Federal People Development Committee Report – 24 July 2018

It’s a rather odd feeling to be writing up one of these meeting round-ups when the media is reporting (inaccurately) on the things you’ve been discussing! Still, here we are. FPDC met on 24th July and started by getting through the business we had deferred from our last meeting.

We noted some excellent new developments from the Diversity team in HQ with how they’re monitoring statistics and doing more to solicit ideas and feedback. Small changes, but the impact may be huge. We also approved a paper from Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, the Chair of the Diversity Subcommittee, to set some new objectives for his committee. 

We moved on to talk about an impact of GDPR on our membership recruitment procedures. The GDPR and Compliance teams in HQ, together with the Membership team and Pastoral Care Officer drew up a new process that will comply with GDPR. Essentially, it says that those under 18 must supply their date of birth, and those under 13 must provide the consent of a parent or guardian before they can join. This is because GDPR insists that under 13’s cannot give consent (which I find pretty awful, but we still have to comply). We also agreed to try to do more to promote the availability of Young Liberals membership to all those new members who did not say they were under 18 but may still be eligible by being under 26. (If you want to know more about this new joining process, please do ask me in the questions section below.)

We finished this first part of the meeting by noting that the FPDC Boost guide on member engagement had been pulled back from publication due to GDPR guidance changes, and to incorporate the outstanding work of a volunteer who has been looking at membership data management in local parties. The amendments should be completed and the guide finally published later in August.

Then we moved on to the continued discussion on the proposed supporters scheme. We began by honouring the committee’s request to be briefed on the messaging work led by FCEC (the Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee). Shaun Roberts, Director of Campaigns and Elections at HQ gave us a short presentation on the messaging work and took questions. I can’t share the briefing with you of course, as it is confidential, but you will be seeing the outcomes very soon from FCEC and HQ teams.

Content that the new messaging was in place and high-quality, the discussion then progressed onto the details of the supporter scheme proposals.

As with the last meeting, the contentious issues were around whether to charge a fee to register as a supporter and what rights those supporters should then be given.

At the last meeting, we had asked a lot of questions of the HQ staff, looking for data on membership subscriptions, donations etc. Using these, and some confidential research results that we had requested (paid for by a donor), we eventually came to a consensus view.

So, the FPDC recommendation is that the Party should introduce a registered supporter scheme. 

We recommend that there should not be a fee – it should be free to register as a supporter. Being a supporter would entitle people to receive emails from the Party, join our campaigning efforts, and allow them to join our affinity deals that fundraise for the Party (like switching your electricity to Ecotricity, deals like that). 

We are not recommending that the new supporters should be given any rights to vote in any party elections. That includes voting in Leadership elections. But we appreciate that the political landscape can change (and might change quickly if Labour and the Tories do tear themselves apart!) and that new consultations and research may find benefits to extending some voting rights that we don’t yet see. So we think it’s sensible to leave that option on the table for future consideration, although we don’t recommend introducing it now. 

Now clearly, these are just recommendations. As brilliant and lovely as my committee members all are, we are only a small handful of party members, and it’s entirely possible that the wider Party membership will have a different view. So we are doing three things to consult members on their views on this recommendation:

  1. FPDC are holding a consultation meeting at Brighton Federal conference in September, to discuss these recommendations, explain our thinking as to why we are recommending this combination of options, and give people the chance to question and comment on them. Any member who is at conference is welcome to come along.
  2. We have asked Shaun Roberts (Director of Campaigns) and Greg Foster (Head of Membership) to work together with the other staff responsible for polling/surveys in HQ to produce an all-member survey about these ideas. We felt it was important that every member should have a chance to have a say on this. The survey should happen quickly, in August/September, to be completed by the end of conference.
  3. We will set up a dedicated email address for members to send any other feedback about these recommendations.

Once we have all the feedback, we will consider what members have said, and reflect on whether the proposals should be put forward for implementation (through the proper democratic procedures), or whether they need amendment first, or if they should be dropped altogether.

To avoid this article becoming extra long, I won’t go into all our reasoning here as to why we chose these recommendations rather than any other combination of options. But I would be very happy to write a follow up piece explaining that reasoning if you would all like. Just leave a comment if you would be interested to know more.

Our next meeting is scheduled for October, when amongst other items we will be discussing the idea of parental leave for PPC’s. 

* Miranda Roberts is the Former Chair of Federal People Development Committee 2017-2020.

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  • Sue Sutherland 4th Aug '18 - 4:48pm

    Thank you Miranda, for this report and thank you also for planning to consult the wider membership about the proposals and for being willing to amend them if the membership differs from the Committee’s conclusions. It’s very appropriate that this comes from the FPDC and would be truly amazing if this approach is followed by all policy committees.
    Vince is very keen on learning from the Canadians and one of that party’s basic tenets before embarking on reforming itself was to think outside the box. I feel very strongly that ordinary members are best placed to help our leaders to do this, because they are committed to the party but they also meet lots of people in their daily lives who are not committed at all, so their suggestions and comments should be treated with respect and consideration as you and the committee are doing.

  • Oliver Craven 5th Aug '18 - 4:45am

    Out of interest why isn’t DoB and student status automatically prompted for? Would make a lot of jobs regarding YL much easier for the exec and their supporting staff

  • I think the Committee has made the right call on both the subscription issue and voting rights. However, there could be a right to be consulted alongside the Membership whenever there is an issue where views are sought. Maybe this is already included and just didn’t come out in the article. For those who might be worried about supporters outvoting Members, I intend ‘consulted’ to mean advisory. However, if supporters ever did have a different view from the Members it would be well worth understanding why.

  • Peter Hirst 5th Aug '18 - 10:04am

    What you don’t mention, Miranda is the coordination between local and Federal supporters’ schemes. This is essential for a variety of reasons. My own view is that we should have a common list, divided by geographical entities, i.e. constituencies with common access to and the means to edit it. This should be entrusted to either Party Chair’s or MDO’s. Knowing who in our constituency is a registered supporter, assuming they give their consent would help our campaigning and avoid duplication. It is surprising how many people don’t inform you freely of their allegiances unless you ask directly. It should be part of registering that you allow you local Party know.

  • @Sue – thank you!

    @Oliver – the staff team did start from the assumption that asking everyone for DoB would be the cleanest way to do this, and it’s the approach I advocated for as well. There are two reasons it was abandoned; firstly, every extra piece of data you ask for on a recruitment form puts some people off filling it in. Making DoB compulsory would have the effect of driving some people away who saw no need for us to know that. There are some middle aged and older people, just as an example, who routinely refuse to give their DoB to anyone, to try to stop identity theft. If the form had it as mandatory, those people would leave the page without joining/refuse to fill in the paper form. Secondly, GDPR also contains a mantra of data minimisation – that you should not hold data that you do not absolutely need. Collecting every member’s DoB would go against that principle, because for 90% of them it is not pertinent to their membership with us. So this two-stream approach was thought to be the best way forward. We do realise that the Party needs to do more for YL to advertise the availability of membership, and as a former Chair of LDYS I am personally very committed to doing this. Hope that explains the thought process.

  • @Mike – side by side advisory consultation is an interesting idea. It is not part of the recommendation we have made, but could easily be incorporated. I think so long as it is kept as distinct from any consultation of members, it would be very beneficial and not too controversial. As you say, differences in result would be very interesting to learn about.

    @Peter – The issue of data storage/sharing is going to be a very important, but complex part of this if we do introduce a supporter scheme nationally. You’re right that there is clearly a huge benefit to local parties knowing who these supporters are and where they are, but it may be that one list is not enough. Let’s imagine that I am a Parliamentary candidate in a strongly Leave voting area. I have deliverers who want to vote for me and support me because they think I get things done, but they are very pro-Brexit and not terribly keen on other Lib Dem policies. I’m not sure I would want those deliverers added to our national supporter lists. They might be sent emails or materials with our national messages, which will include Exit from Brexit, and it would push them away. But then I might have some other deliverers and poster sites who are with me because of the Party’s stance on Brexit and because they believe in all our other values too. I would absolutely want them on the national supporter list! Similarly, for some supporters, they may feel strongly enough about national issues they see on the news each night to join a supporter scheme, but not strongly enough to want to do anything locally, and being called on might not be desirable for them. If the feedback is that members feel this supporter scheme should go ahead, I am going to be working with the Membership department and Campaigns department teams in HQ to puzzle out exactly these kinds of questions. Because you’re right, we need to make sure we think about all those deliverers, poster sites and clerical helpers, but we also want to make sure people only get put into systems that will help to make them more enthusiastic and motivated as far as we can. And of course we need to be mindful of GDPR and good data management practice. So in short, yes, we are thinking about it, but it’s complicated and because this is a new proposal, this bit is not worked out yet. Hope that all makes sense!

  • @Miranda I think it’s essential that Local Parties should know who the registered national supporters are in their area, just as we do for Members and this should be recorded in Connect so that we can treat people appropriately. If you are saying that we shouldn’t automatically register all our helpers, then I completely agree for the reasons you state. However, I would want actively to target them to invite them to register. I think we can manage some not wanting to receive local information – we already have that issue with a few Members.

  • Simon Banks 9th Oct '18 - 10:48am

    “Content that the new messaging was in place and high quality”. The context seems to mean that this refers to promotion of Vince’s proposals. Unworried that promotional videos and language appropriate for a sales exercise undermined the validity of the party reform consultation.

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