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Partnership Agreement

Introduction

  1. This is a statement of intent, not a legally binding document.  Either side can advise the other of their withdrawal from the agreement at any time.
  2. The group remains an independent entity, with its own leadership, membership arrangements, governance and financial accountability.
  3. The agreement has no impact on the charitable aims and status of the BHA or the group (if applicable).  In the unlikely event of a conflict between this agreement and the group’s or BHA’s charitable aims and objectives, the relevant charitable aims and objectives will always take precedence.
  4. It is recognised that the commitments of both sides will be subject to available resources and capabilities.
  5. By signing this agreement, the group confirms that it has at least:
    • Two active officers who are also members of the BHA ; and
    • Ten group members and/or at least a typical attendance of six people at its regular meetings.
Entering into this Partnership Agreement does not mean that everyone in the group will be committed to sharing the BHA’s view on all issues. That would be an impossible and undesirable aim for a group of freethinkers who believe in advancing their views through new information and ideas. Nor does it mean that the shared aims, values and policies could not or will not be changed. It simply means that the group and the BHA gain maximum benefit from being members of the wider humanist community, and external bodies - such as Local Authorities, the press, or other players on SACREs or “Inter Faith” forums - receive a reasonably consistent message about humanist aims and values.

Note: Whilst two of the group’s active officers must be BHA members, this does not mean that only BHA members can be officers.

Part One - What partner groups can expect from the BHA

Within the BHA’s financial and resource constraints, and taking into account the specific situation of the group, the BHA commits to the points below.

Members and Supporters

  1. Inclusion of group details (along with details of other groups if appropriate) on the BHA website drop-down seen by all new joiners and supporters, with a request for them to allow personal details to be forwarded to the relevant group.
  2. Forwarding to the group Membership Secretary or equivalent, under appropriate conditions of confidentiality, contact details of BHA members and supporters in the group’s area who wish to join or become supporters of the group and who have indicated willingness for their personal details to be forwarded.
  3. Inclusion of group details (along with those of other groups) in information provided to new BHA members joining by conventional mail.
  4. Inclusion of group on listing on the BHA website groups pages and the BHA Groups’ Google Map.
  5. Inclusion of group in material sent to all new BHA members as well as general promotion of local humanism on BHA forms and publications (including a clear explanation of the difference between BHA membership and local group membership).
  6. One-off promotion to existing BHA members, who are not group members and who are accessible by email, on similar basis to the offer for new members (and noting local group membership incentives).
  7. One-off promotion to group members and supporters who are not BHA members of 18-for-12 month offer of BHA membership.

BHA Local Representatives

  1. Identify with the group one or more suitable group members, in most cases including the group leader, to be “BHA Local Representatives” (BLRs) authorised to represent the BHA locally, for example in interactions with local and regional authorities and associated bodies.
  2. Impact on Local Development Volunteer scheme (2007): There will be no separate Local Development Volunteers (LDVs) in areas covered by the Partner group. Any LDVs who remain active in the group’s area will be offered the opportunity to become BLRs within the local group.
  3. Recognise that the presence of a BLR in a group does not inhibit other group members from expressing their views. But only BLRs can claim to speak for the BHA.

Board access and general meetings

Make available two members of the BHA Board of Trustees nominated by the Chair as focal points to Partner groups with whom they can raise any issues that cannot be resolved through discussion with BHA management and staff (which remains the primary route).

Policy communication

  1. Keep Partners abreast of proposed changes to BHA policies, provide statements of existing BHA policies, and offer opportunities to provide comments on any significant policy developments (not applicable to tactical implementation, where rapid action is frequently necessary, or policies relating to the internal management of the BHA).
  2. Ensure good quality, timely communication to the group (including BLRs) of BHA policies and developments.

Note: Most of the activities of local groups are not covered by BHA policy.  There are actually only a few BHA policies and these are developed as follows:

  • The BHA Board is democratically elected by all BHA members who choose to vote.  Any member can be nominated to stand for the Board.
  • The Board sets the aims, values and strategy of the Association.
  • The Board employs a Chief Executive and other professionals both to implement the strategy, often working with others with shared objectives - notably the independent local groups – and to monitor political and other developments. If needed, they formulate new policies or modifications.  

Networking and interaction

  1. Support and encourage constructive working together with other local organisations - humanist, secular, religious and non-religious - where there are common interests.
    Where appropriate, work with the head offices of these other organisations to facilitate local groups working together.
  2. Using web and other means, actively stimulate and encourage informal networking between local groups for the sharing of ideas and best practices and, where appropriate, draw on the expertise of the group to advise other groups.
  3. Invite the group to send representatives to Group Representatives Annual Meeting (GRAM) and regional meetings if appropriate.
  4. Arrange with the group for a BHA staff member, Trustee or other representative to visit the group at least every 24 months (with the BHA taking a share of the travel costs if they are beyond the group's resources).

Operational services and fees

  1. Review and set group Partnership fees taking into account BHA costs and group capabilities.
  2. Provide expert support and advice for local campaigns in support of BHA policies.
  3. Ensure the efficient administration of the BHA/local group interface, including:
    • Timely updating of group information on the BHA website, communications and databases, (on the basis of information provided by the local group).
    • Striving to answer queries from groups in a timely manner. 
    • Advising the group of all BHA-accredited Celebrants working in their area and any relevant changes in the Celebrant Network.
    • Providing periodic reminders of the services provided by the BHA to local groups.

Positive Humanism

  1. At national level, raise awareness of/publicity about Humanism as a positive identity.
  2. Support and encourage local groups to help members develop the positive aspects of a humanist life-stance, where possible sharing best practices from other humanist and non-humanist groups and organisations.

Resources

The BHA will make available to the group:

  1. The right to state Partnership with the BHA on group headed paper and other materials, and use of defined ‘Happy Human’ group images.
  2. Briefing packs and slide packs on key topics, drawing where appropriate on the experience and expertise of successful local groups.
  3. Cover for group meetings and events under the BHA Public Liability Insurance (details as per policy).
  4. Bi-monthly pack including information and campaign resources.
  5. Groups Network newsletter by email, ten or more free copies of each issue of BHA News.
  6. Discounts on bulk orders of publications and other products from the BHA shop.
  7. Leaflets and other materials that can be used by the group when communicating externally or with those new to Humanism (perhaps including generic leaflets that can be customised by local groups).
  8. Free web hosting if required.
  9. Training on key topics (for example via training days, on-line virtual training, Open Days for new committee members)
  10. Free copy of each new BHA publication.
  11. Publicity tools such as pop-up banners and give-aways, at-cost.
  12. Free-of-charge ad hoc mailings of the group's materials to BHA members and supporters in the area (by mutual agreement).
  13. On-line listing of potential speakers and topics for meetings (based largely on inputs uploaded directly by local groups); ad hoc support for engagement with/tours by “big names” if required.
  14. (Potentially – subject to demand) Access to standard letterhead, membership cards, posters and other stationery at bulk prices.

Review

  1. Constructively engage with the group in periodic reviews of how well this agreement is working in practice as seen from both sides, and agree action on any improvements identified.
  2. Own and maintain wording of standard agreements, updating if necessary following consultation with all affected groups.

Part Two - What the BHA (and other groups) can expect from a Partner or Affiliate Group

Subject to its available resources and capabilities, the group commits to the following. The agreement recognises that available group resources and expertise may in practice limit its ability of the group to pursue campaigns or other activities.

Humanist community

  1. Make a positive contribution to Humanism locally by providing a local forum for humanists to meet, to develop their knowledge and thinking, and to develop the sense of a local community of humanists within the wider local community.
  2. Ensure a warm welcome for new members, supporters and others with a genuine interest in Humanism regardless of age, sexual orientation, academic attainment, email/Internet connection/skills or disability.
    Note: Wheelchair access or other special provision for meetings and events remains a local group decision.
  3. Provide newcomers with “What is Humanism?” information at the earliest opportunity.
  4. Arrange a programme of events and keep all group members informed.

Members and Supporters

  1. Offer a significant introductory group membership concession to BHA members/new joiners who wish also to join the group.
    Note: This only applies if you have a membership fee.
  2. Actively encourage group members to join the BHA, and pass on contact details of group members who are willing for their information to be shared to the relevant BHA staff (under appropriate conditions of confidentiality).
    Note: The BHA will make an ’18 months for 12’ membership offer for people who sign up by direct debit.
  3. Encourage group supporters who are not paid-up members to sign-up for the BHA e-Bulletin and be registered as BHA supporters.
  4. Make contact with new BHA members and supporters whose names and contact details have been passed on by the BHA (within a maximum of 2 weeks of receipt if feasible).

Alignment in external activities and dealings with third parties

  1. In external activities and dealings with third parties the group will support the BHA’s aims, strategy, policies and values - within the group’s resources and capabilities, and taking into account local circumstances.
  2. The group will not take any action that brings Humanism or the BHA into disrepute.

BHA Local Representatives

Identify with the BHA one or more suitable group members to be “BHA Local Representatives”.
Note: There should be no significant costs, if any, to groups by having a BLR.

Focal Point

Identify to the BHA a Focal Point (probably one of the BHA Local Representatives) if required for 1:1 dialogue and information sharing.

Representation of Humanism locally

  1. Engage with local Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs), “Inter-Faith” bodies, local schools and other local bodies where it makes sense, while upholding the BHA’s aims, values and policies. (If invited to participate in external bodies such as these, the group decides who will be its representatives. It is anticipated that many groups will select members who are also BHA Local Representatives.)
  2. Act locally to increase understanding and promotion of Humanism as a positive world view.
  3. Maintain a public Internet presence.

Campaigns

  1. Campaign on local issues in line with BHA policies (for example, on faith schools), taking into account local community needs and circumstances, as well as group capabilities.
  2. Support national campaigns locally, for example by encouraging people to write to their MP.

Celebrants

  1. In recognition of the importance of Humanist Celebrants in the promotion of Humanism, respond positively to requests from local BHA-accredited Celebrant to be included in the relevant section of the group’s website, making clear on the website that the person is a member of the ‘Humanist Ceremonies (tm) network’. (Applicable whether or not the Celebrant is a member of the group, and whether or not the group’s website also lists non-BHA accredited Celebrants.)
  2. Seek to develop and maintain mutually supportive relationships with local members of the ‘Humanist Ceremonies (tm) network’ where opportunities for reciprocity exist.

Finance

  1. Pay the relevant BHA Partnership annual fee on time.
    Note: For the purposes of working out group fees, partners should classify themselves as ‘small’, ‘middle-sized’ or ‘big’.  A small group has under 40 members and supporters; a middle-sized group has 40-139 members and supporters; and a big group has 140 or more members and supporters.
    The annual partner fees are: £25 (small groups), £60 (middle-sized groups), and £100 (big groups).
  2. Maintain the financial viability of the group.
  3. Decide group membership policy and set fees, taking into account any learning available from others.

Networking and interaction

  1. Actively support development and maintenance of the Groups Network, contributing group learning and advice where appropriate.
  2. At least annually, provide input to the list of speakers and topics that the BHA maintains for use by other groups.
  3. Where possible, link with any local student societies affiliated to The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS).
  4. Work constructively with other local organisations – humanist, secular, religious and non-religious - where there are common interests.
  5. Provide timely input and feedback on any BHA policy consultations

Resources

A group will provide the BHA with:

  1. Annually: data on numbers of members and registered supporters and typical meeting attendance.
  2. Annually (and within one month of any change): names and contact details of group Officers, Focal Point/Authorised individuals (to ensure efficient communications).
  3. Annually (and within one month of any change): details of changes to meeting venues and any other information for inclusion on the BHA website.
    Note: This applies to information that stays the same for a long period of time.  For example: a group might hold its main events at the same time and place each month; and this information could go on the BHA website.  The group would need to inform the BHA of any permanent (i.e. not one-off) changes to these details. 
  4. At all times, safeguard the confidentiality of membership information, and any other information communicated in confidence by the BHA.

Constitution

Have in place a written group constitution (which may be short and simple) including provision for:

  1. Elections for group Officers at least every 2 years, with all group members given adequate notice of the meeting at which they can vote.
  2. A means to refuse or withdraw group membership from any member who fails to support the constitution or Partnership/Affiliate Agreement, or who brings the BHA or the group into disrepute.

Note: see ['Constitutions'] for further guidance and to find a model constitution.

Other affiliations

  1. The group may choose to be affiliated to the National Secular Society; United Nations Association; local CVS; and/or other similar bodies.
  2. The group will not affiliate to, or publicly support, any political party.
  3. In the unlikely event of conflict between activities in support of any other organisations to which the group is affiliated or associated and those in support of the BHA’s aims values and policies, the Partners group will give priority to this agreement.

Review

Constructively engage with the BHA in periodic reviews of how well this agreement is working in practice as seen from both sides, and agree action on any improvements identified.


Sustaining the agreements

Review

The BHA will periodically (for example, every two years) initiate a review with each Partner group on how well the agreement was working in their particular case and agree any improvement actions. Affiliate agreements would be reviewed on an ad hoc basis.

Update

The wording of the agreements will be the same for all Partners and Affiliates respectively. It will be reviewed periodically to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose. If a local group or the BHA wants to amend one or both of the two standard agreements, the BHA will first arrange – possibly with the help of the proposing group - for all other Partner or Affiliate groups to be consulted on the proposed change, then seek their acceptance of the final updated version. If there is a disagreement that cannot be resolved, the BHA will call a vote. The BHA will be the formal “owner” of the agreement wording and hence will take the result of the vote into account when making the final decision. 
If a Partner decides not to accept a revised version of the Partnership Agreement within a reasonable time, they will be assumed to have decided to reduce their status to an Affiliate. If an Affiliate decides not to accept a revised version of the Affiliation Agreement, they will be assumed to have disaffiliated.

New groups

The BHA will support the creation of new local groups to fill gaps in coverage, and encourage other local groups to advise and assist them.  A new group will be treated as a Partner, but the need to meet the minimum Partner requirements and to pay the Partnership fee would be waived until the group had become established (at BHA discretion but normally within 2 years). 
The title of any new local group starting up and intending to become a long-term Partner will be “[Place name] Humanists”.

Regions

The BHA will not seek to impose a nationwide regional structure or hierarchy, and will continue to interact with local groups directly. However:

  • Groups more distant from London have additional support needs compared to those in London and the South East.  The BHA would continue to work with these groups to improve regional presence, for example via regional conferences, regional centres or even staff based in the region.
  • The need for informal networking is likely to increase with the increasing number of groups and members.  Some Local groups are effectively themselves regional, such as the North East and Devon (which has sub-groups), and some new regional networks are forming, notably in the Eastern Region. The BHA would encourage this type of networking, assuming its effect was in line with the BHA’s aims, values and policies, and provided it did not inhibit direct communication between local groups and the BHA.
  • In cases where interaction is required with government or the EU at a regional level, it will be covered by the BHA Local Representatives - who will agree between themselves, in consultation with the relevant BHA contact if appropriate, who should meet the requirement.
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Blakeley Nixon,
27 Oct 2015, 07:31
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