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2. Nova Scotia Food Policy Council – First Board Meeting – May 3, 2010 – Mount Saint Vincent
Present: Patty Williams, Linda Best, Patricia Vanaman, Jane Pryor, Grant MacDonald, Mark Austin, Dave Oulton, Cameila Frieberg, Gordon Michael, Bill Carr, Diane Brothers, Barbara Anderson, Michelle Smith, Jeff Moore, Phil Warman, Rob Smith, Stephanie Hughes, Janet Eaton, Charlie Embree, Scott Burbidge, Ted Devitt, Silver Donald Cameron, Ralph Martin.
Notes on Participation: Av Singh has, with sincere regrets, declined his position on the board. Lil MacPherson wasn’t able to join late, as planned.
WELCOME AND AGENDA REVIEW.
The Chair opened the discussion, indicating that work was done by Nova Scotia Food Policy Council (NSFPC) members during the April meeting in Truro. Linda read some of the proposed definitions from that meeting, as well as the mission of the Toronto FPC. At the meeting, many members accepted/tweaked definition #2.
Discussion Points: The mission should...
• Be the piece we use to communicate to the public ‘on one foot’.
• Be brief and clear! Detail can be captured in the Objectives and Values.
• Communicate what we’re NOT, as well as what we are - there are a lot of organizations which may have a similar mission.
• Capture the urgency of this work.
• Capture that the work is not just local, but tied to a global movement.
• Not be the place for this diverse group to capture complete detail about the work.
• Accurately describe what we’re doing. The ‘one foot pitch’ is a communications tool - not a mission statement.
• Take definitions into account (‘local’, ‘regional’, ‘sovereignty’). These need to be provided somewhere, maybe/not the mission.
• Avoid ‘crisis rhetoric’. This is an urgent matter, but the mission should reflect the long view, and not be seen as reactive.
• Be thoughtful, informed, and centered on innovative action. But it should also stir the pot a bit - something that is edgy that mixes things together.
• Use language of “will” instead of language of ‘working towards’. This orientation to action is what sets us apart.
• Sound something like the first three sentences of the #2 definition that Linda read.
• Say what were about - this is the most important thing to put thought into right now. The process is as important as the output.
Question: To inform this dialogue, let’s think about what is unique about the NSFPC and where it stands in relation to other groups - ‘umbrella group’, etc.
• We’re inclusive in the best possible way.
• Our disparate voices bring a democratic flavour to what we’re doing.
• We’re a creative organization.
• We’re welcoming all - government, retailers, business - to feel included.
• We’re focused on concrete action.
• We’re not action oriented, not yet. Let’s be a forum to bring disparate people and voices together in a safe environment. We can’t bring a single perspective that is contrary to other groups - they’ll feel alienated. It is early to be talking about moving ahead with action and policy. We have a long way to go.
• We are a policy network. There will be non policy actions, but policy is the purpose.
• We should stay away from ‘umbrella organization’ - ‘forum’, ‘clearing house’, ‘spider web’, but not ‘umbrella organization’!
• Let’s be a source of practical options for a wide group of people. A place where they come for information.
• If we want to influence policy, we need to think about the process of examining policy so that we’re credible. And we need to develop relationships with those who can help make that difference - the bureaucrats... and ultimately the politicians.
• As we create this and connect and educate one another, we come closer to the point where we can advocate and promote good actions and help government.
Janet Eaton, Linda Best, and Ted Devitt agreed to form a subcommittee to work on the mission statement, aiming to present a draft at the next board meeting.
ROLE OF THE BOARD.
Discussion began with simple definitions of the NSFPC’s structure. The question: what is the role of the board in terms of the membership? Is the NSFPC a membership organization with a steering committee facilitating the work of the members? Or making decisions on the members’ behalf?
• We are a temporary board, working to establish a base structure of the council.
• The NSFPC is a member-based organization. All members are part of the council.
• We are the board of the Council, which could have 5,000 members down the road.
• We should avoid a situation where NSFPC members can’t possibly represent the stakeholders involved. The council should be 10 or 100 times its current size.
• I think we’d be making a mistake to limit the size of the council. If you have committees in place and interest from people, and if you have some sort of communication vehicle established, don’t limit the size. This room should just get bigger and bigger.
Question: What about this word ‘council’?
• One of the reasons for ‘council’ is to tie us to the growing movement around North America. But replacing ‘council’ with something else wouldn’t separate us from that.
• I like the word Council.
• We chose the word ‘council’ but seem to have formed an ‘alliance’.
• It seems that we’re a ‘forum’, ‘alliance’ or ‘network’, as opposed to a ‘council’.
• I don’t mind ‘council’ because that suggests wisdom, and we have a lot of wisdom here. We’re collecting wisdoms; the word ‘council’ allows us to present those and have various stakeholders can come to it.
• When I hear Policy Council, I think of the objective of forming policies. This sounds like an advisory group to the government.
Question: I think form follows function. It’s difficult to talk about the role of the board before we know the role of the organization.
• I’m unsure about our purpose. I thought we’d be advising the government and am disappointed that they’re not at the table yet.
• I’m recruiting for the NSFPC, and I encounter the question: ‘what is it you’re doing?’ I think there’s an urgency to figuring out our role so that we can do the outreach.
• I don’t want us to think that we ARE the food movement, or the LEADERS OF the movement. We will support it.
• Let’s go through the agenda and address priorities, etc. and revisit this question afterwards. Moving ahead with the agenda is a good idea.
• The discussion around title is useful. If the NSFPC is a tent for discussion between various, diverse people, the role of the board could be to make the tent welcoming, functional, and give it some integrity.
Question: How will this board facilitate the work that the group wants to accomplish?
• I’m sensing a shift from a ‘network’ or ‘forum’ to a group that takes decisive action. In order for this group to credibly put forward recommendations to the government, key stakeholders/representatives must be on board.
• Maybe we don’t want a board that is representative right now, as a forum, but we will, down the road, as we become a governing body that approves policy recommendations. We may need to adopt an understanding that the organization will evolve and change.
• If you believe that creating a form for dialogue will result in better policies/understanding, then the role of the board can be in the background. If you believe this work has to be ‘pushed’ - the work of the board comes ahead.
• We could look on the board as facilitators for discussion, policy development.
• One of our key priorities will obviously be to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders who aren’t here. We wouldn’t go to government or the public pretending to represent consensus we don’t have.
• If we’re going to create change, we need to have citizens leading the way. It is crucial to build a movement. Once there’s a movement, government will listen.
• As a citizen’s movement, we can create things that the government can then take and jump on board with. We should welcome them co-opting what we do.
• The more we separate ourselves from the current movement, the less credibility and effectiveness we will have. If we stay within it, serving it, we can support the grassroots and facilitate its influence on government.
STRUCTURE AND COMPOSITION OF THE BOARD
Grant started off this discussion by suggesting we think about:
• If there’s a role for ex officio members (more important for a representative body)
• How long board terms should be and how renewal will work
• How we’ll deal with chairing meetings - in one individual or on a rotating basis?
• Whether we want a smaller ‘steering committee’ to guide the board
• How we want to address balance/representation around the room.
The group agreed that committees and/or working groups would report to this board of directors and that their initiatives would receive approval before they were publicly presented.
• This shouldn’t extend beyond policy to, for example, community activities.
• The approval could also come from a separate body - many FPCs have a specific ‘policy board’ that serves this function.
• We want to be able to respond swiftly to things, not get bogged down in process. This comes in part with time as we develop policy positions on various topics.
• Sending communications without consensus is dangerous.
Question to the board:
What would an ideal size for the permanent board be?
• 10 - where each member represents a subcommittee.
• 10 - 15 people; but I’m surprised at how well this group is doing.
• Maybe we need a large group to represent this diversity of perspectives.
• A large group better does justice to the uniqueness of what we’re doing
• A large group is better for workload. Committee structures are not very effective.
• 20, minimum, because we represent the whole province.
• Either can work. Small or large.
• Ideally, 20. 10 or 12 is not sufficient.
• With the work of the interim board done, can we get by with a smaller board?
• We need all these people at this point. Later we may be able to downsize.
• Premature for specific numbers. If we say 20 now, which 10 of us would step down?
• A larger than usual executive will be important.
• The board doesn’t need to be limited to a small number. Why not open it up?
• A big board means it will take forever to make decisions.
• This is an experiment. Let’s not jump to conclusions about numbers too soon.
• I would be more comfortable with a large board if we had short meetings. This length of meeting is fine as a development tool, but isn’t tenable long term.
• Are board members general representatives of the council or are they representatives of sectors, etc.? This will drive composition of the board and until we know this, it will be difficult to name a number.
Question to the board:
Are there some groups that we want to make sure are represented?
• Youth. Fishers. 1st Nations.
• Will we build representation into our bylaws? For the board or the membership?
• Let’s not get hung up on representation in favour of substance of work/goals.
• In theory, building it in is a good idea, but it can be a nightmare if the candidates aren’t there.
• All board members should be freely elected by the membership.
• I don’t want board members to formally represent constituencies.
• We shouldn’t have too much of a formula for the board.
• Let’s ask people about how they want to be represented. Let’s not assume. Our experience is that this kind of structure can turn into tokenism, which is a disaster.
• 9 of 18 of us are from the Valley. Geographic representation is important and should be added to the list of things to be conscious about. Not necessarily by quota system.
• To be seen as a truly provincial organization, and to grow membership, we need to think about geographic representation.
• We could look at each slate of nominations - case by case - (knowing that we want inclusiveness and representation) and fill in obvious gaps with further nominations.
• Patricia Vanaman will be approaching a friend soon, who is an ambassador in the Miq’maw’ community (cultural liaison for the interpretive centre) and will issue an invitation to her to join the membership of the NSFPC.
• Camelia Frieberg and Barb Anderson will form a subcommittee to work on the role, structure, and composition of the board. Grant MacDonald will support as consultant. They will aim to bring a draft resolution to the next board meeting.
INTERIM BOARD OFFICERS
Ralph opened the discussion by indicating that he would like to establish an Executive Committee to the board, which will serve on an interim basis and fulfill a planning and coordination role. There are three positions:
• Vice Chair. The VC will provide support to the Chair, planning meetings, and organizing the board. Prior nominations: Jane Pryor. Nominations from the floor: Mark Austin is nominated by Camelia Frieberg and declines.
• Treasurer. Prior nominations: Jeff Moore. No nominations from the floor.
• Secretary. Prior nominations: Linda Best. No nominations from the floor.
• Is there a role for a Member at Large on the Executive? To take on the work of ensuring the Working Groups or Committees are represented.
• If we create that position now will we just eliminate in 2 - 3 years because there’s no longer a need? The executive should carry out that work as it is now.
• Is there value in adding someone from a different region? A youth? A student?
• Member at Large. Stephanie Hughes is asked to participate in a support role and declines. Scott Burbidge is nominated as Member at Large to the Executive and accepts. There are no further nominations from the floor.
Ralph Martin, Jane Pryor, Jeff Moore, Linda Best and Scott Burbidge will form the Interim Executive Committee.
INCORPORATION AND BYLAWS
Linda collects signatures on the formal papers that indicate that the NSFPC is an unincorporated association and will remain as such until we have a Memorandum of Association.
• Bylaws are boilerplate, but still require understanding of what NSFPC is and its goals.
• It can take a couple of months to get the incorporation through.
• We need someone with legal/technical knowledge.
Scott Burbidge agrees to be the board representative in charge of bylaws and incorporation, with the freedom to solicit support from whomever he likes, including those suggested by members (Alison Scott Butler, Robert Bridges, Mary Lou Harley).
FREQUENCY AND TYPE OF BOARD MEETINGS.
Discussion Points: We should...
• Meet every two months, even for a full day.
• Meet less often, for longer.
• Avoid conference calls - too crazy with this large a group.
• Use conference calls - as a way of respecting those who are further afield. They can be effective if they’re focused around discussion points.
• Have rotating locations to be sensitive to regional representation
• Set a single, central location for consistency, predictability. People can plan on it.
• Meet face to face because we’re such a large group.
The group agreed that - because of its status as interim - the board should meet only until the next AGM, which should be held as soon as possible, and not later than a year after the date of the Truro meeting.
Question to the board:
Didn’t we make a commitment to deliver something to the membership by June?
• The resolution was located and read to the group. The commitment made was to have bylaws and a memorandum of association sent to the membership in advance of a meeting to be held in June 2010.
• The June meeting was conceived of as a public launch of the NSFPC - an awareness raising event, a way of bringing people together.
• The time factor is problematic. The board doesn’t have time to pull this together.
• The dual purpose - celebration and business meeting - is problematic.
• The lack of budget is problematic.
• Without a celebration/launch, it’s not worth having a business meeting.
• Let’s contact the membership - by email - and indicate we need an extension. This can be done after our June meeting.
• The public launch could be tied into other, related events:
• The Seaport Market will have its opening sometime after Labour Day.
• NS Food Security Network is talking about a large food gathering.
• The timeline from the membership’s resolution is not feasible. An extension will be necessary.
• The board will discuss the planning of the public launch of the NSFPC at its next meeting.
Next meeting is WEDNESDAY JUNE 1TH, 2010 from 3:00 - 7:00 pm at MSVU, Halifax. It is noted that Halifax is a difficult location for Michelle and others traveling from north of Truro. The officers have been charged to think about this issue and will figure this out.
• At the next meeting, let’s address our communications with government.
• The committees agree to send their work to the board in advance of mtg., if possible.
• The contact list (phone and email) for the board will be sent out by Linda and Ralph.