Body Positive chair Ashley Barratt The chair of Body Positive has today emphatically refuted suggestions by a group of the organisation's members that the board has been less than transparent in its decision making and that it is insufficiently responsive to its membership. The suggestions appear to be behind a fifty-signature members' petition presented to the board last evening calling on Body Positive to hold a special general meeting to consider a motion of no confidence in the board. It is understood the aim of the petition is to force the board to resign. Chair Ashley Barratt, who today said he has seen the petition but has not yet had an opportunity to speak directly with his fellow board members or any of the signatories, believes the board is acting in accordance with a strategic plan agreed to by members. “The plan that we are actually delivering is a plan that was agreed to three years ago, so members have known about that plan since then. And at the last AGM we made a very specific attempt to link the conversation back to the strategic plan and the activities that fall out from that. Last year we ran a survey linking back to the strategic plan and the elements of it and we had a very statistical result with, I believe, over half of the members responding and feedback was overwhelmingly positive in terms of the actions we were taking and the direction the board was leading the organisation in. So I totally refute the assertion that the board has not kept members informed. I totally refute that.” Funding insecurity has been given by the board as the main reason it is in the process of shutting its two-year old Wellington office and relinquishing part of its Auckland space. “People need to understand that with the exception of the Ministry of health funding all of our funding is basically contestable and we compete against all of the other agencies. The key point is that Body Positive isn't an agency of last resort and we're not funded as an agency of last resort. Many of the the agencies that people allude to are funded as agencies of last resort and so it is very difficult for Body Positive to secure funding for salaries and operational overheads. Like most glbti community organisations Body Positive has long operated on piecemeal funding cobbled together from grant applications and donations. “What we have tended to do is to take a punt and believe that we can raise funding from charitable donations, trust applications and other [sources],” says Barratt. “Most of those are tied to specific programmes, projects and initiatives. But it is getting increasingly difficult to get people to fund overheads and salaries. That is the reality of the situation. It is getting harder.” That said, Barratt advises that Body Positive has just received "a two-year commitment of international funding for a new programme of support activities in recognition of the work we do. This is a significant win for Body Positive as an agency." As to a suggestion made to GayNZ.com Daily News that the Ministry of Health had specifically provided a measure of funding for the Wellington office, Barratt says that is not the case. “Certainly we did discuss that with the Ministry when we last approached them for an increase in our funding. He increase we got isn't in fact tagged to a particular location. The Ministry were very clear to say that their funding around public health is to run a national service. So, no, the funding is not for Wellington specifically. And of the suggestion understood to be behind the petition that the board is not sufficiently engaged with the organisation's membership, Barratt says emphatically: “I refute that.” “We've actually been more engaged in seeking the views of members than has been historically the case. The board has taken a decision to have a members survey annually, the first one was last year. Over the last couple of years we've included in our board meeting agenda a session for members to present issues to us. In terms of where we are leading this organisation I can't imagine that we can be more transparent. Does the Body Positive board believe it's role is to lead the membership or to carry out its wishes? “The role of the board is to set the strategic direction and to get members to vote in the board based on the strategic direction and the board ultimately has to have accountability to that.” If Body Positive as an organisation is in a state of change is that a significant driver of the current discontent? “I think that's probably likely to be the case. I think the board has been reasonably open to the fact that the new future for Body Positive is a different future to the way Body Positive was in the past. What we are doing is transforming the organisation to be an advocacy and support organisation which is contemporary to the issues of members and society in New Zealand right now. I don't think the board has any qualms about [being open about] the fact that we are transforming Body Positive. I've personally had many people coming to me to endorse the fact that we are changing." Now that the board has been presented with the petition Barratt says the board "needs to respond to that petition from members and to arrange for a special general meeting. The board may choose to put its own resolution forward. Our next board meeting is next Saturday so it's my expectation that we will make a decision on what is to be tabled on behalf of the board at that meeting. "It's unclear in terms of the petition as to what their intention is. There is no resolution and, until we see a resolution, we can't table a notice of Special General Meeting because at the moment we don't know what the resolution is that we are meeting to resolve." "The Board remains committed to ensuring the long term sustainability of Body Positive and to ensure it delivers to the needs of a contemporary agency to providing support and advocacy to people living with HIV and the wider community," Barratt says. "As Chairperson I am proud of what the Board has achieved."
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News
First published: Saturday, 19th September 2015 - 9:08pm
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