This is my first, and perhaps only, president’s report for Editors WA. Thank you for the support of dedicated committee members and other members who have provided us with professionally delivered events over the past twelve months. Thank you also to members at large for your forbearance as we’ve tried to reinvigorate the branch. Above all, it’s imperative there are clear and tangible benefits to belonging to IPEd. Otherwise, what are we all here for?
However, I want also to deliver a branch health report and sound a note of concern with regard to the branch’s well-being. In this, I trust no one will feel hard done by; there have been outstanding moments, but from my perspective, the overall performance of the branch as a whole has been variable.
We’ve had some excellent branch events since this time last year. The meetings on 19 February 2018, organised by Ilsa Sharp to discuss thesis editing, and on 19 March, Genres of editing organised by Michèle Drouart, stand out as model collaborations between committee, experts in the subjects, and editors’ minds generally. Why can we not achieve this more often?
There have been some lows, too. I’m sorry we had to cancel, or at least postpone, a proposed meeting for May. That meeting stalled mainly because, although the idea was good, no one took ownership of the event and the date was upon us before we had got a presenter or confirmed a venue. We should avoid duds like this in future.
In my view, at least two factors contributed to the ambivalent results and highly variable attendance at branch meetings. One is that it’s difficult to find motivated organisers for branch activities. The other is the lack of a ‘home’ for meetings.
We are lurching from one meeting to the next and have not been able to put in place longer-term plans that would lend our branch stability and consistency or purpose. As president I take some responsibility for not chivvying people along enough. Earlier in 2018, the branch committee approved an idea to appoint a general meeting coordinator. This person would oversee the calendar of meetings and help steer the logistics of keeping meetings on track. Specifics of meeting organisation would still be undertaken either by the committee or by other branch members, but the meeting coordinator would provide support and advice, and continuity of experience through the calendar year.
Unfortunately, no one from the committee was well placed to take this on and we have not advertised it widely enough to attract someone to the job. So, this report may be taken as an advertisement: if you have the time and resources to fill the role, please contact the committee sooner rather than later.
Our regular meeting venue at The Warehouse café in Shenton Park fell through late in 2017 because the café closed. We have struggled to find a good alternative. Several proposals have been mooted or tested, mostly looking at community halls, but it seems difficult to get consensus on the best. I think a reliable home for branch meetings would go some way to reviving interest among members to attend more events.
I touch on other factors for mixed meeting success later in this report. The calendar of events has only just kept up with the passing months and some events have been advertised with very short notice. It’s important that we give members longer lead times to slot meetings into busy schedules.
In December 2017 I offered to succeed Cheryl Bettridge as president because, by her own admission, Cheryl was finding it difficult to fit branch matters into or around other commitments. This change carried its own risks because I am also IPEd Councillor for Western Australia and chair of the IPEd Standing Committee for Professional Development (SCPD). It wasn’t clear whether I would be able to successfully juggle the three roles.
There have been some positive outcomes. Among them I count the visit by IPEd CEO, Karen Lee, on 14 April, for an open and frank discussion about the benefits of IPEd membership. We also talked about the functions of the branch for members, and the relationship between the branch and IPEd national office.
Competing demands on my time and energies mean I’ve found it difficult to follow up on all the initiatives that flowed from that meeting. That’s one reason I’m stepping down as president and I hope the committee can find a decisive and committed successor with a flair for motivating volunteers.
During the second quarter of 2018 we’ve also had resignations from Bookworm editor, Martika O’Brien, website coordinator, Liz Green, and Accreditation Board delegate, Anna Maynard. Concurrently, long-term committee member Jan Knight has had important health matters to take care of, and Ilsa Sharp, our representative on the Style manualworking group and Standing Committee for Academic Editing (SCAE), has had time out for important life-events of her own.
Fortunately, Catherine Macdonald, branch member in Albany, has picked up the task of compiling and editing Bookworm, and I thank Catherine very much for that. Unfortunately, budget officer, Robert Green, has said he will not continue after this 2018 AGM.
Altogether, this means there is significant turnover of the committee as of this AGM. I issued a request for expressions of interest for someone to succeed me as IPEd Councillor, but there have been no responses. This means, if the branch committee and branch members approve, I will probably continue as Councillor until the national AGM in late October 2018, but not beyond. I’d like to encourage any professional member of IPEd with an interest in the broader, strategic scope of IPEd business to think about taking over the role. A detailed description of what’s expected from the Councillor is posted on the Editors WA website.
In March we distributed a survey to the WA membership looking, in particular, for views on what you want from branch meetings and professional development. More than one-third of financial members responded. This tells me there is high potential interest by in the welfare of the branch and what it can or should offer. The survey results are available on the Editors WA website (if the post has fallen off the News section of the Home page, search for ‘member survey’ to find the relevant pages).
I think it’s vital that the branch committee uses the survey as a foundation for planning activities over the next year. You expressed a clear and distinct wish for more professional development opportunities, workshops interspersed through the year (preferring half-day over full-day events), and less guff about IPEd national office and staff matters. Achieving these requires a shift in emphasis and a recommitment to up the ante.
However, it also means finding the right people with the time and availability to make these things happen—this is an on-going demand. An event logistics coordinator, as described above, would certainly help. And the committee needs to be reinvigorated with a mix of experienced members (possibly including some former committee members?) and younger or more recently joined people.
Constitution and Branch By-laws review
A significant review of the IPEd Constitution and By-laws is currently underway. Hopefully you have read about this in the CEO report from Karen Lee, or in a recent edition of Bookworm. We have published an article about this on the Editors WA website and I’m encouraging members to provide feedback.
These reviews are the biggest change to IPEd governance since the transition to direct membership in June/July 2016. Contrary to some expressed perceptions, changes signalled so far by Council and staff are (mostly) provisional—some changes are required under the Corporations Act 2001, but many reflect opinions about how the organisation should be governed and run. That is why it’s important for us to read and comment on the marked-up documents. It is a not-so-frequent opportunity to influence the tenor and colours of IPEd in years to come. The closing date for submissions is 31 August 2018.
I said at the outset I wanted to deliver a branch health report. In my view, the branch is not in robust condition. I’ve been discouraged by the apparent lack of engagement (the survey was a notable exception) or lack of visible reciprocity between members at large and the committee’s efforts to keep things moving. It is a large state, and Perth is a very spread out city; perhaps this is part of the issue. Hopefully our recent foray into videoconferencing, as a way of enabling members living on the periphery or in more remote areas to take part in events, such as this AGM, will help to bridge that gap.
The Editors WA branch of IPEd has great strengths and its members represent a pool of exceptional talent and resourcefulness. Whether we’re making the most of these strengths and talents for our mutual benefit, and for the benefit of IPEd as an organisation, might depend on who you ask. We have some expert representation on standing committees and working groups, and individuals have been very committed to creating opportunities for learning and development, as well as networking and social cohesion.
Even so, in my view, unless the branch’s capacity to self-motivate improves, we are likely to find ourselves continuing in a rather haphazard, not to say desultory, fashion. I don’t have all the answers, or perhaps any useful answers at all, but someone must have. As individuals, as editing professionals, and as members of an Australia-wide organisation with growing influence among our partner professions, we owe it to ourselves and to each other to support a vibrant and thriving community of editors in Western Australia.
President, Editors WA
Institute of Professional Editors