Thursday, December 23, 2010

Staff report on Independent Theatre released

At the October 2009 National AGM, a member resolution was brought forward by Sarah Stanley, and passed by the members in attendance. The resolution called for a full report on independent theatre issues to be presented to the membership at large by the time of the next National AGM. At its next meeting, Council adopted the resolution for action as part of its work plan for reviewing member-initiated production.

The report is now available through EQUITYONLINE. Thanks to Executive Director Arden Ryshpan, and her staff, for their work on this. 
Agenda details for the upcoming National AGM, to be held in Toronto, are also available at EQUITYONLINE.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Council Agenda - Part 2

In an earlier post, I talked about how Council solicits additions to its agenda. In most cases, the topic is accepted and then scheduled for inclusion in a future meeting. This helps ensure that we finish off existing topics before embarking on too many new ones. Most topics require (and deserve) a certain amount of dedicated focus.

This post deals with the discussion process itself.

In advance of the scheduled date, I prepare a general series of questions to be answered, and Council reviews the original request. The purpose of the initial set of questions is to help Council define the scope of the topic. Almost any issue can spawn infinite tangents, and it keeps discussion efficient if we determine the scope in advance. Additions can always be made down the line if we stumble across something that needs further exploration. For major membership-wide issues, such as diversity, safe and respectful workplaces, or independent theatre, we invariably cast the net as widely as we can.

A important initial question is always: what do we need to know in order to deal with this matter thoroughly? This query can take several shapes... Are there data that we should be getting from staff (historical data, contract summaries or other material). Are there documents we should review? Is there member input we should get? What do current policies and bylaws say? Do we need to bring in outside expertise (legal opinion, specialists on the issue)?

Discussion begins in earnest once necessary information is in hand, and I prepare a discussion sheet to guide debate. In this way, we never approach an issue having no structure or data with which to work. The discussion sheet will be revised in keeping with Council's discussion, several times if necessary, as the topic proceeds. Each new revision will incorporate a results summary from prior meetings, proposed policy or bylaw amendments as they begin to take shape, and notation of the remaining items to explore. New items that arise in discussion are also added to the sheet, so that they don't get lost. In many ways, these discussion sheets are mini single-topic agenda/minutes.

Ultimately, almost every topic will result in an amendment to Council policies. In this way, the policy document always represents the most current state of Council decision-making. Anyone looking for the answer to the question "What has Council said on this?" will find it there.

Based on discussion outcomes, I prepare a template motion and draft policy language for Council review. For topics of limited scope, the draft is frequently accepted as is, but Council not uncommonly requests changes to the draft material, and new ones are prepared until Council is satisfied and passes the policy amendment. The new policy takes effect immediately, and the online policy document is updated within a couple of weeks to reflect the changes.

All of this takes time, from a couple of meetings, to a year or more in the case of major issues. However, Council's aim in any matter is to create durable solutions that can be applied consistently over the years, and not quickie responses just so we can scratch the issue off our agenda. This approach has resulted in a great deal of strong, actionable, and monitor-able policy over the past four years. Although we review every policy on a cyclical basis, relatively few have needed amendment on second (or subsequent) viewing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Insurance Survey rescheduled to the new year

Council’s insurance committee has completed work on the insurance survey, to be rolled out across the membership. This is a very challenging topic to explore, and it has taken the committee and its research partner, Leger Marketing, a few weeks longer than anticipated to complete the work. Although the survey is now ready, we are rescheduling release for first thing in the new year in order to avoid an anticipated lower response level during the busy holiday season.

Members with an active email address on file with the office will receive notification and instructions, directly from Leger Marketing, in the first week of January. In order to speed processing and enable the kind of analysis that will be needed on the results, this survey will only be conducted electronically. If you wish to participate and do not have a current email address on file with Equity please visit the members only zone of EQUITYONLINE and update the contact information in your
membership profile.

The survey is designed to review Equity member insurance from the ground up, including assessment of member need for year round coverage, spousal and dependent coverage, dental and vision coverage, coverage more closely geared toward the type of work being done, consideration of other insurance sources, affordability, etc.

It would be very useful for members to take some time, prior to completing the survey, to give some thought to their current and recent health and disability needs, health insurance usage patterns, typical contract patterns, and likely future needs. The results of this work will shape our insurance plan for some time to come, and considered and informed responses are essential to that being done well.

Thank you very much for your continued interest, and we look forward to receiving your responses in January.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Guest Post: Independent Theatre Review Update

Operating since the late Spring, the Independent Theatre Review Committee is made up of thirteen diverse members from across Canada. We have been tasked with examining the current state of small-scale and independent theatre nation-wide, from the perspectives of staff, members, and producers: everyone from those who assist with the production of new work (on stage or off) to those who help drive and create new work for themselves and others. The outcome of our efforts will be a set of recommended policy alternatives, supported by detailed research data, that aim to help Council align the Association's objectives and practices with the needs and priorities of members whose passions are ignited by small-scale and independent theatre work.

Before our committee was formed, regional CPAGs and interested members drove and participated in town hall forums and discussions in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg; even earlier, significant effort on this issue was expended by the Indie Caucus, of which many members are part. Our committee's efforts, thus far, have largely been put towards collecting and sorting through minutes and reports generated by this existing body of work. We are stockpiling members' thoughts on what has been working, what hasn't been working, and what people would like to see in agreements covering performance creation below the scale of the Independent Theatre Agreement and Canadian Theatre Agreement. Many common concerns and suggestions have appeared in this material, and a diverse range of views have been captured.

However, we still need to know much more: the terrific discussions that have already taken place must be expanded to include the views of every interested member of the Association. The committee is currently in the planning stages for a national survey that will reach out to every member who would like to contribute. Details are still being worked out, but we are very interested in your candid, open responses to questions on everything from the scope of "small scale" work to the kinds of protections and benefits you value as a member of the Association.

Stay tuned in to e-drive and your regional CPAG early in the new year to hear how you can make your voice heard. And if you've got thoughts and suggestions that you're eager to share, feel free to contact us directly (and confidentially) at A list of committee members can also be found on our committee page on the Equity web site , and you may direct your thoughts to any of us at any time.

Kris Joseph
Chair, ITR Committee