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Board Minutes, May 25th, 2016

May 25th, 2016

Media Co-op Board Meeting

 

Present: David (for first agenda point), Ashley, Geordie, Darryl, Tami, Vanessa, Roddy, Arielle

 

Agenda:


1. David will join us to discuss fundraising ideas for a new website

1. a. Contract/Commission based fundraising positions

2. Summer Student Hiring Committee

3. Discussion of restructuring employee positions and the future of Arielle's role at the Media Co-op

3. a. Motions to raise Administrator’s (Arielle Friedman’s) wage to $18/hr and backpay her for 30 hours of overtime at this wage.

3. b. Proposal to pay Billie and Ashley over four month period

4. Invoice Tracking

4. a. Financial Management Workshop, provided by Sharmeen 

5. Special Issue Update

6. Launch Parties and distribution

7. Collaborating with MARG on a new job position

8. Organizing the AGM

9. Other business

 

1. David’s Fundraising Ideas:

We need a new website because ours is out-of-date and is not user friendly. Many people have complained about the website and stated that it’s not accessible and that we would get more people using it if we modernized it. The process of designing a new website should be consultative. David has access to a grant that he can apply to for fundraising for this project and is willing to apply for us. He’s also a new member of the Toronto Media Co-op (TMC).

Discussion:

Website is a barrier to recruiting more people because it is not accessible or user friendly.

Drupal has issues. It would be up to us and other contributors to figure out whether we want to continue with it as a platform or change to a newer, more modern platform (ie. Wordpress).

Updating Drupal would be cheaper and a good idea for the short term, but redesign on a different platform would have more long term benefits. Drupal uses an older language and the website hasn’t been redesigned for 12 years. We should redesign it keeping in mind that we should be working with a language that will be around for another 12 years, which would likely mean switching to a more modern platform.

We should design it to be more usable, especially for staff members. As it stands, Drupal is extremely difficult to use. For example, in order to update the Dominion website we require knowledge of code which none of the current staff or board possess and as a result we haven’t uploaded Dominions to the site for almost two years.  In favor of going with something more modern than Drupal.

Migrating and organizing content will be a significant chunk of the work, regardless of the web platform that we chose.

We should prioritize making the website as user friendly and accessible as possible. This means having large and easy-to-read text (accessible fonts), translations of articles, and subtitles in our videos, etc.

Drupal has many accessibility barriers.

It’s going to take a lot more collaboration, discussion, and research to figure out what we need for a new website.

It’s recommended that a website committee is formed to deliberate this further.

David will look into this grant, do some research on redesigning the website, and get back to us.

 

1. a. Contract, Commission Based Fundraiser:

Ashley puts forward a motion to have two six-month long contract and commission based fundraisers, one in French and one in English, who would be responsible to the MC board.

Reasoning is that we have been unable to financially compensate our staff fairly and that there is great dysfunction in the organization in regards to labour distribution. Our current administrator is currently overworked and underpaid; this is dysfunctional and unsustainable. Ashley sent everyone a document of restructuring proposals that is related to this subject and this is one of the proposals in the document. She believes we need to prioritize funding our staff fairly and having a number of new staff positions so that our staff is not getting burnt out. This will require money and seeing as how we are in a terrible financial situation at the moment, she suggests that we hire commission based fundraisers so that we are not paying our fundraiser more than they are bringing into the organization.

Discussion:

Roddy - Says he is against having a commission based fundraiser because generally the people who are attracted to the position are not necessarily dedicated to the organization. Says the model has been tried out in the past, three years ago, and it didn’t work. Says it requires a management role to oversee the position. Says he will send out the information he gathered from trying it out three years ago.

The main reasons he says it didn’t work:

- We don’t have a hopper - Cold calling/warm calling – (what is a hopper?) a list of people to go ask for subscriptions.

- Says that Miles Howe tried it and only netted around $1200 in 6 months

-  Says it’s a hard gig to sell magazines

- Says managing the people is the challenge

 

Arielle agrees that we have major financial issues and points out that there is a Chicken/egg problem – it’s hard to bring in advertisers when we’re understaffed and can’t do enough issues, but it’s hard to make issues when we’re understaffed due to a lack of finances. Suggests that we need to look at other ways to make money and asks Roddy if he has any alternative suggestions or proposals since he is our fundraiser.

Roddy’s suggestions:

- If we had a set production schedule than we could approach Briarpatch, This magazine, etc to do co- promotion – eg. two-for-one deal, with contests.

- Says that with a set schedule we could get more advertisers and that our lack of money and advertisers is due to a lack of regular publication of The Dominion.

Ashley asks him to clarify if he has any other fundraising ideas other than publishing the Dominion on a set schedule. Points out that we’ve already produced two excellent issues but that Roddy was unable to raise revenues with them.

Roddy claims that it’s not enough. Says he has other ideas such as doing more web based fundraising (following the example of Ricochet, we could flood the email list with content). Says his other ideas are in his “fundraising prospectus” on the email list

Arielle: We just produced an excellent special issue and demonstrated that a lot of people were willing to contribute financially to the issue on the strength of the issue alone (referencing the $9000 she, Carolin and Ashley raised through PIRGs). There are ways that we can raise money outside of the subscription model, and we need to come up with ways to increase our revenue. We can’t be in a defeatist mindset when it comes to fundraising.

Geordie thinks these kinds of proposals take research and time to come up with a good model. Disagrees with Ashley that we’re dysfunctional and questions her charge that we are dysfunctional on the basis that she hasn’t been involved in the MC for very long. Thinks that our staff issues is a symptom more than a cause. He thinks what allowed the MC to function before was more volunteer labour.

Darryl agrees with Geordie that we should build our volunteer capacity.

Tami: All these issues are related together. Arielle wanting to leave and suffering burnout is related to all the other structural problems we have been talking about the past few meetings. Oversimplifying this issue as if we just lack volunteers doesn’t do this issue justice. She is curious about the way the board organizes itself. How do we come to ideas of who’s going to take minutes, chair meetings? How do we address issues of accountability and transparency? How did we envision the MC to be in the first place and what was missing in that vision in the first place? How have we gotten to the point that we’re at right now.  

Darryl: It’s not just more volunteers, but more volunteers that are deeply involved in the MC. One of the concepts that came up in the past was local councils within the MC, which would be a great way to get more volunteers involved in the MC. Also having more committees would get more volunteers involved outside of the national.

Tami: That was the intention in the first place.

Arielle: Motion to defer Ashley’s motion for commission based fundraisers, pending further research and bump ahead the discussion to agenda point 3. Passed.

Geordie: Motion to make this our first agenda item for next meeting. Passed.

 

3. Restructuring Employee Positions and Arielle’s Future at the MC:

Arielle: The notion that we’re going to use volunteers to fill in the cracks is not helpful. Her job position was initially set at 10 hours per week and was supposed to replace the 30 hours a week of work that Tim previously did with the expectation that volunteers would step in to help, however that never happened. As a result, she’s doing two 15 hour/wk jobs as publisher and as administrator, plus she’s taken on fundraising and communications work, even though she is only getting paid for 15 hours a week. When Tim held the 30 hr/wk position, he also had a larger team of volunteers to help with producing the Dominion.

It’s unfair that when Tim quit his 30 hour/wk job he was replaced by someone who is paid for only 10 hours/wk. She’s extremely burnout and overworked.

If she doesn’t do the job than no one else will, regardless of peoples wishes for more volunteers. It doesn’t matter if people think volunteers will solve the problem because volunteers are not the ones who are traditionally responsible for duties such as administrating the website, maintaining the email account, or even picking up the Dominion from the mailbox, carting around heavy boxes up a flight of steps, and mailing out thousands of issues to where they need to go. It doesn’t matter if this is unsafe work practices or not, it needs to be done and if she doesn’t do it than no one will.

Darryl interrupts: Is also upset that national editors aren’t getting paid in the locals. Says he’s doing the work that used to be a paid staff position as a volunteer.

Tami: Darryl cutting off Arielle was inappropriate and speaks to the issues that are problems in the MC.

Geordie would like to move the agenda forward since we’re running out of time.

Vanessa: This phone call has been difficult to listen to with people minimizing other people who have expressed concerns. We can’t move forward with business as usual because if we don’t address these issues now than they will continue to manifest themselves. Also one hour is not enough for these meetings and it is silencing to people to rush through these issues. We should dedicate at least two hours so that there is space for a real discussion. It’s also frustrating to have so many emails going back and forth and she doesn’t have time to read them all, or keep track of them all. It’s better if we have more discussions, with time allotted for real discussion, and that we prioritize what we want to tackle first. Maybe we should form committees, such as a strategic planning committee to discuss how we can address these issues that have been raised and go forward with restructuring the position?

Arielle: Likes the idea of a strategic planning committee and thinks it’s necessary.

 

3. a. Motions to raise Administrator’s (Arielle Friedman’s) wage to $18/hr and backpay her for 30 hours of overtime at this wage:

 

Geordie moves the motions:

1. That we boost Arielle's wages to $18/hour. Effective June 1st (or whenever is easiest).

 

2.  That we pay her 30 hours of backpay since winter at this wage.

 

Ashley seconds them.

Arielle recuses herself from the conversation.

- The numbers are doable, if we do deferred payments to Winchester

Roddy abstains since he’s also staff

Motions pass

 

2. Summer Student Hiring Committee:

- Roddy proposes that we strike a hiring committee

- Darryl is interested in being involved in it. Ashley is interested in helping sort through the applications but can’t be involved in a managing role over the summer. Arielle will sit on the hiring committee too.

- Hiring committee is thus formed.

 

3. b. Proposal to pay Billie and Ashley over four month period:

- Roddy will reach out to Billie

- Ashley is okay with this plan

 

4. Invoice tracking:

- Roddy gives explanations for the invoice tracking system

 

4. a. Financial Management Workshop:

Sharmeen (past MC board member) has volunteered to give a free webinar on financial management to the MC board. It would be helpful to have these skills shared and it may be helpful to have a financial committee that takes the workshop.

Darryl, Roddy, Ashley, Arielle – interested in participating in the workshop

Tami – is interested in the workshop and also in support of forming a financial committee

Motion: That Geordie coordinate the webinar with Sharmeen, and that we table a discussion of forming a financial committee to next board meeting.

Motion passes.

 

Tami: There are some pretty big structure issues. All these (email) threads are pretty confusing and it would be nice if we had a google group for referencing committee work instead of having email threads. Offers to create a google group and/or listserves to help streamline our communications. We should have very specifically worded committees where we can address these issues.

Vanessa: There are different online platforms that we could potentially use (will check out slack and see if it is useful) to help organize things so that people in committees can organize work online (treliss).

Roddy and Arielle agree that Slack is really great.

A financial committee listserve would be great.

 

5. Special Issue Update:

- It’s at the printers. Kent has agreed to a reprint. Should be on its way Friday, hopefully in time to the bookfair, or Monday. We have to give back most of the old prints. We’re going to be tabling this weekend at the Anarchist bookfair in MTL.

Darryl: we have table at Toronto bookfair, are organizing a launch party with Indigenous involvement, and would like to hand out copies at the river run (May 31st).

Ashley: Is organizing a launch party in Victoria in mid-June.

Geordie will help out at MTL bookfair on Saturday or Sunday. Can help load up issues while there.

 

6. Launch Parties and Distribution:

- Victoria: Anarchist bookfair in September, we should get a table there.  

- Tami would love to organize something in Vancouver but has had trouble making connections. The admins of the VMC facebook group haven’t responded to her so it’s difficult to organize anything in Van.

- We need to email Dru, from the media co-op email to request that he add Tami as administrator to the VMC facebook group.  They shouldn’t even be admins of the group at this point since they’re not involved in it anymore. Arielle will email him from the account.

- Tami will bring other issues about social media policy up in committee

Suggested dates/timeline for launch?

No earlier than a week Monday to give the issues time to arrive. In fact, wait till it’s arrived in case there’s complications.

Party in MTL June 12th, please invite all your friends!

Darryl: two members from TMC will go to MTL to help out with launch party. There will be funding available from the TMC.

 

7. Collaborating with MARG

We are likely to get help from MARG if we put together a proposal for ways they can help us but we need to figure out what we’re going to ask them for in terms of job proposals.

Motion to defer to next meeting.

Arielle - We need to come up with a strategic visioning plan because it affects a lot of these issues.

Vanessa – Let’s strike a strategic planning committee to come up with ideas, and then bring it back to the board to approve it.

Darryl – is opposed to it because we should bring issues on organization to the wider membership

Arielle – it falls within the board’s jurisdiction because it concerns who and how we will hire. The purpose is to figure out what staffing is going to look like.

Vanessa- We need to spend separate time to look into our options, outside of the regular board meeting

Darryl- changes opposition to an abstain. Doesn’t understand the issue.

Tami - We need to have hard conversations about structure, accountability, transparency, etc. otherwise we won’t have a MC.

Motion to create a Strategic Planning Committee

Motion passes

Arielle, Ashley, Vanessa and Tami will sit on it.

- Geordie: Helps with admin around position with MARG. Can ask what they wouldn’t fund.

It would be useful for our discussion.

Will use Ashley’s document as a template.

Can help us make decisions regarding what we’ll ask them.

 

8. AGM:

Darryl – We’re in violation of law for not having an AGM last year. We might need to send a letter to the gov’t regarding why we didn’t do one last year. Would like to get permission to start planning the AGM in Toronto.

There are certain notification periods and timelines that are in our by-laws.

Geordie – Who will come to an AGM if we hold one at this stage?

Darryl – If we don’t hold the AGM we will lose our status as a co-op with the gov’t.

Geordie – It could be time consuming to set up an AGM on the basis that people are going to come if no one comes. If we don’t feel we’re going to get a lot of turnout we could hold a paper AGM.

Arielle- There are people in MTL who will come to the AGM, we should use our web presence to get people out to the AGM. An AGM would be helpful to build our capacity and if we promote this widely we could get an AGM that is on par in size with the last AGM.

Tami – It would be like the launch, an opportunity to mobilize and garner support and interest

Darryl – Will review the by-laws and create a draft timeline for when we’ll hold the AGM

 

9. Other Business:

Arielle makes a Motion to put the job description back on the page as it was, can edit it live because there was a lot of interest in it as it was originally written. Passes.

Can someone take carriage of booking the next meeting? Arielle will.

 

Motions and agenda points to be carried over to next meeting:

Motion to defer Ashley’s motion for commission based fundraisers, pending further research

Table a discussion of forming a financial committee to next board meeting.

Discussion on collaborating with MARG

 

Tasks:

Create a website committee

Summer Student Hiring Committee

Geordie coordinates the webinar with Sharmeen

Tami will create committee’s listserves/google group to help organize our communications and discussions

Arielle will email Dru from MC account to request that Tami is given admin of VMC

Everyone should invite friends to MTL launch party

Strategic Planning Committee

Geordie will consult with MARG using proposals document

Darryl will review by-laws and draft a timeline for the AGM

Job description should go back online

Arielle will organize next meeting

 

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