Navca conference special: Vote 'will increase membership'

Nathalie Thomas

Navca's membership is set to double over the next five years following a decision at its AGM in Coventry last week to allow local infrastructure organisations to become full members.

These organisations had previously been able to join the umbrella organisation only as affiliates - a position that did not allow them any voting powers.

All local infrastructure organisations, including learning and skills consortia, community empowerment networks and BME infrastructure organisations, will now be granted full member status. Navca believes this could boost membership from 350 to 700 by 2011.

The decision was the result of a second attempt in two years by trustees to broaden the organisation's scope. The plan was contested at last year's AGM and was defeated by two votes. This year it got support from 97 per cent of members.

Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca, believes last year's doubters were comforted by the new proposal that only those local infrastructure organisations that work in partnership with each other will be accepted.

"The trustees of Navca have made a clear commitment that they won't admit organisations that don't collaborate at the local level," he said. "If organisations subvert each other's efforts, if they don't plan together to overcome inefficiencies and waste in order to give the best possible service to local voluntary groups, they won't be permitted to join."

Curley admitted that many members will be competing for funds but said that should not prevent collaboration. "Competition is not the opposite of collaboration," he said. "People can be collaborative but still recognise that, in the real world, there are limited pots of money and they're going to compete for both local money and local contracts."

He added that the small minority of Voluntary Service Councils that continue to resist a wider membership will have to face up to that reality.

Navca is defining 'local infrastructure organisation' as a body that is owned or controlled by local voluntary and community groups. "In other words, there has to be a democratic system in place, which means that the committee or board of the organisation answers to a local membership made up of local voluntary groups," Curley said.

KEY POINTS

- At the Navca AGM in Coventry last week, delegates voted to allow local infrastructure groups to join the organisation

- Such groups had previously been allowed to join only as affiliates

- Navca says the move could increase membership from 350 to 700 by 2011

- The proposal was voted down at last year's AGM. This year it got the support of 97 per cent of members.

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