Group Membership

One of our objective is to build and maintain a mutually fruitful cooperation with groups we establish some sort of partnership.

Obviously it would be beneficial for both side if group members could enjoy the ability to participate in discussions on our website and raise topics of their own interest as Members of The BA.

An important question attached to this scenario is how should we set the group membership fee in this case. Quite clearly the “one size fit for all” principle doesn’t work well, especially not in case of developing countries.

To take a specific example, several weeks ago Mr. Anandan indicated that his group, FRSD, is interested in entering into a Project Partnership with The BA. As FRSD has plenty of members it might be advantageous both for them and us if they share their views, experiences or problems on our portal and could join to discussions. Should we offer the membership for free of charge? If the “free of charge” schema is too generous, how should we find the proper fee, with which both side would be “happy”?

13 thoughts on “Group Membership

  1. Michael White

    Thank you Janos, good points. As we have discussed by email there are often struggles to get money, especially in developing* countries

    [*as an aside that is a concept which needs changing ~ ‘developing’ now mainly implies becoming a cash-economy with all the infrastructure and lack of care that got our planet into its current mess. Many of these nations are extremely ancient with thriving traditional cultures … but the ‘west’ never understood that].

    One question is exactly what we see is the purpose of our membership fees? I know where we began, but wonder if our views have now changed a bit? If we intend the fees to cover the operating costs of The BA, then in time we’ll need a good number of members ~ and each Euro is important. But if we now prefer to raise grants for much our work and overall running costs, then we could choose another route. Most important is ‘ one size certainly does not fit all’.

    So, case-by-case, we could grant free membership for partner groups as a whole. That allows them to post, comment and contribute to our discussions. We benefit by increasing our membership numbers, and the added weight for petitions. We also increase our skills base and technical expertise, and regional representation.

    I also see an option for individuals within those partner groups to register individually as members. So in that case I guess it comes down to benefits of each membership tier, and the associated responsibilities. Remember in our Articles we have discussed the ways members could aspire to the Board, or lead projects or causes for BA. That will still require dedication and effort from individuals; and certainly a no-cost or low-cost group invitaion allowing its members to post on BA’s website is not the same thing. I’m not fixed in any direction on this and am open to discussion. Thanks, Mike 🙂

  2. Janos Post author

    I expected some reaction to this topic especially from Mr Anandan, who is the leader of FRSD, but it seems that something, or someone prevented him to join to this discussion.

    If I look at our annual membership fee list, I see that the current annual membership fee, valid till end of June, is 29 Swiss Frank. It equals the price of eight coffees at any railway station kiosk in Switzerland.

    So why not take the price of 8 coffees at a railway station kiosks in development countries as an annual membership fee for them currently?

  3. Venkatasamy Rama Krishna

    I like your comment about developing countries Mike, imposed terms by the West really. Before that there was the term “underdeveloped.” And now we still have the new term “emerging economies.” Obviously it is all about cash in hand, not quite resources.
    Janos, my coffee here would cost me anything from $1.25 for the instant, to $3.00 for a latte or mocha.
    Anyway, I do not think we discussed the question of membership fees exhaustively. Time to rethink again. Some organisations have a lower fee for “developing” countries; a fee structure for Associations/Organisations; honorary memberships (free); and fees (or no fees) for Associates. I do not know what could have been the problem with Anandan and the FRSD, but I tend to think he was looking for an association rather than membership.
    Could we think along those lines to see what we can come up with?

    1. Janos Post author

      The initial draft of the Contribution policy, including the fees had been published on 19th January 2015. Since than nobody commented or complained about it despite the fact that complete review of the website had been requested a week before 3rd of March, the Go Live date.

      Apart from that it seems the coffee is quite expensive in Mauritius. In Switzerland, the Kiosks at the railway stations is a place where one can purchase various “flavor” of coffee served from an automat in a paper cup. So basically everything tastes the same, and costs 3.00 – 3.50 CHF. In a restaurant a simple espresso costs 4.00 – 5.00 CHF, while other more Italian style coffees cost even more. Still I think that the differences in the cost of a coffee pretty well could represent the differences of currencies of the respective countries.
      As far as Mr. Anandan is concerned, he applied for everything he could, started with Board membership, than ‘standard’ membership, partnership with The BA, and grant funding. At the same time 3 months was not long enough for him neither to share any of his thoughts, for which he possessed the required credentials, nor to pay up the discounted membership fee.

  4. Venkatasamy Rama Krishna

    I would say we are still in the ‘running-in” phase Jano, and a few things we have agreed to may have to be modified to suit conditions that we come across. The experience of learning, one would say. As for Anandan, the ball is in his yard. So let take all the time he needs to decide. We can hardly decide for him. I just wish he could have come up with a proposal, rather than silence.

    1. Janos Post author

      I agree Ven, that we are in the “running-in” phase. But does it mean at the same time that we have to forget about our own regulations? What is the credibility of a person, who first applies for board-membership, than for fellowship, than after considering the fees finally applies for membership, than in a period of three months he does not create a single post, not even a comment, and also does not pay the membership fee, and when there is a discussion opened to find an optimal way to set membership fee structure applicable for his country and for his own 20+ members team he does not even react. Membership fee is due within one month after acceptance of membership request. For him two months has been given, plus an additional months after a kind reminder – left without reply. I see this case, which is closed now, as a pattern. For me the lesson to learn from it is a) to come up with a membership fee structure applicable for groups from developing countries and b) to create an environment on our website which is more inspiring for others to join that it is today. And this latter one is not so much about technical improvements but improvements on the vividness of discussions on our website. To improve on this activity and presence of others than the president and the secretary is definitely required.

  5. Krishnan Srinivasan

    Some times, silence conveys many things. But breaking silence always leads to a reaction. One such, now.
    Janos: A coffee/tea in Chennai costs 15Cents in a Kiosk and 35 cents in a good restaurant and a full pot costs 3$ in a 5 Star hotel. Just for comparison, as a senior retired Scientist of the Government, my monthly pension is $ 290. Most of the population has an earning capacity of less than $3 a day. I pay my maid servant $ 25 per month for 2 hours a day work with two holidays a month. Now, you will understand, where we stand.
    Mike, Ven and Janos: I am a silent spectator for Mr. Paramanandan’s application, far — far away to comment upon, for the obvious reason that we have not a cent to give, now. Our empty coffers, no members, no financial aid from any source (corporate and government) and no inquisitive visitors to our site are a few reasons too. We have to show our presence through the BP group too. A LinkedIn promotion through other groups may help. We do require a lot of intellectual inputs through a free membership campaign. Of course, every membership application shall have to be scrutinized for an activity potential, and NOT just to say that he/she is our member. It is time that we start submitting applications for Grant-in-Aid, seed capital etc to the potential donor organizations.
    Another issue is, an NGO would appeal for funds to sustain, and a group membership will be possible only when it gets a grant from us – indirectly it means – “YOU give me money to run my projects and I will spare a few $ from it for membership”. Less said, better understood. Nature does not give free lunches, I too know. Money is the only universal language well spoken and very well understood. Birds will come where food is in plenty. I don’t think it is fair on our part to ask Janos give up his breakfast and coffee for a year to protect the infancy of BA. Let us consolidate our position first.

  6. Janos Post author

    Krishnan, you are right, sometimes silence convey many things. But for those who have no idea about the reason of the silence, such as myself, it usually means only one thing: ignorance.

    You are quite right as well by saying we are short of money. Let me note that there is another thing we are short of: time. And whilst we can hope to find some money sooner or later through donations or membership fees, we have no hope to bring back the time what we let to pass away without taking useful actions to protect pieces of biodiversity.

    We are seeing our world dying with an accelerating speed. Therefore I think that braking silence after few months is an appropriate course of action from my side. As a matter of fact, as the secretary of The BA I am obliged to do so.

    Returning to group membership fees, based on what I’ve just learned from you now about coffee prices in Chennai (I guess this can be considered as a country-wide average in India) I can see that the price level in Switzerland is roughly 10 times higher than in India .

    Quite interestingly the Per Capita GDP on Purchasing Power Parity for 2015 estimated in Switzerland is US$58.731, for India it is US$6.766. So the coffee price and the per capita GDP seems to be correlating well. Please don’t take it as a scientific statement, though for our current purpose it is very handy information.

    What about saying that the annual membership fee for somebody should be calculated by the following formula:

    Annual Membership fee for Switzerland * ( Per Capita GDP PPP of candidate member’s country / Per Capita GDP PPP of Switzerland)

    This would result a membership fee 90% lower for India compared to what we have currently at the end of our Contribution Policy.

    At the same time I have to add that generalization of the above proposal should be handled by special care, because for example, I have a lot of colleagues from India working either in Switzerland (‘on-site’) or remotely from India (‘off-shore’), whose remuneration are on the same or similar level than the Swiss average in IT. So I guess the guiding rule should be applied on a case-by-case basis.

  7. Michael White

    Thanks for all these insights folks 🙂

    For membership fees we can, as we already tried to do, set fees at some level: perhaps as Janos has suggested. But then we allow case-by case requests for reduced or no fees, depending on our assessment of their submission.

    FRSD: who knows? Not me. Janos pointed out correctly the timeline behind Anandan’s various applications. I reckon Krishan was correct by saying the FRSD idea was to have an association and benefit from our coffers ~ thanks also for the reminder that these are empty. But I do agree that we could have had some input, post, or comment from anyone in that group ~ we didn’t.

    As an aside I was shocked to see on Linked-in people requesting positions on Boards of NGOs ~ such a notion would never have crossed my mind. Perhaps I’m naive in terms of power grabs, or personal aggrandisement?

    Krishnan’s wider point: we are very close to achieving official registration in Switzerland for The BA, then we can and should apply for grants. What would most serve us? Does anyone have a pressing need that we could gain funds for? [I know where we began on this too, but we can change].

    Tongareva solar & carbon neutral footprint, LED lighting. For the moment I put this on hold (I mentioned to Janos that as part of the solar installation PowerSmart replaced all of the electric meters on the atoll. They asked how many powerpoints and lights we each had; and said that our houses would be rewired). So I’m waiting to see what equipment arrives on a future ship ~ if these are LEDS, which I expect they will be, then we can forget the lighting. We still have the option to go with battery-powered power-tools (saws, drills, grinders, chainsaws, grasscutters etc; electric outboard motors are becoming better too): solar powered recharging facilities, so we get as low emissions as possible. I’ll update everyone on this as soon as I know anything.

    I presume we never had a project proposal from FRSD?

    So are there any ideas? Just a simple suggestion would trigger options for us to investigate. IECC is too long term, even though of high value. How about a funding proposal for The BA to investigate possible alliances (EarthJustice, Earth Charter …)? Education? Next year’s conference in Hawai’i? [Janos had a nice idea about carbon-labelling on consumer products]. For me a great one is marine pollution (plastics) : raise awareness and STOP throwing the trash in our oceans. We would not be alone in this either, as many folk are at last realising how important the oceans are; including the greedy ones who want to destroy them 🙁

    Raising the visibility of The BA. That’s down to each of us. We make it work or we don’t. For me we are still embryonic/running in. Things do take time ~ and as Janos says, we won’t get the time back. So here’s a suggestion from me: how about by our first anniversary (is it August?) that we’ve decided on a fund-raiser; we’ve designed a draft project, and we’ve raised BA’s visibility? We don’t have to have everything in place or submitted, but some direction is probably better than none. Mike:)

    1. Janos Post author

      What I see important is to define a scheme or formula for calculating individual and group membership which is fair, encouraging and transparent. I see it as a priority.

      Giving membership away “for free” is something what I would not support. In case of an individual or group with willing heart but narrow circumstances, fees should not be a roadblock. In such case however there should be some sort of commitment on the candidate’s side as a proper justification.

      If we can find an agreement on the formula for individual membership what I suggested in my previous comment, we than need to find out how can we apply this for groups. Groups of individuals like FRSD or even for schools. Half of the individual fee for each member of the group? Or one third?

      By the way Mr. Anandan did apply for grant funding to support their research on invasive species.

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