Chair: Josie Underwood

Minutes: Alistair Cope

Present: Alistair Cope, Josie Underwood, Paul Carey Jones, Vicki Mortimer, Jake Orr

Apologies: Peter McKintosh, Bill BJ, Paule Constable, Mimi Doulton

Anti-racism statement was read out loud to the group.

Values two and ten were read out.

Updates and reports

We opened with a chat about gaps in work and how they are feeling stronger/bigger than before the pandemic. ‘Even being a success in a failing industry often feels like individual failure’

Continuing last week’ conversation…

VM – It was interesting reading the transcript from last week (minutes were not taken). Even at a distance and reading them back you could see how there was a build up of feeling. Some of that may be different now after the GE. What I noticed is we are operating in a room that has essentially turned into a ‘family space.’ What we are trying to do is ‘open that up.’

As a group, we have become used to a certain tone of conversation that has become comfortable. We need to be open to being in an uncomfortable space. If we are serious about that we must look at what we may lose. We must be open to new people and new conversations. We must pre-imagine what it will be like to have new people in the space and ‘rehearse’ how we communicate and behave as a more open room. It is about behavior and making sure we are more inclusive about how we bring people into the space. This needs discussion. We need to be able to host a space with people who have different lived experiences. 

Chief Exec was brought up at the last meeting and Keith sent through some useful resources to us about boards and governance which is massively helpful. We need to think of a way to professionalize FMTW while maintaining its community ethos.

It is increasingly precarious to be ‘unprofessional’ as a sector.

JU – Your reference to this being a ‘family space’ feels very accurate. There is something radical about professionalizing a space that remains open, warm and accessible even if they have been in the space lots or for the first time. 

When I first started at FMTW I came in with a ‘new job’ hat on and wanted to be very professional. There are moments when I have found that difficult because there was a shared understanding about things that I was not aware of (acronyms etc).

When we go ahead with the Community Rep programme, we’ll need a basic level of accessibility but in a more professional way. 

VM – We can define what professional means in this context. It is almost a metaphor. Professionalism is clarity of structure and creating a genuine open and inclusive opportunity for any freelancer who wants to be part of the conversation. 

AC – I feel we had to have some of that ‘professionalism’ at the start of FMTW because there were so many people in the room and so many projects on. We have lost that over time due to the room becoming smaller and whiter. 

JO – We have been going through a long period of change (charity status, board reform etc). We have become a family which has enabled us to continue the work in a gentle way. However, as VM has said, we need to start acting in a way we want FMTW to be.

A small group of people are working tirelessly to make this change in the context of a huge time of difficulty within the industry. We are pushing against a model and it is incredibly draining. Through this period of change, we are going to have to go through uncomfortableness and this must be embraced. There has been change and we must recognise it. The next change (charity) is seismic and that change is happening. After we have conquered that hill, there will be another. I want to acknowledge that and also say that those of us who aren’t at every meeting because of the nature of our work can be the ones who are here to support those taking the heavy load.

VM – The word freelancer to me has changed from our ‘employment status’ to a collective feeling disenfranchised and not listened to.

To make it more ‘professional’ should the paid members of FMTW and the board meet regularly and then use the Friday meeting to report back? This would be the discussions about structure and moving forward. 

JU – The nature of our changing room has made these decisions hard to make. Where we currently are, and more so over the current period many people can’t commit to the wider Friday conversations and seem happier when proposals have been made by the paid members. 

AC – I am a big fan of this idea. Using the paid members and the board to really start some activity and movement would be like a mini FCR. I think this is part of the transition. We have to get a bit smaller as a decision making group in order to then get bigger again. Once people start seeing movement and decisions being made/proposed and action actually happening, I would like to think that that encourages people to come back into the space or feel welcomed in for the first time.

PCJ – I think the danger of any executive structure which is too dispersed is that it might inevitably ask too much of the board. The point of an executive individual or group is for the board to delegate their power, and that individual or group is answerable to the board – but takes the time pressure off the board (who let’s remember are unpaid by definition)

VM – I looked back at our anti-racism statement and it made me feel uncomfortable as we aren’t actually actively doing much of it. 

To recap – we are proposing a series of meetings between the board and those on payroll. For those meetings to be useful I would propose three out of the four of the board are available. The idea is that we would arrive at a proposed structure that we would take into the Friday group which would mean we need to revisit the freelance rep model.

The outcomes would be a structure of the central organisation and how we then bring in the wider FMTW group AND the wider freelancer community. 

JU – We need to look at how we recruit and diversify when bringing new people in. We need a recruitment process. A safe process that brings people into a safe room.

VM – When we recruited for the coordinator role that was a great and well thought through process. I’ve always felt that we would recruit for the first FCR ‘within the FMTW walls’ but use it as an opportunity to pilot the program and the recruitment process. 

AC – I think we need to bring the convo back to how we get us in ship-shape rather than jumping too far ahead to recruitment. 

VM – We need to bring anti-racism right into the heart of how we operate. 

On climate – I think we should absolutely create the resources for freelancers to use but we can’t say people ‘must’ as I don’t think we should be ‘directive.’ By signing the ‘we declare a climate emergency’ it feels we are quickly in a place where we are comfortably political, whereas would we feel the same within other spheres?

JU – If we sign it, we should be signing other things too. 

VM – A question for Al – could we put the climate resources live without signing the pledge.

AC – Absolutely, but we can sign the pledge on behalf of FMTW and sign other things we feel we should support (Calling for a ceasefire in Gaza). We aren’t claiming to speak on behalf of all freelancers, we are speaking on behalf of FMTW, as an organisation. As long as we are signing things that align with our values.

JU – We should launch the climate resources at the same time as the conflict resources. We are signposting, not creating the resources. 

PCJ – If – when – we get it wrong, who is answerable? Do we all resign en masse? I don’t think this can work without there being a much clearer power structure than we currently have. This is a great example of where a “horizontal power structure” just doesn’t work in practice. If one person disagrees on one statement, then we can’t sign any statement? Doesn’t work.

JU – Can we sign individually

VM – Sure. As an individual we can sign whatever we want. These feel like conversations that should happen within the wider conversation about structure. 

Given the complexity of the conflict section, there will be freelancers within our community who know more than any of us what is happening. If we can find a way of finding those people to bring all the resources together that would be great.

AC – Yes, absolutely. I’ve started building these areas with the thought of launching them all together. There are a lot of resources available for certain areas and not for others. My plan was to present a version of it to the group and then ask the wider community to help us build them out.

I’ve already presented the climate resources to those who have been involved in the conversations and it now needs to be looked at through the lens of FMTW values etc.

JU – I would also like to say that we haven’t said anything about the anti-trans rhetoric and also to highlight we used to do a lot of work on access.

VM – What is it we can do to ensure that we keep it all freelance focussed so it is helpful. 

AC – It should be part of FMTW that we ALL have regular training in anti-racism, unconscious bias training, access, carbon lit etc. We all should have that and then it be offered to anyone coming into the FCR program.

VM – This should all be part of our budgeting.

Proposal – going forward in these next meetings, would it be worth having someone to sit in each meeting with ‘antiracism’ glasses on? I want to see a shift in our transition as we move into a better structure. It is in our values and we should live by them.

Next board meeting is currently scheduled 22nd July. Can JU, PCJ and AC attend? Yes.

Currently this is ‘in-person’ at 7pm.

Action points: 

  • VM to check in with the board to see if they are okay with JU, PCJ and AC attending the next board meeting.
  • JU, PCJ, AC to make sure we have agenda points for that meeting

AOB 

Transcript from last week – does anyone have time to put them into ‘minute form?’ VM to have a look.

We must make sure there is always someone available to minute if someone is unwell.

Special mention to PCJ for not speaking for the entire meeting to save his voice