IPEd Explained

In February 2015, Julie Ganner, IPEd Councillor for New South Wales, gave a presentation to the New South Wales Society's meeting on progress of the IPEd working party towards creating a model for a national organisation of editors with direct membership. Her report was published in the members newsletter, Blue Pencil, and is reproduced here with minor amendments. If you haven't really understood IPEd before, or its relationship with the societies, or what this whole transition business is all about, read on. Our feedback on the Green Papers is sought by 21 June.

Before I took over this role from Owen Kavanagh in September last year, my only direct involvement with the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) had been with the national accreditation scheme, as an assessor. Beyond that - probably like most of you - I had only a sketchy idea of how IPEd operates and the scale of its endeavours.

For those members who have joined only fairly recently - and as a refresher for the rest of us too - I will start by giving a quick overview of how IPEd was formed, its structure and what it has achieved so far.

History and Structure of IPEd

Before IPEd was formed, there were (as there are now) seven individual state and territory societies of editors: Canberra, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

In 1998, a peak national body was formed called CASE - the Council of Australian Societies of Editors - to bring them all together and make it possible to undertake national projects to benefit our industry.

CASE was an informal association that operated by cooperation among the presidents of the societies of editors. However, to be an effective peak body for the profession it needed to become a more formal, legal entity, and so in early 2008 CASE was replaced by the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.

In its present form, IPEd does not have individual members. Instead, each of the seven societies is a member of IPEd, and we individual editors are members of it only indirectly, through our societies.

IPEd is governed by a council that is made up of one representative from each of the seven societies of editors. Each council representative is also a director of IPEd. We meet by teleconference on one Sunday morning each month.

IPEd's Initiatives So Far

Since its beginnings as CASE, IPEd has completed a number of major projects to improve the standing and recognition of editing as a profession in Australia. The first of these was the development of Australian standards for editing practice. This sets out the core standards that professional editors are expected to meet, tells clients what they should expect from the editors they hire and shows new editors the range of skills and knowledge they should be aiming for.

The Standards also forms the basis for the national accreditation exam. CASE spent 10 years researching and developing the accreditation scheme before it was approved by the membership. The first exam was held in 2008 and the exams have been held every year or two ever since, with the first round of renewals taking place in 2013.

IPEd also sponsors a program of national conferences, hosted every two years by the member societies in rotation. The first of these was held in Brisbane in 2003. This year's conference, called write ? edit ? index, was held in Canberra this May, and then it will be back to Queensland again in 2017.

IPEd's other functions include maintaining a link on the IPEd website to the registers of freelance editors on each state society's website. It also awards an annual prize for an essay or paper written as part of a postgraduate degree in editing or publishing, the IPEd Prize. IPEd promotes links with sister organisations overseas, such as the Editors' Association of Canada (EAC), the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) in the UK, the Professional Editors' Group (PEG) in South Africa and the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS).

The Need for Change

So far, so good. However, by 2012, IPEd had become concerned about its ability in the long term to meet the needs of the societies and their members. Currently, we all pay IPEd a small levy, via our society, as part of our annual membership fees. The level of funding IPEd receives through this is currently just enough to pay for the accreditation program, the IPEd Prize and updating the Standards, but not much else. It does not allow IPEd to advocate for and promote the editing profession at the level that a national industry organisation should be able to, and this needs to be addressed if IPEd is to keep going and provide us with the support we will need in the future.

Moreover, both IPEd and the societies rely heavily on the work of volunteers to be able to function. This not only limits how much IPEd can do but also creates a high attrition rate, as volunteers tend to burn out. IPEd was concerned that if this continued, its work would slowly grind to a halt and eventually it might not be able to operate at all.

IPEd therefore decided that it needed to increase its funding so that it could start employing paid contractors to fill some of the main roles within the organisation. This would not only reduce the reliance on volunteers and the burden on the society committees, but also allow it to be seen as a more professional and businesslike organisation. This would help to give IPEd the higher profile it needs in the publishing industry to allow it to work for us more effectively.

IPEd then began a review of its financial viability and structure, including the reliance on volunteers and the need that some of the smaller societies, in particular, may have for help with administration. IPEd consulted the societies and invited all individual members to complete a survey about what they need from an industry organisation for it to represent them adequately. The feedback from this process led to the development of three possible future models for IPEd: it could remain as is, with the current level of funding; it could just increase the membership levy to raise the extra funds it needed; or it could both increase the cost of membership and become an individual membership organisation that editors join directly.

In November 2013, the members of the societies were asked to vote on which of these three options they would like to see developed further into a formal plan for IPEd's future. The majority of members opted for the national direct membership model, with the current societies becoming branches of the national body.

Since then, IPEd has been developing a detailed plan for the transition of member societies to the direct membership model, which, when it is complete, we will be invited to vote on.

Working Party 4 (WP4) was set up to manage the development of this plan and the transition of IPEd to direct membership should it be approved. WP4 consists of five project teams, made up of volunteers and a paid project manager, from across all the societies of editors:

  • Legal and Governance, which is drafting a revised constitution for IPEd and also the by-laws by which the branches would be governed
  • Finance and Operations, which is planning the details of how the transition would come about and also how IPEd would operate financially under direct membership, such as its banking and accounting functions
  • Membership, which is outlining the various membership levels and the fee structure that would be offered to us
  • Communications, which is concerned with creating a centralised website, a national newsletter and social media functions for the organisation
  • Professional Development, which is looking at how meetings, mentoring, training workshops and other resources can be provided more equitably across all of the branches, given the differences in size and location of the various societies across Australia. It also aims to take on some of the administrative work for the branch committees, to relieve pressure on volunteers, while still giving each branch full control over the activities and events it runs.

How Would the Direct Membership Model Work?

The national body would be made up of the national council or board of directors; the branches and branch committees; and the members of the national organisation (us), organised in branches based on our geographical location, with the option to also form special interest groups according to the types of work editors do.

Six paid positions would also be created after transition takes place:

  • an executive officer, who will look after the operational management of IPEd
  • a company secretary, who will deal with the daily admin
  • a membership officer, who will look after applications and renewals
  • a communications officer, who will be responsible for the website, newsletter, social media and other information releases
  • a professional development officer, who will support the professional development activities of the branches
  • a finance officer, who will look after banking, payments, accounting and financial reports.

The contractors, some of whom may undertake dual or multiple positions, will be working from a virtual office, not a physical one.

The national council would be responsible for the overall planning, policies and governance of IPEd, and for approving new members and rescinding membership (if that is ever necessary).

The branches would continue much of the same work as the societies do now, such as organising events and workshops. They would also provide information to IPEd for the national website and newsletter, but the main accounting, banking, membership and communications functions would now be taken care of directly by IPEd.

Individual membership would be automatically transferred to IPEd and we would be assigned a branch by default, based on our residential address. For example, Editors Victoria would become the Victorian branch of IPEd, and members would be transferred to this branch automatically on transition to the direct membership model. If this is not convenient, a member can always transfer to a different branch of their choice, or even a 'virtual' national branch.

The Process from Here

The WP4 teams have been working on a detailed plan for how each of their areas would work under the direct membership model. The teams all completed the first drafts of their green papers outlining these plans, and these were considered by the committees of the seven societies earlier this year. Based on their feedback, the green papers were revised and then released to all individual members. When everyone has had a good chance to consider  these plans and submit any feedback (by 21 June) for WP4 to make its final revisions, the final white papers will be released and the eligible voting members of each society (according to each society's constitution) will be invited to vote on whether to go ahead with the transition to a direct membership model.

IPEd is aiming to have all the feedback from you, the members, in to your committees in June for further consideration by the working party teams. Non-voting members are also urged to send their feedback as the Working Party wishes to take all views into account. A date for the vote has not been set yet, as it will depend on whether more time is needed for the final revisions, but at the moment the voting process is expected to begin sometime in the second half of this year, probably September or October.

If transition is approved then the societies will ultimately be wound up and become branches of IPEd, transferring their funds and member records to IPEd to be looked after by the national body from then on. The contractors will be hired and a new council will be appointed from members of the branches.

For the individual members, all current membership categories will transfer to the equivalent category for full or professional and associate members. Student or concessional categories will be assessed against the new national criteria that IPEd has drawn up, and any new categories of membership that IPEd has created will need to be applied for.

The national register of editorial services for professional members will be administered through the membership system and accessible through the IPEd website. It will be organised by branch and be searchable nationally through fields such as key words, subject specialties and services offered. An annual subscription fee will be charged to those wishing to be listed, at about the same price as it is now (for those societies that charge an additional fee).

Members one of any branch will be able to participate in other branches' activities if they wish - for example, workshops or seminars. The national model will also allow members to access articles and other information that has been generated by other branches, via the website and in the national newsletter.

What Needs to Happen for the Direct Membership Model to Go Through?

Approval to go ahead with the transition to direct membership will require a 'yes' vote by at least 75% of those eligible voting members who cast a vote. A special general meeting of IPEd will then be held for each councillor to record their society's vote. A councillor whose society members vote to approve must cast their vote in favour of the transition plan, while any councillor whose society members do not approve must cast their vote against the motion. Each society is allocated a number of votes according to its total society membership. Effectively, this means that for the transition to proceed, a number of societies whose combined membership is 75% or more of total society membership nationally must approve the plan.

Even if there are sufficient votes overall for the transition to go ahead, it is possible that one or more societies will elect not to join IPEd, but instead continue as a separate entity. If this happens, members of those societies will be given a chance to vote again within a few months. If they still reject the direct membership model after this second vote, their society will cease to be a member of IPEd. However, no one is left out: any individual members who want to join will still be given the opportunity to do so by transferring their membership to another branch.

What are the Benefits to Members of the Direct Membership Model?

We would have a national organisation that can speak for Australian editors with a single, powerful voice and present a unified image of our profession. Having a unified national body to represent us would also bring us in line with other English-speaking countries such as the UK and Canada. These countries already have a national organisation to represent their editors, and these organisations have been operating successfully for a number of years, so we do know that having a national organisation works. A stronger IPEd would also increase our ability to form links and share resources with these overseas bodies as well as with other Australian organisations, and so improve the standing of our editors both nationally and internationally.

On the national level, having a unified organisation would also increase our ability as editors to share resources and experiences across the country. The IPEd website and national newsletter would be able to provide members with information about the professional development opportunities and other resources being offered right across the country, and through our international affiliations, rather just those of our own branch.

Having a centralised IPEd website would be convenient not just for membership application and renewals but also registration for events and activities, including those held by other branches if we wish to attend them. Because functions could be shared more efficiently across the branches, IPEd would be able to provide services for all branches as equitably as possible, including things like training and mentoring support. The savings made through economies of scale, which would reduce running costs, would result in more funds being available for developing training and other professional development activities to support our members throughout their careers.

Finally, centralising some of the administration functions through paid staff would lighten the workload of our volunteers, and so (we hope!) make it more attractive for members to become involved with their local committee.

The decision on whether or not to become a single national body is a very important one. Whichever way we decide to vote, our choice will have a significant impact on our profession and ourselves as individual members. I would therefore urge everyone to consider the green papers very carefully.

Most importantly, please make sure you vote!

Julie Ganner
Vice-president, Society of Editors (NSW), and IPEd Councillor