The Society was formed in 2005 and, with a couple of hiccoughs along the way, has now grown to over 200 members. We are a charity, but until now we have fallen below the threshold of registration with the Charity Commission.
Our growth means that we must now register, and this gives us the opportunity to review and improve the Society’s structures and governance.
So there are a few topics that we need to talk about at the AGM. I’ll introduce them here, but I hope that we can have a full discussion of them on Zoom.
Having described ourselves as a charity, and having claimed Gift Aid on your subscriptions for the last few years (my thanks to all members who allow us to do this), we have no choice but to register with the Charity Commission by 31 August 2021. This means that we will have to re-write the Society’s constitution, appoint trustees and comply with the Commission’s requirements in a wide range of areas, including accounting, annual reporting and policies for the administration of the charity.
All of this is very doable, but we do need to ensure that the day to day business of the Society continues, and there is a limit to the amount of time that our hard-working volunteers can spare.
Following resignations from the committee last year, we have had just 3 elected officers since the last AGM – a chair, secretary and registrar. I have been covering the treasurer’s functions. In order to ensure balance and a range of views on the committee, we invited the 4 regional reps to join as co-opted members and, following the (groundless) complaint that the committee was ‘corrupt and underhand’ that I wrote to you about in July, I asked four independent members to join the committee to further demonstrate its integrity. I’m very grateful to them for their help, and to all the other members who replied to my email offering their support and assistance.
The enlarged committee has discussed the future and unanimously agreed that a larger committee was a good thing for the Society. We were preparing proposals to put to the AGM, when the requirement for charitable registration and a new constitution became apparent. It strikes me that it would be a wasteful duplication of effort to propose a new constitution, including a larger committee, to the AGM, only for this to be replaced by yet another constitution, and a board of trustees in a few months time. I’m therefore suggesting that we continue with our current constitution, electing as many members of the committee as we can, and co-opting all those additional members who have offered their services. I’d like to see a broad cross section of members, and a wide range of ideas and opinions, in a ‘collegiate’ arrangement to help shape the decisions we take in the coming months to determine the future direction of the Society.
And some of those decisions must include how best we develop the breed in the UK. We shall look at some amendments to the Breed Standard at the AGM, to reflect changes that have already been made in the French standard, and we cover these and the likely French proposals for the future classification of sheep elsewhere in this Newsletter. There has also been a good deal of discussion lately – not all of it particularly well-informed – on the status of white sheep in the UK flock and I believe that this is something that we need to raise at the AGM and that the new committee must consider as a priority.
And the new committee must also look closely at the Society’s communications strategy. Social media has many benefits, but brings with it the risks that we saw exposed during the summer, and which continue to ‘bubble under’. We need to decide what we want to achieve, how best to achieve it and then how the system should be administered. We need clear guidance to members and administrators, with proper safeguards for both, and a clear understanding of what may be said on social media and the distinction between personal views and those of the Society.
With over 200 members, and an ever-growing flock of Ouessants in the UK, I believe that the time has come to move the Society on to the next chapter in its development. We can only do that with the help and support of our members, generously giving up their time, and we must make sure that any changes take into account the needs of all members, the vast majority of whom are enthusiast keepers of small flocks of our wonderful little sheep.
Author: Antonia Clements