A Fruitful Discussion: A Response to the Report of the IPEd Review Phase Two Working Party

This is an edited version of a speech made at the IPEd Conference in Fremantle, 12 April 2013.

First, thanks to the IPEd Council and the two working parties for all the time and thought they have put into this review.

The report presents two models for the structure of the federation. We have before us an apple and an orange.

  • The apple, Model 1, proposes a reduced scope of activity and the existing structure, funded by an annual per capita contribution of $25-50.
  • The orange, Model 2, proposes the existing scope of activity but a totally new structure, funded by a per capita contribution of $100-150.

Get that? Less activity, same structure, $50, or same activity, new structure, $150.

Let me offer you a peach: IPEd continues with its existing structure and activities, funded by a per capita contribution of $150-200.  

To put that sum in proportion, I remind you that many of us paid $90 to attend the conference dinner.

This report identifies the burnout of volunteers as one of the main problems facing IPEd. Curiously, it then makes nine recommendations (p. 4), every one of which requires substantial volunteer input. All this 'seeking feedback' and 'engaging societies and their members in discussion' - can you imagine the email traffic this is going to generate?

Now suppose we find the volunteers to do the work needed to implement these nine recommendations. Suppose the vote is eventually put, and Model 2 is chosen. We will then embark on a whole lot more research, position papers, seeking and analysing feedback etc.

Not only is it an awful lot of work, but it repeats work done just a few years ago by the National Organisation Working Group and CASE. I was involved in a small way in creating the present constitution and obtaining approval for it. Do you realise what's involved? Do we really have the energy to devise and find acceptance for and set up a totally new organisation? And to what benefit? I fear the result will be a bright, shiny, reinvented wheel, and another 20 or 30 burnt-out volunteers - and no advance in the profession of editing.

Moreover, if we push ahead with the recommendations, we run some serious risks.

  • IPEd could be paralysed with all this research and consultation and busywork which could absorb its capacity for years.
  • One or more of the societies could split or withdraw from IPEd as a result of the decision to pursue Model 2, so we could end up worse off than we are now.

We all want the same thing: IPEd functioning and representing editors effectively. We need an achievable plan. We need manageable, incremental change. Here it is:

The IPEd Council should establish a business case and a process for raising the per capita contribution to a realistic level (including indexation) and obtain consensus for it.

The business case must show that higher fees will result in improved services. The process will be some systematic, practical method of implementing the increase, whether all in one hit or staged over two or three years. And indexation is essential: otherwise we'll have a fight every few years over the need to raise fees.

This plan doesn't close off any options. It solves the immediate problems and allows for further incremental change. For instance, once the money is coming in, the council could look at setting up a national newsletter, or a national website, or a national freelance register - or all three. This would have two benefits: ?

  • It would reduce the burden on the societies and reduce duplication and waste.
  • It would start to develop a national consciousness among editors so they get out of their state silos and feel part of a national profession.

Once that groundwork has been done, IPEd might evolve over two or five or 10 years to a point where Model 2 becomes inevitable. Or maybe not. It doesn't matter. What we need to do now is solve the immediate problems without closing off future options. I repeat, the IPEd Council should establish a business case for raising fees and persuade the members that it's worth it.

Janet Mackenzie