Post SI Network Annual Conference

Hi everyone especially those members who managed to make it to the Annual Conference at Aston University, Birmingham yesterday.

It was so good to be able to catch up with you and network, exchange ideas, evidence, practice – exactly what the SI Network is there for. The presentations were varied and all interesting to listen to with different take-home messages. Many congratulations too to all those of you who were awarded their Advanced SI Practitioner certificates and for those who were unable to make it. There were two new awards which were excellent to applaud.

The Chair also thanked the three Directors who had stood down/resigned from the Board on 31/3/17 – Amanda Adamson, Kathryn Smith and Gemma Cartwright. On a personal note, I would like to record my thanks to each them for their unique contributions, their passion, professionalism and drive in helping take forward occupational therapy and Ayres® Sensory Integration (the theory, assessment and therapy) at every level both nationally and internationally for SI Network. Those of us who have been privileged to be on the Board (and as a fellow lecturers) understand the commitment it has taken and the “Life Long” changes that happen along that journey!

Thank you to SI Network for having organised this day.

The SI Network board graciously invited me to an ‘Open Forum’ after the close of the Conference for a 50 minute facilitated discussion where our concerns could be put to the Board. It was not publicised so many members might not have been aware of this open forum. However, amongst those who attended (approximately 12 members), there were 5 past directors, including a fellow/past chair of the Network. Minutes were taken and will be published.

The discussion focused primarily on the legal basis that the Board is currently operating on. It was made clear that the Board has sought legal advice and, despite there having been the 2009 Articles of Association adopted by Special Resolution at a bona fide AGM and passed by a vote, the Board informed us that the Articles had not been filed at Companies House (which we understood but also had been advised that a properly constituted AGM and members’ vote does mean these 2009 Articles are legal). The current Directors informed us that without proper sign off, the original Constitution and Articles that the Board are now using, are the 2004 original version. We do dispute this – as much because the 2009 Articles of Association encompassed the ‘spirit’ and moral focus of the SI Network.

The reason for having drawn up a more detailed set of Articles in 2009 was to set out the operating detail of the Network –  the assets, management, election/terms of office, number and accountability of the Directors to the members. This was to avoid any ambiguity in the future.  It clearly set out that the Network was a membership organisation run by the members for the members. What the Board at the time had sought to avoid, appears to now be a reality. The current Board have taken these decisions in order that the SI Network is not vulnerable.

Further questions put to the Board tried to establish to whom the Directors and the Chair were accountable to, as the Board are apparently ‘the members’. This question was not clearly answered.

Several of those present gave examples of the lack of communication and explanation to the members about what appeared to be significant changes, the reputation of the SI Network and particularly about the fundamental changes to the Directors and membership of the Board; of particular concern was the lack of communication about the resignations of three Board members in March, and that this had left no occupational therapists on the Board.

The meeting finished at 17h00, due to the room not being available after that time and travel commitments. The opportunity to put concerns to the Board was much appreciated, in the absence of any forum, such as an AGM, since 2014. Clearly, how the Board addresses accountability and two-way communication to the Network ‘members’ needs to be urgently considered.

Update: A follow-up personal letter from the Chair acknowledged that a number of issues had been raised and, with time constraints, there had not been time to fully explore and examine these issues; to be assured that the Board will continue the conversation with us.  I thank the Chair for the open forum initial discussion.

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