Welcome to the all-new Student Publication Association monthly round-up – designed to give you a chance to find out a bit more about what the Executive Committee have been getting up to on a day-to-day basis throughout the month, and ensure we are a transparent, accountable organisation. We’ll aim to publish each round-up throughout 2020/21 on the first (or as close as possible) of each month, and you’ll always be able to find it here, or on our social media channels on Twitter and Facebook.
November was the first full month in post for the new Executive Committee for 2020/21, and it’s safe to say it was a busy month! With just six months until the next AGM, we’ve got a lot to fit into a very short time – this month, we started as we mean to go on, growing our team and professionalising the organisation to make sure we’re meeting best practice.
As an Executive Committee, our big task this month was running the application process for Regional and Project Officers, and as you’ll have seen from our social media, we now have full teams of both. For the 10 positions we had open, there were 19 strong applications, and we believe the new officers will be excellent additions to the team.
As Chair, I’ve also been doing some additional recruitment work, leading on an open application process for three vacant Trustee positions, which opened in October, alongside two of our elected Trustees, Jem and Geri. We had 11 applicants, shortlisted six, and asked the Executive Committee to nominate three, who were then ratified by the existing Trustees. We’re delighted to say that Richard Brooks, Chris Chohan and Juliet Rix have now joined our Board, and we hope they’ll provide fresh perspectives on governance, best practice, and how we can serve our members.
In November, we also prepared a successful application for Community membership of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, at no cost to the organisation. This will help us get extra support on training, best practice, and serving our members.
We also fulfilled one of the obligations outlined in a motion to our October AGM, to explore alternative communication channels and allow all officers to have a greater say in day-to-day organisation, and have started using Slack with regularity.
Chay, the Conference & Events Officer, has begun planning for the series of Regional Conferences and National Conferences, and we hope to be able to give more details of these in our December Round-up – it’s still early days yet! We’re also hosting a ‘What I Wish I’d Known’ panel, with a few former Editor-in-Chiefs (and one Digital Editor) of member publications, on Saturday 5 December. The event is free, and we’re hoping for a strong turnout – because who amongst us wouldn’t benefit from the advice of those who came before?
Looking back to this year’s National Conference, I’ve been heading up distribution of trophies and certificates for the dozens of award winners this month (as well as certificates from the Ireland Regional Awards earlier this year), and they should be dropping through letterboxes as you read this! We’re still short a few addresses though, and while we’ve made every effort to get in touch with award-winners, if you’re yet to give us an address, please email email@example.com so we can get yours sent!
Our new Training & Opportunities Officer, Charlotte, is really keen to develop our bank of training resources this year, and as part of this, has been in touch with members to ask what would be most useful for them in terms of what we can produce. These are challenging times for student publications, and we’re committed to offering all the support we can – including with timely training resources. You should start to see new resources making their way onto the website in the weeks and months ahead. Charlotte also prepared for the 2021 iteration of our Mentorship Scheme, and we’re hoping to launch applications in early December.
Imy, the Communications Officer, has also been keeping in contact with members, sending out a newsletter – with new ‘Publication’ and ‘Article of the Month’ sections – congratulations to Wessex Scene and Gair Rhydd for being the inaugural winners! Imy also made sure to share mental health resources with our members as we headed into the second national lockdown, because these are tough times for students and we need to stick together. On top of this, taking a look at our social media, you’ll see Imy has also started ‘Welfare Wednesdays’, where each week we share a welfare-centric article from one of our members. If you want yours featured, make sure you send it in, to firstname.lastname@example.org!
In line with another AGM obligation, this month we also started working on a new SPA website, and in the meantime, ensured our existing one is up-to-date, with a fresh list of membership publications, making the Complaints policy more accessible, and rewriting our History and About pages, updating staffing lists, and other changes. Keep an eye out in future Round-ups for more website updates!
Lastly, this month we released a couple of public statements. Firstly, we released our research into the budget cuts our members are facing, which you can read on our website. Accompanying this, I wrote comment pieces for Journalism.co.uk and Campaigns for Students about the implications of our findings, while we were pleased to see the Society of Editors also covered our research. Secondly, we noted the findings from openDemocracy’s ‘Art of Darkness’ report into the undermining of the Freedom of Information Act by the UK Government, and got in touch with them to enquire whether any student journalists had been affected, so we could offer support if so.
In summary: a very hectic November for us at the SPA! It’s been incredibly exciting getting started in the role, and we can’t wait to show you all what we’re working on in the months ahead. If you want to keep up with our work as and when it happens, outside of these Monthly Round-ups, make sure you’re following us on social media and checking the website for all our latest news.