The big conversation - is it on track or off the rails?In 2010 CILIP launch their Big Conversation, a chance to re-engage with the membership at large.  I confess that this decision is one that I can but applaud and is long over due for the membership at large to have a say.  Given that the shape of CILIP for the coming year is often shaped by the 80 or so members able to get to the London AGM, it’ll be nice for the other 4000 odd members to have something to say.  As a kick off to this all those proxy voters from this year’s AGM have been contacted on behalf of Bob McKee to send our opinions.

Okay, not quite sure what will happen to my opinions once sent – but it is very nice to be asked.  Personally I feel what I’ve had to say has had an impact and while the vote didn’t go the way I might have hoped at least it didn’t pass as a non-issue.  Which reminds me, I really must fill in my 2010 subscription form before Christmas…

So the CILIP Big Conversation 2010 could well be the centrepiece of their advocacy with the membership (no Umbrella next year).  In the mail out on the subject there is a call for a Project Board to back up the whole activity, and this is where I think the proposal falls down a little. 

At first glance the open call for members to serve seems a good thing, with “CILIP Members working in a range of settings, spanning a spectrum of experience and job level, and spanning the continuum of expertise from librarianship to information” being called forth to volunteer.  However, when you get down to the details it suddenly becomes apparent that CILIP once again only wants leadership and insight to come from the venerable ones in the profession.

• A summary of relevant past projects and experience, on not more than one A4 page. This should illustrate your previous Project Board Experience.
• Values, scope and timescales of past projects. This should demonstrate your proven, successful capability in Project Management.
• A summary CV including CILIP activism. This should illustrate the breadth of your experience and your commitment to the professional body
• A statement of how the project would be approached, describing your suitability to carry out the project, using not more than one A4 sheet. This should indicate your thinking on how a consultation project such as ‘The Big Conversation’ could be achieved.

The last criteria seems quite fine, and normal practice.  But look closely at the first three.  What exactly is “Project Board Experience”?  Why do I have to be an experienced project manager to be a guiding light on this group?  Why should I have a “breadth of experience and committment to the professional body”?  Many of the new members coming out of library schools or in first professional posts have a dynamism, energy and insight that would shame some 20 year veterans I’ve met over the years.

If we hudle together for protection, then strange new ideas will never be able to get between us!

I could be reading too much into the criteria, but truth be told until I got to that part of the message I was excited about the Big Conversation as a real chance to make CILIP the kind of organisation I could continue to be proud top be a member of.  Now I’ve read the call in full, in my heart I fear that the Big Conversation will turn into the Big Naval Gazing – forever looking inward on past experiences and examples whilst ignoring new opportunities and directions.

The way forward after all, is never back along the path we just came.


6 thoughts on “Conversation

  1. I agree, it would be nice to see representatives from newer members as well as experienced ‘project managers’. Newer members can be in a better position to see possibilities for change as they are not inured to ‘the way things are done’. Although they do talk about ‘spanning a spectrum of experience and job level’, you are right to point out that asking for previous Board experience immediately contradicts this.

    I hope that this Big Conversation will engage non-members in future too…


    1. I suspect the #CILIPBC (as I might have to start shortening it to!) will draw on the experiences and thoughts of the newer/younger/fresher members without a doubt. I just worry if their voices and opinions will be poo-pooed at committee. We only have to look at the dismissive way the current chief exec has spoken of the nay-sayers on the fee rise to see how the centre can dismiss views that are not in line with its own.

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes eh?


  2. My reaction was exactly the same as yours – excitement that they wanted views from people from all levels to steer the comment, then confusion when it turned out that actually they’re only interested in the people that have already been involved at a high level for years. Surely those people have already had their say in the past? Surely it would be a good thing to have even one person on board that has qualified more recently to have a fresh viewpoint and to make it clear that actually it is possible to get involved? They might even discover what has been turning people off becoming more active! I feel that they have just told us in this call that our involvement is not welcome, except on a superficial level. Nice of them to ask our thoughts, indeed…


    1. And that excitment was a rare treat – can’t remember the last time anything CILIP did actually excited me!

      I fear this CILIPBC is going to turn into CILIPWhiteElephant all too soon.


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