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2009-03-03 22:17:54
The M[C]I
You may be interested to learn that the people who say they represent rambling and hillwalking in the Republic have decided to change their name. Recently they restructured themselves introducing a chief executive/ board structure supposedly to be more independent and more capable of leading. With 85% of their membership as walkers or hillwalkers many of us hoped that they would look at the obvious demographics, the national need again. We hoped for a meaningful change to their name to one that represents more what most do most of the time as a step towards better support for walking/hillwalking.

Oh No. Not a bit of it. It’s now going to be called Mountaineering Ireland rather than the Mountaineering Council of Ireland.

How can this sort of thing get voted in? Simple. It starts with lack of discussion. There is no widespread public discussion about issues such as this – the organisation does not have a letters page in its magazine and there is no forum on their website. Opinions expressed at meetings such as the agm are not circulated. They do have consultation, but their idea of consultation is that you give in your opinion at a controlled local meeting rather than in a public forum - not a development of ideas circulated for the members to decide on. Their approach is more like a focus group for a new ice-cream flavour.

Then comes the Board. Many of the members of the Board are professionals in the sport. Nothing wrong with that in itself, excellent in fact, however the issue is about balance. Where exactly is the 85% walking and hillwalking voluntary membership represented? With around one exception, the Board does not have people in it with club or voluntary hillwalking or walking as their main interest. There are no club representatives as such or people from that background. The issue is also structural. There is no body in the MCI set up to look after the interests of walkers and hillwalkers at a national level following the end of the Hillwalking Committee in 2007 - a much stronger group with powers set out in the Memo and Articles should be developing the sport of walking/hillwalking. No doubt all members of the Board do at least some walking but do they live and breathe it like many in the membership?

Then comes the meeting. There were just 35 people at the AGM (of which 5 or so would be employees) down from around 55 last year. 30 out of around 9600 or 0.3% In my experience, the people voting are not generally required to vote in line with what their club might have collectively discussed and agreed. The AGM attendees are the people that are interested in the MCI by and large – the rest have long been bored out of it by the mountaineering focus etc. (Voting is only allowed by those that attend in person – no absent or proxy votes and the voters who actually show tend to support the organisation.) So there you have it. No proper public discussion. Skewed Board representation and governance. No national walking group. A handy .3% voting machine.

That’s how you get a cosmetic and quite inappropriate change voted in..

Perhaps you don't agree with this? Well, with MV you can put your contrary opinions in. If we hear anything official, expect to hear about how there can be an inclusive byline applied to the new name. This approach was taken after the last time the name was discussed in oh 2000 or so. At that point a majority of clubs (rather than agm attendees) when asked said they would prefer an agreed name with hillwalking in it. 9 years ago. This name discussion is all very stale isn't it? Just like the predictable byline "solution". The problem is simple - the organisation won't face up to the nature of the membership's interests and cater for it culturally and structurally - a small symptom being the name. The're more interested in policies that attract government money such as anti-doping, the competitive end of climbing and the emphasis on youth - or should that be overemphasis?

Let me say one last thing about this recent AGM. In the MCI you can meet many people that have worked extremely hard over many years for walking (and climbing). I met many of them and indeed some of them congratulated me warmly on this site etc (Maybe missing the point that this site is a community). We should congratulate the many people in the MCI who have worked hard for many years. In my opinion the issue isn't individuals. Organisations develop cultures almost independently of their people. (Think banks) The ethos in the MCI is still skewed towards the climbing mountaineering minority. It's got a dose of government funded QUANGO about it - implementors of Government policy rather than members wishes. There's a lack of support for the voluntary and for other people's initiatives (challenge walks for example). It's the overall culture that's wrong.
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