Democracy and efficiency in an organisation

What torture the committee spares you.

The BeeHolder, Spring 2012

Have you noticed that many articles in the BeeHolder come from the magazines of other Associations? Editors of many local Bee magazines share their works and get an opportunity to see how other BeeKeeping Associations (BKAs) are managed. When I was editor of the Beeholder I thoroughly enjoyed contrasting how various BKAs were organised. Indeed examining how other organisations were run was more fascinating than most bee articles. Similarly, as one of Montgomeryshire’s representatives on the Council of the Welsh Beekeepers Association, I find the opportunity to compare and contrast our own MBKA with the other 18 BKAs in Wales far more interesting than the running of the WBKA itself.

Some Welsh BKAs insist that all their members are involved with every discussion and resolution of the Council of the Welsh Beekeepers Association. On the one hand this is an admirable piece of democracy. On the other hand it slows decision making because too many delegates are saying “I will have to go back to consult my members”. I would not inflict compulsory attendance at a WBKA meeting on my worst enemy. It is torture. The only thing that keeps some awake is amusement at the incipient bitchiness of the formal part of the meeting. Chats over coffee are more interesting, friendly and productive.

I ask, not entirely rhetorically, whether we want our Montgomeryshire meetings to examine all discussions and resolutions of the Welsh Beekeepers Association. Personally I think it would drive many asleep or to drink or to ignore our meetings altogether. Those who want to follow discussions can always ask Maggie for a copy of the minutes etc of the WBKA to be forwarded to them. Similarly should anybody want to see minutes of our own MBKA committee meetings, Maggie will again forward them on. Our tradition in Montgomeryshire has been for members to trust committee members and for the committee to give plenipotentiary rights to representatives on the WBKA. I should put on record here that I received far more praise than criticism for having our AGM over in 10 minutes. Everybody had had the reports and documents weeks in advance and many took up the invitation to raise queries with the officers by email and phone rather than clutter up a meeting with points of clarification.

The survival of any bee colony depends on having the right ratio of foragers to nurse bees. If through bad weather, disease, bad husbandry or genetics the ratio is put out of balance then the hive fails. And so it is with BeeKeeping Associations. Too much communication about organisation rather than about bees and the Association will collapse. Too many decisions taken without monitoring and feedback from the members and the Association will similarly collapse.

Do moan and whinge and complain, don’t hold back - but do suggest - and advise as well; and just occasionally say something nice to oil the wheels.

Tony Shaw