A Beginner's Guide to Portfolio Groups
Thank You for your Interest in CAN's Portfolio Groups!
A bit of Background...
Traditionally the bulk of the day-to-day running of CAN was undertaken by an elected volunteer "Executive", typically of 10-12 people, with some support from a range of other volunteers. The introduction of paid staff, as part of NZTA's Networking Project, allowed some of that work to be undertaken by them; however it also relied on the Exec to perform additional work in terms of contract and staff management.
CAN's 2009 Strategic Review proposed the separation of strategic and operational activities in CAN and to make better use of CAN's volunteer network. It introduced the concept of "Portfolio Groups" to undertake the various operational tasks, overseen by a board-like Committee.
So what is a Portfolio Group (PG)?
A PG is a collection of CAN volunteers (and maybe ongoing staff or contracted workers if available/appropriate) who are responsible for looking after a particular set of tasks or issues. Although guided by CAN's Committee and Strategic Plans, each PG is a relatively autonomous group charged with making things happen in their particular area.
Please note that, as PGs are still relatively new to CAN, we're still "feeling our way" with regards to how they operate. Please let us know if you think anything here could be improved!
What PGs does CAN have?
CAN currently has PGs for Central Organisations & Submissions, Volunteer & Group Development/Support, Policy & Technical, Activities & Events, IT Support, and Communications (which encompasses sub-groups for Media, Website content, and e.CAN/ChainLinks publications).
See here for the full list of CAN's PGs and what they do. Note that some of the links may go to private webpages that are only visible to members of that PG.
How does a PG Operate and Communicate?
The nature of each PG will vary somewhat due to the tasks and people involved. For example, it may be appropriate to identify a Portfolio Leader, who can oversee the tasks of others and liaise with the Committee. It may also be useful to assign each person a particular sub-task that they're responsible for looking after (this doesn't necessarily mean that they do all the work; simply that they make sure things are happening).
PGs have a number of different ways that they can communicate and, again, it depends on each group:
- Each PG has a private web-space on CAN's website to enable storage of relevant materials and procedures, posting of articles of interest, and recording of discussions.
- There is also a "Portfolio Reference" group web-space where items of common interest to all PGs will be posted.
- It is intended that each PG will also have a public Forum to enable them to post information to CAN's membership and the general public, as well as seeking feedback or input from these others on relevant issues.
- PG members can simply email each other, either individually or a whole group.
- PG members can phone each other, and CAN teleconferences can also be held for all members.
- PG members in the same location can arrange to meet each other face-to-face and they should also take advantage of opportunities like the annual CAN Do to also get together as a group.
To facilitate this communication, a contact page with details of all PG members will be provided on each internal PG website (make sure that you maintain it!).
What skills do I need to be in a PG?
CAN work doesn't just require previous cycling/advocacy experience. For many activities, we are looking for people who have experience with things like writing, policy work, marketing/promotions, fundraising, computing, finances - it's not too important what kind of work field that was in.
But it also doesn't matter if you've never done anything like this before or you don't think you have skills of use to us. The number one attribute we're looking for is enthusiasm! (with "spare time" perhaps second...) We're happy for you to "listen and learn" initially and then slowly get more involved in a PG. Perhaps newer members can "buddy up" with more experienced members to share the duties of a particular task. If necessary, specialist training of PG members will also be investigated - the annual CAN Do also tends to provide a great opportunity for learning and feedback.
If you have particular skills or experience but are not sure where they might be best utilised, feel free to talk to us about possible PG roles.
What can a PG do or NOT do?
At this stage, there are relatively few rules about what PGs are able to do - we want to encourage PG members to take ownership of particular tasks/issues and run with them!
Having said that, there are a few things where you need to watch out:
- Unless prior delegation has been given, any major expenditure (>$50) on behalf of CAN needs to be checked with the Committee first, either via a Committee meeting, or directly with Committee members if more urgent.
- Unless prior delegation has been given, any activity involving the hiring of staff or contractual engagement (including applications for funding) needs to be approved by CAN's Committee.
- Any proposed media release or other promotional material on behalf of CAN should be checked with one of CAN's Media Portfolio team, or the CAN Chair.
You can also check CAN's Committee/Staff/PG Handbook for more details of various procedures and policies (esp. the Internal Policy section).
If you're unsure, please talk to one of CAN's Committee members first. We can also provide "newbie" advice if you need help on how to prepare material, set up website space, or other initiatives.
How does each PG liaise with CAN's Committee?
CAN's Committee meets typically every 4-6 weeks via teleconference or face-to-face and this is an opportunity for us also to find out how the PGs are going - check the current Committee meeting schedule. A standard reporting template has been provided for each PG to report on its recent/planned activities to the Committee. Just email the report to a Committee member at least 3 days before the scheduled meeting.
The minutes from Committee meetings will be posted on the Portfolio Reference group page so that you know what is happening in the bigger scheme of things. If the Committee requires any feedback or advice from a PG, or would like to request a task, they'll be in touch.
At any time, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact a Committee member; indeed there may be one or two involved in your PG (note that doesn't necessarily mean that they should automatically be the one to report back to Committee).
What if there are expenses?
CAN does not expect any PG member to be out of pocket for expenses incurred while doing tasks for CAN, e.g. tolls, printing/copying, postage, travel. We also have funds available for certain project initiatives.
CAN has a teleconference facility available so that you can arrange for PG members to hold a discussion even when scattered around the country (just let the Treasurer know when you've held one). CAN will also provide assistance where possible with travel and accommodation where this is required to attend meetings to represent CAN.
Any expenses should be claimed from the Treasurer using the Expenses Claim Form (obtainable from the Treasurer or from the CAN Handbook). GST receipts must be provided.
If you are planning a more substantial project that has budget implications (even if you anticipate getting external funding), please speak to CAN's Treasurer first.
I'm not sure if I will have time for a PG or I might get busy later...
It's important to remember that CAN is largely a volunteer organisation - every little bit helps and don't feel guilty when you're not able to commit to more. We particularly appreciate that many of you may also be doing things for your local group as well.
It's probably a good idea if a PG can break down the various activities it covers into smaller "chunks" that a single person can oversee. Even if every PG member identified just one "project" that they were going to get done that year, we would make great progress. Another idea might be to pair up people for tasks so that if one is temporarily busy the other can keep things ticking along.
Remember too that we have a much larger membership out there who might be able to contribute to a one-off exercise that you're working on. Use our communication networks (e.g. website, e.CAN, group contacts) to see if we can find a bit of help for you.
With (hopefully) a large enough group of people in each PG, this should allow you to spread the workload to be able to scale back down if other commitments crop up, and then cover for someone else later. The most important thing is talk to your other PG colleagues as soon as possible to work out a resolution.
Any Other Questions?
Contact CAN's Chair - thanks for your time!