The Role of the Committee Member

Speakers’ Corner Committees will need to embody three core qualities. First, so far as possible, they should be representative of their local communities. Second, they should reflect the range of skills and experience they will need in order to be effective. Third, while working in partnership with a range of local organisations, they must be and be seen to be independent of them… Above all, they need individuals who are committed, energetic, resourceful and resolute.

Speakers’ Corner Trust, Developing the UK Model

SCT’s guidance note on The Role of the Committee summarises it as

  • establishing and maintaining a membership representative of the local community and the key organisations within it
  • developing the Speakers’ Corner format most appropriate to its own community
  • promoting the Speakers’ Corner Trust’s objectives within its community
  • designing, organising and sustaining a balanced programme of events in every part of its area
  • where possible, over time, creating or encouraging the creation of a local network
  • securing sponsorship and funding for its activities
  • providing a vehicle for third parties for independent public consultation
  • where appropriate, creating and maintaining a local website
  • monitoring and reporting to SCT on its activity and impact.

At first sight, the list perhaps looks a little onerous. But it should not be. Some of the tasks (for example, establishing a Committee’s membership or designing a project’s local format) are part of the development process; some (for example, creating a local network) are long term and dependent on local circumstances; only few (perhaps securing sponsorship or setting up a website) require particular skills or experience.

All, however, are shared responsibilities and it is important to bear in mind that a Committee’s strength and effectiveness will depend to a large extent on the complementary backgrounds and skills of its members and how they work together to pool their joint resources.

Moreover, SCT recognises that the majority of Committee members will have important commitments elsewhere and will therefore find it difficult to take on time-consuming responsibilities. In any event, it is the voluntary impulse which is the key to the success of the Speakers’ Corner project.

The model constitution which SCT has developed for Speakers’ Corner Committees is careful not to impose too great a burden on busy people. It therefore requires only that they meet a minimum of three times a year with their Management Committees, if they have one, meeting four times. They are of course free to meet as often as they choose and/or to set up smaller sub-committees or working groups as they see fit.

So there is no specific ‘job description’ for members of Speakers’ Corner Committees, nor any fixed set of skills which they should have. Rather, each member should perhaps consider how best they can contribute to the Committee’s work by asking themselves

  • what particular expertise or skills do I have and how can I apply them to the Committee’s work (for example, in design, publicity or marketing)?
  • other than attending Committee meetings, how much time can I dedicate to the Committee’s work (for example, in serving on a particular working group or helping to organise a particular event)?
  • what roles or tasks do I have the experience and time to undertake (for example, as an officer of the Committee, leading on a particular initiative such as fundraising or overseeing a task such as the development of a website?)
  • what contacts do I have which could be useful to the Committee (for example, among potential sponsors or in the press, the Council, voluntary organisations or local schools)?
  • who do I know who might be able to contribute to the project (for example, as a recruit to the Committee or a chair or speaker at an event)?
  • what networks do I have access to which could help in identifying issues for debate or organising events (for example, among community and voluntary groups)?

In short, the only essential qualifications for a Speakers’ Corner Committee member are commitment to the cause, a little time and a lot of enthusiasm and a capacity for teamwork.

 


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