One of the issues that came up at the AGM while the fee increase was discussed, was the cost and the value of our magazine Chainlinks. Some think we should discontinue Chainlinks and concentrate on getting information our to members by other means, for example by using our website. Others think that Chainlinks is valuable as it is, either as a tool for informing our members, or to give to interested stakeholders to convince them of CAN's work.
Does Chainlinks need to focus more on just one of these roles than the other? CAN had planned to have a communications workshop at the same time as the 2010 AGM to develop and discuss this, but this didn't work out and a 1 hour discussion on the 2nd day of the CAN Do was all we had.
This is what was recorded in the 2010 AGM minutes on it:
Background: Our membership rates were set a few years back on the basis of covering the cost of Chainlinks. When GST rises to 15% in October 2010, CAN is going to be hit with a reduction in income because our memberships are inclusive of GST. At the same time, our expenses (printing, postage etc) will rise, leaving us with a shortfall - and no money to do our advocacy work with.
Discussion: Pippa Coom said she was hoping Chainlinks would be discontinued (at least in hard copy form), which would make fee increases unnecessary. Simon Kennett said he still saw some advantage in having the hard copy version for advocacy purposes. Illona Keenan also reported good feedback on the hard copy of Chainlinks. Simon Kennett suggested there was still room to increase advertising in Chainlinks, to help cover costs. Stephen Wood suggested that the question at hand is really how much funding do we want to have available- a decision separate from the Chainlinks question. Stu Edwards said he considered Chainlinks very good value, and that fee increases would be necessary anyway just to keep pace with inflation.
The following day, as part of the CAN do, I hosted a session on discussing CAN's communications (see the presentation I made for this session). Some of the slides are from a presentation I gave to committee and staff earlier in the year and were not actually used in the CAN do presentation. The discussion this generated was quite lively. It involved people that thought the status quo for CAN's communication methods were OK and those that thought they needed an overhaul. Much of the debate was centred on the cost and value of the Chainlinks magazine as a paper copy.
The main outcome was a decision that a communications workshop should be held in the near future. However, the committee thinks that a workshop might be expensive to run and will only involve a limited number of people.
As an alternative, to get the ball rolling we want to start a discussion of the issue here. We'd like to know what members and groups think about this. We (i.e. the committee) are thinking that we can include more people in a discussion this way that if we reconvened a communications workshop to consider it.
A step forward - some decisions
CAN's committee had a meeting in the second weekend of February, and considered the views that had been expressed on this so far. We have resolved the following:
- we will continue publishing Chainlinks, but aim for 3 issues in 2011 as a trial
- we will remind whose who are concerned about the costs to CAN of their printed copy of the option of getting Chainlinks as a PDF file
- we will investigate making a more detailed copy of each Chainlinks issue, with separated and text search-able articles, available on our website.
So Chainlinks lives on. It is one of the tools CAN has of communicating with CAN member of CAN, its local groups and others interested in our activities. It has a valued place amongst the other communication tools we use, our electronic newsletter e.CAN, media releases, campaigns and our magnificent website.