitution was adopted almost unanimously with 3 members voting against its adoption.

The meeting closed with the presentation of the Society?s Awards ? faithfully recorded by Doug Joyce - culminating with the presentation of the Lyttel Trophy to Dr. John Good.

In the afternoon, following the presentation of the Show Awards, the EB Anderson Memorial Lecture was very well received

?Exploring the Floral Fringes of Greece?

Tristan Lafranchis transported his audience around several less well know parts of Greece illustrating the journey with superb photographs of the scenery, geology, ecology, flora and fauna indigenous to the areas illustrating the richness that is Greece.

A splendid finish to a day enjoyed by all who attended.

I hope this gives you and others who were unable to attend on Saturday a flavour of our latest AGM.

I would like to add my thanks to you Tim for your contributions to the On line Discussion and hope to have more time next year to join in some of the topics

.

Contribution from Martin Rogerson 14 November 2011, 18:38top / bottom of page

I thought perhaps I'd add tuppenceworth on the topic of committee meeting minutes raised in another thread which has wandered off onto other website diary topics.

TThe topic of why it had taken a year for summaries of main committee meetings was raised from the floor. The chair of committee, David Haslegrove, gave a very clear account of the issues faced by the committee in terms of the 'legal' accountabilities of Trustees and the issues which had to be considered. These had clearly led to much committee debate and background research before a final decision on the form of synopsis now available was made. Given the committee meets only a few times a year explains the apparent tardiness in concluding this matter.

I think I've summarised what was said correctly. If not, I'm sure someone will jump in and correrct me.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 14 November 2011, 19:12top / bottom of page

Dear Val & Martin,

Many thanks for the details on the AGM. I am grateful. With our Local Group AGM's I have always hoped for more discussion, which rarely comes, though most have the opposite desire! The reason being that it is important to encourage involvement, even if at times it may seem tiresome. I am sure the best bit was the talk!

Contribution from David Nicholson 14 November 2011, 19:47top / bottom of page

Yes, thank you Val and Martin.

If the AGM Minutes issue had been given the response at the beginning of the discussion that Martin has now succinctly provided it would have taken all the angst out of the matter.

Contribution from Rob Amos 14 November 2011, 22:06top / bottom of page

I would like to add my own thanks to Christine, Val and everyone else involved in the AGM. It was a very enjoyable day and Tristan's lecture on Eastern Greece made a welcome change from my law lectures!

Contribution from David Nicholson 15 November 2011, 20:46top / bottom of page

So, is my assumption correct that the AGM minutes for 2010 and 2011 will be appearing-soon!?

Contribution from Jon Evans 15 November 2011, 23:28top / bottom of page

David

Not as far as I know. There has been no discussion of minutes of the AGM. The motion passed at the AGM last year referred only to minutes of main committee meetings, not the AGM itself.

As explained by David Haselgrove at the AGM, main committee have decided that a summary only of the decisions taken at each committee meeting will be published on the website, and these are now available. Log in, and then go the Members only item on the About us menu.

I hope you find these summaries useful.

Contribution from David Nicholson 16 November 2011, 19:56top / bottom of page

Thanks for that Jon. The existence of the Member's area came as some surprise to me, and, I guess to others too. It seems to me to be potentially, a considerable step forward in Society/Member contact and therefore an announcement of it's presence could have been placed on the Web Site main page in order to draw members attention to it!

Although Minutes have not been provided (and it is my understanding that the decision taken at the 2010 AGM was that Minutes should be provided-this then flies in the light of a previously taken democratic decision!) I can well understand the need at times to exclude "sensitive and confidential information". Most Public Bodies who have a duty to make their business open to inspection by those who pay the bills have a system by which discussions on such confidential issues are minuted but not in the "for publication" section of the minutes. I would think members would have an interest in who is present at meetings where any decisions are being made-no indication is given of this. I think there is also an issue as to how, and by whom decisions are made as to what is included or excluded from reports of this kind. For example I note from the report of the meeting held 21 September the decision to award a grant to RBGE to assist with the costs of a new alpine house. An admirable decision and one I'm sure would be supported by all members and especially by those north of the border. From the view that it is member's money being spent I really think they have a right to know what level of grant is being given. In the light of the Government's latest U turn in respect of the level of "pay back" for surplus energy produced from solar panels one hopes that not too much potential income was built into forecasts for the new financial year.

Contribution from David Nicholson 16 November 2011, 20:09top / bottom of page

I'll move now to the issues of AGM Minutes, Annual Reports and Statements of Accounts. Many members (and especially those overseas) for whatever reason are unable to attend the AGM and it seems to me important that in no way are they made to feel disenfranchised. The Society has to make copies of it's Annual Report and Statement of Accounts available for inspection by any member (Clause 13.3 New Constitution). What better way of doing this than placing them in the Member's Area of the Web Site. It is not as if there was any privacy involved since copies of these documents must be supplied to any person who makes a written request and pays the Society's reasonable costs (Clause 13.4 New Constitution). In any case the Annual reports and Statements of Account of the Society are freely available to anyone who cares to read them on the Charity Commission Web Site (from financial period ended 31/08/2006 to fpe 31/08/10) All you need to do is to search by either Alpine Garden Society or the Society's Charity Reference Number 207478.

Contribution from David Nicholson 16 November 2011, 20:21top / bottom of page

It's a fair question to ask why I'm interested in all this stuff? Well firstly I'm a Yorkshireman and it's "bred in" to be interested in how the "brass" comes in and in how the "brass" goes out and of course organisational structures and the basic point that economics is a science pertaining to ends and scarce means that have alternative uses tends to come into that. Another reason is my strong feeling that the members are the society and not that the "committee" are the society and the members should have available to them as much information as it possible to give them. A final reason is that we should all be working to dispel the view held in some quarters that the AGS is an elitist organisation (a view put fairly recently on the NARGS Forum). A major way to reverse that view is to "enable" members rather than "disabling" them

Contribution from Jon Evans 17 November 2011, 09:49top / bottom of page

David

As a fellow member of the society, I thoroughly agree with you on all of these points.

In the absence of any opportunity to discuss matters arising from the minutes of last year's AGM, Rannveig Wallis raised the issue of publication of minutes of the committee meetings after the Director had presented the Trustees' Report for the year, and was treated with polite hostility for her trouble. Whether this was a reflection of feelings about this issue, or the current state of relations between the society and the Fritillaria Group, it is hard to say.

It was stated that the responsibility of the trustees of the society (main committee members) is to further the interests of the charity and its charitable aims, rather than to do the bidding of its membership, which is why they can treat the motion from last year's AGM as purely advisory.

The difficulty and time involved in editing the minutes was also adduced as a reason for publishing a summary rather than edited minutes. Since there are straightforward ways of minuting meetings where business is divided into public and restricted areas, I am a little puzzled that such editing would be needed, and it is hard not to see the decision to publish summaries as an attempt to share as little, rather than as much information as possible.

It would be very helpful if the minutes of the AGM were posted on the website for viewing by members prior to the next AGM, where members are expected to attend and approve the minutes as a correct record of proceedings instantly, without the opportunity of reading them.

I would also like to see more information published in the members' area about the subcommittees who do a lot of work for the society. There is a published calendar of subcommittee meetings (sometimes incomplete, as it is maintained irregularly), but it would be useful to have a full list of current subcommittees and their membership.

Contribution from Jon Evans 17 November 2011, 10:48top / bottom of page

To add some balance to this; do the SRGC publish minutes of their committee meetings or AGM on the website? Or NARGS? I don't think we should single out the AGS on this.

Contribution from David Nicholson 17 November 2011, 12:02top / bottom of page

Jon, it's not a question of "singling out" as you put it. It's much more a question of a) implementing a democratic decision made by the Members of the AGS in the case of Committee minutes and b) how much improvement could be made in way The Society communicates with it's Members in the case of the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts which, as I've pointed out are a matter of public record anyway. So what's to hide?

I'm pretty certain that SRGC and NARGS would act favourably if requested without subterfuge.

Contribution from Jon Evans 17 November 2011, 12:56top / bottom of page

David

As Martin pointed out, the motion passed at the AGM last year was debated at great length by the committee, and their considered response was to publish summaries of the meetings.

As I tried to explain in my first email this morning, I believe the legal view was that AGM motions are not binding on the committee/trustees, whose responsibility is to act in the interests of the charity. The only 'decision' the membership can make about the direction of the society is whom to elect as its officers and committee members.

I do not agree with the decision to publish summaries, in particular because of the bad impression this creates with the members who wanted the minutes published in the first place, but I respect and understand why the committee should be able not to implement the will of the AGM.

I was also trying to point out that the publication of minutes of the AGM and of committee meetings is not common practice, at least from the evidence of these two sister societies.

Finally, I would like to repeat the most telling statement from the AGM, from the retiring Director of Publications, John Good. "This is a gardening club; it is supposed to be FUN!" (his capitals)

Contribution from Tim Ingram 17 November 2011, 15:15top / bottom of page

Freedom of information surely trumps all otherwise surely no-one can make a reasoned judgement. There is no lack of intelligence either between the AGS Committee and those who run the Society, or amongst the members, and proper respect runs both ways. So the 'fun' aspect should come back into play. If there are strong opinions, as here, then no only is it that they are best expressed, the Society would lose if they weren't. And if this is accepted in good grace it takes a lot of the heat out of the arguement.

Contribution from David Nicholson 17 November 2011, 15:53top / bottom of page

Jon, I hadn't seen your first post when I read your second, sorry.

Contribution from Jon Evans 17 November 2011, 17:13top / bottom of page

David

I'm sorry too. For the most part I am just trying to relay what was said at the meeting for those who weren't there. My own views on the matter are probably quite well aligned with your own.

I think the point about fun is important though. I would much rather be discussing plants and posting photos of them than participating in these debates, important though they are; did you see my last addition to November, in Plants in the Alpine House; probably the smallest plant I have ever photographed ?

Contribution from Tim Ingram 18 November 2011, 19:02top / bottom of page

'It was stated that the responsibility of the trustees of the society (main committee members) is to further the interests of the charity and its charitable aims, rather than to do the bidding of its membership, which is why they can treat the motion from last year's AGM as purely advisory.'

I've only just properly cottoned on to this statement and it leaves me a bit bewildered. Much of the charitable input to the Society comes from members and one would imagine they also have a strong interest in furthering the charitable aims of the Society. Ergo by definition the trustees should take considered advice from the membership (which I am sure they do, even if not so obvious from the quote above), although of course they have the final responsibility on what to implement.

My arguement has always been that the most fundamental requirement is expressing the values of the AGS to gardeners who do not belong, and I have written about this in the forthcoming Bulletin.

Contribution from David Nicholson 19 November 2011, 19:45top / bottom of page

Nice dry day today (doesn't happen a lot in Devon!) so a walk around Knightshayes was the order of the day. very pleasant it was too. Saw new born lambs in the fields bordering the M5 around Cullompton and was minded to check the cupboards for mint sauce stocks on our return home. We should be OK.

I'm now banished to the computer room (spare bedroom!) by Mrs N. as she's watching Strictly Factoring or some other such frippery "without you moaning all the time". After 41 years of marriage I remain astounded by her interest in business affairs! Still, she's provided me with a glass and a bottle of red so it shouldn't be too bad.

Now I'm conscious that surprisingly this debate has become somewhat tri-partite between Jon, Tim and myself which makes me wonder if anyone else out there agrees, or disagrees with us. Or does apathy rule? It's a pity really because the debate is about the "C" word-CHANGE. It's about how The Society might harness and manage that change in the interests of survival and expansion. I would have thought that had to be of interest to all members?

Contribution from David Nicholson 19 November 2011, 20:12top / bottom of page

To re-visit the AGM issue. The statement about the responsibilities of the Trustees of the Society (main committee members) that so bewildered Tim bewilders me equally. I'm minded of The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (remember that!) and old Colin Crompton who took the part of the Hon Sec who's every utterance began with "t'committee says......." So the function of the AGM is not to question; not to guide; not to say Nooo, but to act as some kind of rubber stamp. It's a bit like the avaricious care worker shoving a cheque in front of the bewildered old chap and saying "Sign this love, everything will be all right"

But back to the "C" word. There is, perhaps, a perception in the mind of the "outsider" that those involved in our hobby are either a) weird; b) old and c) obsessed, or any permutation of the three. Personally I freely admit to all three. Given the age profile of The Society's membership I bet St. Peter, with a wry smile, continues to put an ad in the local freeby newspaper for part time gate keepers, on the likely possibility of him keeping busy!

Age means a falling membership and as Tim says we need to "sell" The AGS to gardeners who do not belong and particularly so to younger ones.

Falling membership means reduced revenue streams and reduced revenue means reduced activity and none of this is helped by organising national Conferences that incur thumping losses (I said it would val and I was right!). So it's essential that revenue be targeted at recruitment and retention and to do that some "sacred cows" may have to be slaughtered.

Effective change, and the management of it, can be very much like wading through treacle. Lord knows these issues have cropped up in these pages from time to time, mostly the same issues ad infinitum. To be in a position to solve them requires a unity of approach,of idea and of action, but mostly requires a plan that all can claim ownership of. We don't have it.

Right Jon, I'm back to the plants now.

Contribution from Martin Rogerson 20 November 2011, 11:34top / bottom of page

I've tried to stay out of this but....."So the function of the AGM is not to question; not to guide; not to say Nooo, but to act as some kind of rubber stamp."

The AGM did question (the topic was raised from the floor last year and debated agian this year), it did guide (if it hadn't been raised athe AGM nothing would have happened), it has the opportunity to say Nooo...(stand for the committee, get elected and make the changes, a plea that was made by said committee), most AGMs are rubber stamping exercises from small clubs to large plcs.

And....while it is true the Conference made a loss, is organising such international events (I've been to 2 now and they have been superb events where I have learned a tremendous amount)not one of the purposes of the charity and hence something it should be spending its funds on?

And ps...I wish it was possible to get back in and edit a post to correct all the spelling/grammar cock-ups!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 20 November 2011, 18:17top / bottom of page

I think Martin you are probably right. At an event I have been involved in the lady owner of the garden we were sharing made the comment that there were too many Chiefs and not enough Indians! Well this was only small beer by comparison with a Society like the AGS, but important to us none the less. It may be best to return to contributing averbally to the Society but I personally believe that I have been trying to make valuable comments since I started communicating via the forum. I can only apologise if it has caused any upset. I do agree that the Conference was a marvellous event and the organisation second to none. And if you read back through comments I have made you will see I have been at pains to be constructive and not to make any personal criticisms. The question is, should the debate never have started? That is only for others to judge.

Contribution from Rob Amos 20 November 2011, 18:39top / bottom of page

If nothing else, this debate (and similar ones before it) is useful in that a) they raise an issue that might not otherwise be discussed and b) they give some indication as to why the website and indeed the Society might not be as appealing as it should and needs to be. Investigating why the wider membership does not contribute to the website and the solutions to this is something I plan to work on next year (watch out for the questionnaires at next year's shows!).

With regards to David's last point about a need for 'unity of approach' perhaps the small number of us who do use the discussion forum (and that includes those of you who are reading this but not contributing ? I know you are out there!) could come up with one to get the ball rolling? If we all endeavoured to add one entry a week to any topic in the forum, especially queries and cries for help that have gone unanswered, the usage would increase tenfold and would perhaps encourage more people to get involved.

Contribution from David Nicholson 21 November 2011, 20:22top / bottom of page

A few further comments on Martin's post.

I'm glad Martin that you have restored my faith in AGM's.

I'm not opposed to conferences indeed they can be a very good thing and I agree that the organisation and promotion of them should be an important part of the Society's function. I looked very seriously at the early programme for 2011 Conference and gave some thought as to whether I should attend. Given the cost though I opted instead to take Mrs N to a first class hotel for a few days of pampering-she wouldn't have enjoyed the Conference anyway-which just goes to show I'm an old fashioned "romantic" at heart!!

Quite a few other members I have spoken to didn't attend purely on grounds of cost. I do wonder if the days of need for a large scale International Conference have gone now given the "Internet explosion" between the 2001 Conference and today. After all I can, and do, chat with people from all over the world on a daily basis now without leaving the house.

I don't know the reason why the conference operated at a loss (possibly poor take-up?) but I do assume that the planning stages included sufficient review points where decisions could be made on income and expenditure balance. It just doesn't seem equitable to me to use scarce resources to subsidise the price for those who did go.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 21 November 2011, 21:48top / bottom of page

The internet is indeed an extraordinary way of communicating which opens up so many possibilities to learn about plants and gardening. It also links different Societies via the memberships in ways that have never happened so directly before. Thus I have learned that in the Czech Republic, such a strong and important heartland of alpine gardening but where memberships of clubs have declined, different groups have come together to promote the growing of alpines. Many of us have much to thank seed collectors from there in provided us with the opportunity to grow new and exciting plants. In North America too there is a relatively small but enthusiastic group of gardeners who look to their wonderful landscapes for plants and seeds for their gardens. These International links are strengthened by the IRG, an online resource provided on the SRGC website. This will be the way such specialised interests in plants will go inevitably because they prosper with the communication between like minded gardeners. It is for the various Societies to foster this in the future. The forums will differ depending on the stimulation we get from them individually, but their strongest role is in enthusing us, and from this others. I was quite sceptical early on but have been won over because I meet few people with the same deep passion for plants that I have and the web can supply this, even though sometimes there is a degree of foolishness. Our debate about the AGM is important because essentially it is the result of us losing this broader outlook. This applies as much to the Groups as it does to the Society in general, and is why new faces are so very important.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 25 November 2011, 09:29top / bottom of page
A case in point

Here is an excellent example of what I mean. Many AGS members may be aware of the American gardener Frank Cabot, who has recently died. However, I was not and am extremely grateful to Cliff for the images he put on the NARGS website of the garden created by this remarkable man.

(see - http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=827.0)

The scope that the AGS website could have is so very much greater than it has at present, and so much more likely to draw in new people into the Society. Others must have similar gardens and gardeners that have inspired them, as much as the individual plants do!

Contribution from David Nicholson 25 November 2011, 15:47top / bottom of page

Tim mentioned "The International Rock Gardener" on-line magazine,the November edition of which is now available-and it's a cracker.

For anyone who hasn't seen it it's available on the SRGC Web Site, look down the menue on the left hand side of the main page.



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