[r-t] CRAG, the Methods Committee and the Decisions
richard at ex-parrot.com
Thu Apr 27 23:01:06 UTC 2017
As it is now Friday, CRAG's proposals are now public. They
can be found on pp 425-8 of The Ringing World's CC
Two of the proposals will be of particular interest here.
First is Proposal (C) to replace the fifteen or so current
committees (and a further four groups of Stewards) with
fewer than ten workgroups. The CRAG proposals don't say
what they're going to me; the new Executive they propose to
set up is given until November to do this, and the 12
activty areas identified in CRAG's second communiqué (RW
2016, pp 1010–11) will doubtless inform this process.
In particular, CRAG had the following two activies:
*Standards* Consulting on and recommending technical
standards in ringing, maintaining records as necessary to
uphold these standards.
*Innovation* Encouraging research and innovation in the
advancement of ringing: its methodologies, tools, and
The former effectively covers the present day remit of the
Methods, Compositions and Peal Records Committees, and I
expect to see them be merged; the latter activity is
something wholly new to the Central Council, and it will be
interesting to see what, if anything, the new Executive does
in regard to that activity.
Assuming CRAG's proposals are adopted, the change from
committees to a small number of workgroups will presumably
happen in May 2018 when new rules are adopted to bring the
new governance structures into effect, so a Methods
Committee will exist for one more year.
Critically, the new workgroups are not elected from and by
the Council (which is to become know as the Council of
Representatives); instead the Executive appoints a Workgroup
Leader, who, in consultation with the Executive, appoints
workgroup members. A strong Executive with power to act
independently is an integral part of CRAG's proposal, and it
means workgroups will be working in a common direction. If
the Executive support reform, the Council of Representative
will no longer be able to vote reactionaries on to
workgroups in attempt to emasculate them, as seems set to
happen again next month. The converse is also true, but I
don't see a reactionary Executive as an immediate threat and
concentrating power there seems the lesser of all evils.
CRAG also propose limiting terms of office to two three-year
terms. So no more Ayatollahs serving as committee chair for
20+ years and turning it into a personal fiefdom.
The other notable proposal is Proposal (H) which cuts
straight to the heart of the current Decisions debate.
"The Decisions of the Central Council will be replaced with
a simple and permissive descriptive framework for ringing
with only the minimal detail required to maintain the
historical record." This is a clear and unambiguous
statement of support for a framework along the lines of Tim
Barnes' framework. CRAG calls for replacement, not
incremental tinkering; and the use of the adjectives
"simple", "permissive", "descriptive" and "minimal" speaks
That this proposal is still needed three years after John
Couperthwaite proposed that the Methods Committee should
develop a "new or revised set of Decisions concerning Peal
Ringing, Methods and Calls" (RW 2014, p 660) is a perfect
example of the lack of accountability and failure to follow
through that CRAG identify as a major failing in the present
Central Council (finding (L), RW, p 425). This perhaps
explains why CRAG go on to propose that the job be removed
from the Methods Committee.
The Executive will appoint a neutral and respected ringer
who is demonstrably independent of those responsible for
the current Decisions to complete this work. The leader may
assemble a group of ringers to assist with this task and
will consult widely on their proposals before presenting
them to the Council in May 2018.
It seems to me that Tim Barnes is unquestionably the man for
this job, and I very much hope the new Executive appoint him
to lead this work; I'm hopeful they will, as the remit seems
almost written with him in mind.
I have argued before (e.g. RW 2015, p 326) that the Method
Committee's seeming unwillingness to embrace change is
bringing the Central Council into disrepute by focusing
debate on Decisions that 95% of ringers cannot understand
but that the demonstrably wrongheaded to the remaining 5%.
Proposal (H), little short of a vote of no confidence in the
Methods Committee, seems to back this up. I just hope that
in proposing this, Phil Barnes hasn't fallen out with his
I very much hope the Central Council meeting in Edinburgh
will vote to accept CRAG's proposals. If they do not, I
think this is the beginning of the end of the Central
Council; if they do, perhaps it can be a new beginning. In
four-and-a-half weeks we'll know. If they do pass, this
will leave the Methods Committee with a "lame duck" year;
their only plan for 2017/18 was "to build a new, more
descriptive, decision framework" (RW, p 441), but under
CRAG's Proposal (H) it will be removed from them. If it
passes, Tim and Graham may want to consider whether to
withdraw their nominations to the Methods Committee. As
CRAG's proposals will be dealt with under adgenda item 14,
and committee elections are item 15, this is possible.
CRAG's intention to have a smaller number of workgroups
means that Motion (F) to extend the terms of the Methods
Committee's remit will become moot if CRAG's proposals are
adopted. But perhaps they indicate what the Methods
Committee should spend 2017/18 doing if not reforming the
Decisions. The proposed terms include "to compile and
maintain a library of all named methods with classification
and appropriate references, and to maintain a record of
historic method names" (RW, p 412). According to their
committee report (RW, p 441), "These new Terms of Reference
are based on what the Committee currently does, but also
includes some additional things that we feel it should do in
the future". Presumably maintaining a methods library is
the latter as it is currently done by Tony Smith, seemingly
with little control or oversight by the Methods Committee.
We can all guess what Tony Smith's opinion will be of CRAG's
Proposal (H). Given the events of 2015 when the method
libraries were seemingly held hostage in an astonishing and
childish fit of pique over some imagined future censure of
the Methods Committee, now is the right time for the Methods
Committee to take control of the method libraries. If
reform of the Decisions is taken from you, make that your
aim for the next year and go out on a high having
accomplished something useful.
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