Thursday, 12 May 2016

Resolution amendments announcement

Following the recent NFWI Board of Trustees meeting, we can announce that the six proposed amendments to the 2016 resolutions were not accepted.  Each WI has been contacted to explain the reasons behind these decisions.   An amendment is a proposal to alter the wording or details of a resolution without affecting the principle of the resolution. An amendment must be clearly worded to show exactly which part of the resolution it is proposed to alter. In order to meet the criteria, an amendment must not materially change a resolution. It should enhance it, whilst retaining the original objective.   WIs only need to consider an amendment if it is accepted by the NFWI Board to go to the AM. This means that this year WIs do not need to discuss any amendments.

Following this, please note that the wording of the resolutions under debate at this year’s Annual Meeting in Brighton on 11 June remain unchanged as follows:

Avoid food waste, address food poverty
The WI calls on all supermarkets to sign up to a voluntary agreement to avoid food waste, thereby passing surplus food on to charities thus helping to address the issue of increasing food poverty in the UK.

Appropriate care in hospitals for people with dementia
We call upon HM Government and the NHS to provide facilities to enable carers to stay with people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia that have been admitted into hospital.

What happens next?
If you haven’t already had your resolutions meeting, please remember that all WIs get one vote for each resolution, and need to vote for or against each resolution. This means that WIs can vote for both resolutions if they support them both, or against both if they support neither. WIs should not vote for one resolution over the other, but need to look at both resolutions independently and vote for or against each of them. If both resolutions achieve a majority of votes for, then the NFWI will pass both resolutions, and the NFWI will campaign on both issues.

About the resolutions process
The WI resolutions process is truly democratic; every single issue that the WI has worked on since 1915 has come from members’ own concerns.  Every resolution is written by WI members themselves; the NFWI offers advice and help if needed, but please remember that every resolution is written by WI members who wish to tackle a particular issue or concern that they want to highlight and change.

Every campaign is proposed by WI members, and then the whole membership debates and votes throughout the year-long WI resolutions process.  This year long process ensures that each member has the chance to be involved and consider the options; it really is democracy in action.  Every planned campaign seeks to enable members to work locally to evoke a national change; working with fellow members, their wider community and MPs, depending on the topic under discussion.

Campaigning locally
Whilst the NFWI resolutions process is the national framework enabling members to engage with campaigning and Public Affairs, every single federation and WI can propose, select, and vote for their own local campaigns – WIs have been working on local issues that are important to their own communities since the very first meetings were held over 100 years ago. 

Review of the resolutions process
Over the past few months, the NFWI Public Affairs team and committee have been looking at the process and considering whether it could be altered to allow even more members to get involved and truly engage in WI campaigns, and to enable the organisation to do even more positive work.  All WIs will be contacted over the next few months to ask for their views on campaigning and the resolution process through this consultation, and feedback will be shared with be shared after the Autumn National Council meeting later in the year.


  1. Please could you list the amendment wordings here as they may provide Federations with ideas for their own campaigning.

  2. “Avoid food waste, address food poverty
    The WI calls on all those involved in the UK food supply system to take action to avoid food waste, and to address the issue of increasing food poverty in the UK. ”
    ​The Amendment has been proposed by Ashley Green WI, seconded by Beaconsfield, and submitted to National who will debate it at their May Board of Trustees Meeting. While this means that we don't need other WIs as 'official' seconders, it is nevertheless noted in my communication with NFWI Public Affairs that other WIs were supportive of the amendment. Why do we need this amendment?
    Ashley Green and Beaconsfield WIs felt that while the headline of the original amendment was very strong, the actual resolution was not.
    Supermarkets have for the most part signed up to the Courtauld 2025 Commitment on food waste. Supermarkets are already very adept at minimising waste – it is in their financial best interest to do so and waste figures for supermarkets are just over 1% of total food waste ‘from farm to fork’. Supermarkets are also very good at passing food waste either up the food supply system to producers and growers or down the chain to us the consumers. These are some of the reasons Ashley Green voted to broaden the Resolution to take in other agencies in the food supply system.
    Ashley Green and Beaconsfield WIs also voted to broaden the second part of the Resolution. Members felt that food charities are only a part of the solution to food poverty. While distributing food to Fareshare, the Trussell Trust and smaller, local charities is a valuable course of action, these charities are there to provide emergency help and more measures are needed to tackle food poverty at its roots.
    Ashley Green and Beaconsfield members are concerned that these weakness in the Resolution as it stands will be identified by several WIs in May and that they may as a result instruct their delegates to vote against it. This would mean the WI as an organisation would lose a valuable opportunity to take action on these issues. If the Amendment is approved by NFWI and the original proposer we would therefore request that – if not its wording – the fact that an Amendment is likely to be debated be publicised to WIs in time for May meetings. After all, if they are unaware of this they may not think to vote to give their delegates a discretionary vote.
    We are aware that this amendment extends the reach of the original Resolution and may not therefore satisfy the original proposer. However in our view the proposed wording does not prevent us from campaigning first or even predominantly on the issue of supermarkets’ food waste, and nor does it prevent the WI from calling for them and others to assign food to food charities.

    Hilary Haworth
    Chair, Education and Current Affairs
    Buckinghamshire Federation of Women’s Institutes

  3. Thank you to whoever posted my own amendment, but I would like National to post details of the other five rejected yesterday please.

  4. It seems to me that the flaw in the system is that many WIs do not have the skillset to word "SMART" resolutions. Ideas are good but they need expert guidance. The second problem is the lengthy timescale of the whole process which means that resolutions are overtaken by events, a problem highlighted by the supermarket emphasis of the food resolution. (I am not Hilary Howarth!)

    1. SMART would be good - but they need to be Necessary too!

  5. It's unfortunate that the "What Happens Next" makes no mention of the importance of voting to allow discretion to the WI's representative. There's widespread ignorance and confusion about this important option: why is it left out above? A conspiracy theorist might wonder whether an excess of well-informed democracy would embarrass the folk at 104?

  6. (Just a practical note: there's a clock wrong somewhere in the system, as I've added a post above at 09:08 UK time and it shows as 01:08!)

  7. A piece I wrote in the wake of the 2015 Annual Meeting. Sadly still relevant now.
    Failing to Vote – what went wrong with the 2015 resolution?
    An exciting debate at the Centenary Annual Meeting resulted in the rejection of the Failing to Care Resolution. During the Resolution selection process this Resolution had been the hands down winner nationally. So how did the Resolution everyone wanted in December, which left others dead in the water at the Selection stage, become the Resolution nobody wanted in June?
    Do WI Resolutions have to be ‘SMART’?
    Anna Kidd had argued strongly that the Resolution if adopted would reflect badly on the WI as an organisation because its goals were not ‘SMART’. While this view seemed to catch the feeling of the meeting, do we want to make that the yardstick for our campaigning in the future?
    I think it safe to say that all of the WIs best Resolutions have all been Relevant. (At least at the time of their inception; the one about knicker elastic c.1958 may have had its day!) It is also true that in recent years a small number have definitely been rejected because they were not Specific enough. But can we really say that our resolutions need to be Measurable, Attainable and Time-Bound?
    Some of our best one haven’t - Not SOS for Honey Bees – nor Fair Deal for Milk Farmers. Both these have grown and changed over time as scientific understanding moves on, or as the economic situation shifts. I would argue that the broad sweep of these Resolutions has been their strength.
    I cannot agree that WI Resolutions should have to model themselves on business proposals - and I speak as a recovering business consultant. Target setting is great for business – but not necessarily for big issues of educating and campaigning. And target setting can very quickly lead to box ticking.
    One of the strengths of a WI Mandate could indeed be the fact that it is open ended and not Time- bound. Imagine if the 1943 AGM had called for its Resolution on Equal Pay to be delivered in two years, five years – or even ten. That Resolution actually took 27 years to be enshrined in law in the Equal Pay Act in 1970. To my way of thinking that makes the WI an organisation of visionaries rather than one of slack time managers.
    Consider another business graphic – the Time Cost Quality triangle. The idea of this is to remind project managers that they can’t expect to adjust one of the factors without affecting the others.
    As a campaigning organisation, if we design our deliverables to be achieved in a clear time frame will we not be tempted also to scale back the reach and power of our proposals?
    And will not those institutions and individuals from whom we are demanding action be led to say quietly to themselves: ‘Never mind, if I do nothing they will go away in a few years anyway?’

  8. part 2: I do think we should challenge ourselves to be SMARTer in one area – and that is in the design and management of the Resolution Selection, Briefing and voting processes. How did a Resolution that attracted nearly 37% of the votes cast by WI members in my county of Buckinghamshire at Selection meetings, get so decisively rejected at the AGM? This 37% of individual votes, incidentally, was magnified by our own version of first-past-the-post, constituency-based balloting, to a majority of 59.63% of those Institutes who voted a preference.
    NFWI were talking, Resolutions Advisors were talking, but who was listening?
    It’s not as if objections to the wording of the Resolution were concealed from the membership by National. Several of the points made by Proposer and Seconder of the Move to Next Business Motion featured in the Selection Briefing pack sent out to Federations in the Autumn of 2014. For example:
    • The resolution is not in keeping with the policy direction of other major health charities and think-tanks, particularly the Alzheimer’s Society, which is calling for NHS Continuing Care to be better promoted, not merged with social care
    • The resolution does not address the wider problem of finding a sustainable solution to paying for the social care needs of millions of people into the 21st century; there is a risk that the NFWI could look out of touch on the issue by calling for an impractical and unworkable ‘solution’ to the funding challenge.
    How did it come to pass that these points, however well made at the AGM, were what swung the feeling of the meeting on June 4th? when the very same arguments had not influenced the Resolution Selection process sufficiently?
    My own take on this is that the WIs vote on a headline rather than the detailed wording, so weaknesses only become apparent too late. Also the Selection process can become adversarial. Representatives of WIs who attend selection meetings receive the briefing notes and are able briefly to question speakers, but generally go away with a ‘feel’ for the view of that meeting as to the strongest proposals which could be quite subjectively based on the speakers’ skills in persuasion.
    The process is further diluted by the level of rigour at the Resolution meetings in the Institutes. Posts on the Unofficial WI facebook page suggest that several WIs didn’t even realise they had to vote to instruct a delegate how to vote in June, having ‘unanimously’ or overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Failing to Care Resolution at their Selection meetings in November – January:
    “My WI is refusing to hold a vote for the resolution as they say it was voted for when we chose in January. I am certain another vote needs to cast when the final resolution is selected. Even clarification with Fed hasn't convinced them. So how do I, as delegate, vote for us at the AGM?”
    It is also clear from Facebook postings that the procedure was not understood – since many of those proposing ‘fixes’ to the process come up with precisely the stages and timings that are already in place.

  9. part 3 Was the Vote safe?
    I am quite sure it was the view of the meeting on June 4th that the Resolution be rejected. If it had made it past the Next Business vote then I suspect it would have been voted out at that stage. It probably does not matter therefore, if some members voted incorrectly - in that they had specific voting instructions on the resolution from their WI and therefore should not have voted to move on to next business. However we would have had more assurance on this if the rules had been clarified just before the vote to move on (as our Chair promised to do) and if a show of hands had been taken of those delegates who had been given discretion by their Institutes.
    What is to be done?
    Rightly or wrongly several of the newer WIs and members use facebook much more than they consult either WI Advisers or printed material from National. We are danger of becoming split as an organisation with both sides yelling as hard as they can either side of a sound-proof wall. The organisation has to engage with these WIs so that next year’s resolution selection, briefing and voting process is clear and inclusive.