Blind Citizens NZ Board
At this year’s Annual General Meeting and Conference, attendees considered a paper from the Board of Blind Citizens NZ about Blind Citizens NZ’s membership.
In its paper, the Board was very clear that bringing the topic to the AGM and Conference for discussion was an initial step in its process. That initial discussion supported the approach offered in the discussion paper. This enabled the Board to firm up next steps during its November 2022 meeting.
Here now is how the Board is progressing its discussion paper and related proposal:
- publicising the discussion paper | proposal in this December Focus Issue;
- seeking feedback from members, Branches and Networks by 9am 16 March 2023;
- the Board will consider all feedback at its meeting on 26-27 March 2023;
- in the event the Board receives feedback from individual members, Branches and | Networks who feel the proposal cannot be supported without significant alteration, the Board will call a Special Meeting of Members sometime from April 2023 to June 2023 (this will enable further discussion and perhaps a decision to occur);
- if feedback from everyone is consistently supportive, the Board will release a final policy statement before the end of June 2023 that clarifies its collective obligations and expectations, without the need to hold a Special Meeting of Members.
All feedback to the discussion paper | proposal must be received at Blind Citizens NZ’s National Office no later than 9am, 16 March 2023. Feedback can be provided via the following options:
- Phone: 0800 222 694;
- Email to: email@example.com;
- Post to: PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242
Here now is the discussion paper and proposal…
In recent years there has been criticism about the number of people from our community of blind, deafblind, vision-impaired and low vision (referred to as blind), that Blind Citizens NZ can claim to represent. No matter how we state that all blind people can benefit from our work, this can be misinterpreted to mean that we speak for all blind people.
Our membership numbers are low in terms of our long and proud history of promoting the interests of blind people. Only Ordinary Members (those who are financial) are included in our elections. However, in pretty much all other aspects, we reach out to a wider membership base. We do send Focus to people whose membership is not current; we do not check people’s membership for participation on our email lists and we definitely do not discount the aspirations or lived experiences of anyone in our community because they haven’t paid a subscription.
Our organisational work is bound to be improved if we can state with confidence that we do have a larger number of blind people showing commitment to our cause. The more active our membership is in determining our organisational positions through discussion of issues at branch and network meetings, the more authority we can assert on behalf of our community.
There are numerous reasons why people do not retain membership of any organisation. The reduction in face to face events in recent years and the reduction in the use of cash and cheques means some people are finding it difficult to retain membership even when they do want to stay financial.
Changes introduced during 2020 means it now proves difficult to gain access to the entire pool of RNZFB members and / or Blind Low Vision NZ (BLVNZ) clients. This is not a new problem, but the current management at BLVNZ, having introduced the changes, have done little to help resolve what has become a longstanding issue. We are therefore somewhat reliant on our own ability to attract new members to our organisation.
This paper sets out a proposal which has a financial impact on Branches, Networks, and National Office.
The proposal is put forward in the hope that the cost is also seen as a sensible investment in the long-term sustainability of Branches and Networks.
In order to get more members onto our database, the Board believes we should offer free membership to anyone who has not yet joined Blind Citizens NZ, or whose membership has lapsed for more than five years.
We propose that anyone coming to Blind Citizens NZ after 1 July 2023 who meets the simple criteria above, be given that financial year (i.e. to 30 June 2024) and one more following that (i.e. to 30 June 2025) without having to pay a subscription in order to become linked with their local Branch or Network.
Such a person would not have rights to participate in our elections, but would be able to participate in every other respect as if they were a member who had not yet paid this year’s subscriptions. They couldn’t be a Committee Member at a Branch either.
Our hope is that by reading Focus and being a part of a network or branch, these people will want to more fully participate in our organisation’s future.
Discussion and implementation
This paper is being presented to the 2022 AGM so that it can be discussed. There will be a further period within which the Board will receive feedback on the proposal. The dates for this will be determined by the Board at its November 2022 meeting if the initial discussion leads to sufficient support to proceed.
If the Board receives feedback from Branches, Networks or individual members who feel that the proposal cannot be supported without significant alteration, then the Board will call a Special Meeting of Members sometime from April 2023 to June 2023 so that further discussion and perhaps a decision can occur.
If, however, feedback from everyone is consistently supportive, the Board will release a final policy statement before the end of June 2023. This will clarify our collective obligations and expectations, without the need to hold a Special Meeting of Members.