Minutes of July 2012 meeting

Minutes of meeting of the Board of directors of The Autscape Organisation

Meeting date: Sunday 1st July 2012

Meeting time: 2.00pm BST

Meeting Chair: Martijn

Present:  Debbie, Elaine, Kalen, Martijn, Peter, Stephen, Trish and Yo

1. Proposals

1.1. 2013 Venue.

1.1.1. The board decided to defer the issue for decision on the board email list. (4 for, 1 against)

1.1.2. The board requested further information from sc-research about why other venues are not included in these options and deferred the issue for a vote on the email list by 9.7.12. (5 for, 1 against). During a discussion it emerged that Peter and Elaine have made extensive attempts to contact venues but that many venues have not responded to enquires. However some directors felt that more specific information about the extent and outcome of contact with particular venues was needed for the board to make an informed decision.

1.2. (1.3 in agenda) Trustee recruitment policy. The board approved the principle of advertising for potential trustees and, subject to approval of the advertisement, agreed to place an advertisement on the Autscape website and circulate it widely to other charities, companies and other organisations and to potentially interested individuals. (5 for, 1 against). During a discussion concerns were expressed about how Autscape might be changed by the recruitment of non-autistic trustees and/or trustees who have never attended the Autscape conference. Potential target groups including other autistic-run organisations, parents of autistic children and non-autistic disabled people were mentioned. Some directors favoured further efforts at recruitment from within the Autscape community, perhaps by writing an advertisement in a more accessible manner and/or making it clear to members that more trustees are needed. Others were dubious about whether it is realistic to expect to successfully attract individuals with the needed skills to the board if recruitment were to continue to be restricted to that community and that recruitment tactics which give a misleading impression of the skills required and responsibilities involved could lead to filling places on the board without necessarily ensuring sufficient skills overall. (see Appendix A for the report available to the board)

1.3. (1.2 in agenda) Trustee recruitment practice. The board decided to ask the company secretary to create one or more role descriptions for Autscape trustees emphasising the skills we particularly need to recruit and draft advertisements as needed (8 for, 0 against) (see Appendix A for the report available to the board)

1.4. Trustee recruitment practice. The company secretary clarified for the board that ‘trustee recruitment services’ are a form of straightforward advertising that targets people who have relevant skills; that ‘brokerage service’ means using a service which will help us analyse our needs and approach people who might fit well with us; and that either may be free or cost but the proposals only cover costs from within existing development budget. The board decided to agree to the use of trustee recruitment services and delegate the company secretary to register Autscape with such services at her discretion where these are free or can be afforded from the existing development budget. (8 for, 0 against) (see Appendix A for the report available to the board)

1.5. Trustee recruitment practice. The board decided to delegate the company secretary to register Autscape with a brokerage service such as that offered by TrusteeWorks (with the choice of service to be at the discretion of the company secretary) where such a service is free or can be afforded from the existing development budget. (8 for, 0 against) (see Appendix A for the report available to the board)

1.6. Advisory vote on autistic majority. The board decided (5 for, 2 against) to propose an advisory motion at the 2012 AGM seeking the memberships' view on
(i) whether Autscape should require a majority of autistic people on the board and if so in what proportion (51% or 75%)
(ii) whether Autscape should be required to maintain a majority of autistic members and if so in what proportion (51% or 75%)

It was noted that both of these would require collecting information about individuals' status (i.e. autistic or not), (i) for just board nominees and (ii) for all members, something Autscape has had a practice, though not formal policy, not to do. It was mentioned that such rules are common in disabled persons’ organisations and, in discussion of 1.2 earlier, the need to find a way to ensure the preservation of Autscape as an ‘autistic-led’ organisation had been identified. However, concerns were expressed about the potential for creating an ‘in crowd’ and ‘out crowd’, the potential for forcing people to identify as autistic or not (when the dividing line is not always a clear cut matter). The issue of whether it would be legally permissible to use prior attendance at Autscape as the criteria was raised and the company secretary clarified that it would not. There were also some concerns about the practical workability of such a provision. The possibility of delaying this decision in the hope of further workable proposals was mentioned, however the need to issue an agenda for the AGM meant that a delay was impractical. The company secretary pointed out that the decision before the board was whether to put the issue to the membership, rather than the issue itself. (see Appendix A for the report available to the board) [During this item, the issue of accessibility of the AGM to people with verbal communication problems was raised and it was agreed that this important issue should be discussed further on the board email list.]

1.7. Storage. The board deferred the issue of what to do about storage of Autscape's belongings from the end of Autscape 2012 onwards for decision on the board email list with a deadline of 9/7/12 and requiring Stephen to produce a votable proposal for the board's consideration by that deadline. (7 for, 0 against). Debbie provided the information that a brief look at commercial storage costs suggests that these exceed the value of the sensory equipment.

1.8. Bar proposal. The board decided that Autscape will run a small bar in the Small Conference room on Mon/Tue and Wed evenings of Autscape between 8 and 11pm and that overall responsibility for the project be delegated to her (5 for, 2 against) (rationale and further details in Appendix B). It was clarified that the proposal was for an agreement in principle with a budget to follow. Debbie strongly disagreed with the proposal and said that it involved Autscape in the promotion of alcohol. The equating of running a bar with promoting alcohol was strongly disagreed with by several other directors. It was pointed out that this can be seen as service to participants; that a pub-like, but autistic accessible, social experience available when venue bars have been used at previous conferences is something many participants enjoy. It was also mentioned that the proposed activity has the potential to raise funds for Autscape. Debbie also objected to the lack of adequate time to consider and discuss the proposal (which was only made available to the board a few hours before the meeting). The issue of potential conflict between an organiser staffing a bar and a participant refused the sale of alcohol was also raised. However, other directors felt that participants prefer the experience of Autscape with a bar and may reasonably want to choose to socialise with alcohol.

[Unnumbered item] The board agreed to omit items 1.10, 2.3, 2.4, 2.8, 3.3, and parts of 3.6 (Echo and newsletter) from the agenda due to lack of time.

1.9. Website updating rules. The board decided (7 for, 1 against) to modify the rules agreed in September 2011 1.11 (see Appendix C) to delete "updating" from (b) and "administrative updating and correction" from (c) and to add a general statement that any board member or postholder may make corrections or routine updates to any existing content either personally or with the assistance of anyone with the necessary technical skills leaving it to people to agree amongst themselves who does what. However, when the changes are more than trivial, they should be notified to the secretary for the purpose of proof reading (the secretary may then refer the text to sc-pub if in his/her judgement it is appropriate to do so). [Please note that this does not change the original rules in relation to new content, structural changes to the organisation of the website, changes to the appearance or presentation of the website or any other changes which are more than routine or administrative]

2. Follow ups

2.1. Purchasing esp. Interaction Badges (Stephen). Stephen reported that plastic wallets for the interaction badges have been purchased and should arrive soon, but that he still needs to get the inserts printed. He requested a copy of last year’s file. He reported that he has not yet purchased the bulk of the general merchandise but will do so within the next week. He reported an enquiry about mugs but concluded that cost and quantities look less than feasible without asking at registration (an option for next year). He intends to buy glowsticks for sparklies in the dark this evening. Pens have been purchased and have arrived, as have organiser hats.

2.2. Purchase/transfer of autscape domains (Peter). This was deferred until after Autscape.

2.3. Echo feasibility report (Kalen). Skipped (see above)

2.4. Draft chat list guidance (Martijn). Skipped (see above)

2.5. Childcare booking (Elaine). Elaine stated that she will put the times to the board after the meeting. She has done the booking form and should be able to forward the deposit cheque shortly.

2.6. Transport coordinator (Peter). Peter had nothing to report.

2.7. Insurance (Peter/Yo). Peter checked that no directors were aware of any claim which might arise on the executive risks insurance. He reported that he expects to speak to the event insurers on Tuesday and Elaine clarified that the bouncy castle does not need to be included as the idea wasn’t workable.

2.8. Autscape experience list (Yo/Trish). Skipped.

2.9. Proposed badge change – hugging (Trish). After a brief discussion the board decided (7 for, 0 against) to add an optional plain coloured sticker that participants to add to their badge to indicate that they may be approached and asked for a hug.

3. Subcommittee progress reports (suggested topics in brackets)

3.1. Formal programme subcommittee (finalisation and publication of schedule; room allocation; onsite management of presenters) Chair: Kalen. Kalen reported that the written programme for the information pack and folders is well underway, but held up by some presenters not responding with bios. She stated that, when the infopack is otherwise ready, she will pass it on as is. Kalen also reported that room allocation is sorted and that she can now send the timetable to anyone who wants it. She queried whether Trish will be able to manage presenters on site on whether she needs to look for another volunteer. Trish undertook to let her know.

3.2. Alternative programme subcommittee (leisure activities, alternative programme intentions, offsite trips; liaison regarding scheduling) Chair: Trish. Trish reported that she has received one more offer of activities and asked Kalen about scheduling. She has sent a reminder to the chat list but would also like to remind non chat list people. Kalen reported that she has made some enquiries of habitual leisure proposers to ask whether they will be doing anything and scheduled in positive responses. Trish asked Kalen for a list of those she had contacted. Debbie also reported contact with one such person who will contact Trish early next week. Autscape will not be organising any offsite trips, so anything like that would be informal and organised by attendees.

3.3. Fundraising subcommittee (fundraising strategy; virginmoneygiving) Chair: Elaine. Skipped.

3.4. Research subcommittee (venue research progress) Chair: Debbie. Debbie noted that venues were discussed in item 1.1.

3.5. Publicity and publications subcommittee (Autism show and poster distribution generally, website wording, information pack inc. estimated publication date, generic description) Chair: Martijn. Martijn reported that flyers and posters were sent to individuals attending the Autism Show who promised to post/distribute them there; but that he has not yet followed up with them to ask if they succeeded in doing so, but he assumes (hopes) they have. He reported that the information pack is now his top priority. Yo has stepped in to help, and he is going to do his very best to have it done in a week. He had no other progress to report.

3.6. Working group reports (if any) (Echo - Kalen, Newsletter – Stephen, Purchasing – Stephen, Tech – Stephen) Stephen (tech) reported that the venue wants to know what equipment we want in what rooms. He intends to send details of this to relevant subcommittees later today, once he figures out how to phrase the query. He stated that he will need a response quickly. Kalen recommended that he email her instead since she is likely to be in possession of all the relevant information.

4. Key position progress reports (matters not covered earlier)

4.1. Webmaster (registration system, issues arising) Peter reported that registration has been closed. Martijn offered to update the front page of the website and the registration page to say so.

4.2. Registrar (registrations so far and issues arising). Debbie reported that Autscape has the following registrations: Residential 79 aged 14 or over, plus nine people aged of 13 or under. Part time residential: 3 one night presenters, plus the carer of one of them. She reported having difficulty obtaining information about the meals some will be present for and that they can't book their transport until the schedule is set. One day: 3 day people on the Tuesday; 1 day person on the Wednesday. Yo asked how those registrations relate to the original minimum number required by the venue (90). Debbie responded that it depends on how the venue count it. We may be a few places short, but are close enough that there won’t be a financial hole.

4.3. Venue coordinator 2012 (Venue contract, report on liaison with the venue including catering/menu, venue information for info pack, coordination with programme coordinator on use of rooms). Stephen reported that liasing with venue continues as and when people send me queries. He believes Peter has sent Yo a copy of the venue contract. The catering manager was away when Elaine contacted them, and she will be trying again shortly. Coordination with programme coordinator has resulted in us working out how to use the rooms. He is finishing off the form that needs to be sent back by the 8th, buts need a couple more pieces of information to do so and intends to email relevant subcommittees to obtain answers (Our desired Room layouts, and if we want water and glasses in them, mainly, along with what equipment we need in each room, other than AV equipment in the conference rooms). Kalen indicated that she is likely to have the needed information and asked Stephen to send the form to her. Yo requested a copy of the completed form for reference. Stephen also reported that he has put together a draft of information about the venue for the info pack and sent to the publications sub committee; he intends to redraft soon.

4.4. Treasurer [directors please read and note 09/6/12 posts from the treasurer regarding expenses and budgets] (actions taken under delegated authority, bank account, corporation tax return, PayPal, contact with accountants) Peter reported that the corporation tax of nil has been paid on-line. He hasn’t yet done the paperwork that backs this up - we have to explicitly claim the exemption as a charity. He stated that he wasn’t sure, due to not having access to the records, if we have actually filed anything with the Charities Commission. Yo clarified that we are not required to yet as the Charities Commission (while they normally require a copy of accounts) did not require the partial first year accounts, unlike Companies House.

4.5. Company Secretary (actions taken under delegated authority, Venue contract, PVSL, PPL, PRS and TEN, info@ guidance, policies and job descriptions, files, postholding, recruitment and retention issues, AGM and nominations, reviewing election procedures). Yo reported that the venue contract is fine, she had simply forgotten having checked it some months ago. She also reported that all (performance rights) licences are in place; either we have them or the venue do. Yo also reported that the TEN has been sent off to all the relevant authorities. She reported that the call for nominations was distributed and she anticipates that the AGM paperwork will be done on time and that it shouldn’t be too complicated this year. She reported having completed the recruitment and retention report and submitted to the board by the deadline. She has been asked by a director to consider election issues and she intends to respond when there is time but probably not til after Autscape.

4.6. Chair (actions taken under delegated authority, general progress, board communication, any other matters). Kalen reported registering with Booker wholesalers, but that she will need to update that if we will be selling alcohol. She also needs the card, which was probably sent to the registered address. Yo reported that she has not received it.


5.1. Kalen clarified the availability of directors for a meeting on the first Sunday in August at 2pm and confirmed that a sufficient number will be available.

5.2. There was no other business

Meeting closed 16:43.

Recruitment and Retention of directors

A report to the Autscape board July 2012


The Autscape Organisation requires a minimum of 3 (Article 20A) and a maximum of 9 (Bye-law 2.1) directors. Directors are elected for 3 year terms and we have established a rotation such that 3 directors are due to retire each year.

Currently we have a board of 8, of whom 3 are due to retire on 31st August 2012. All 3 of those due to retire (Debbie, Kalen and Peter) have stated that they do not intend to stand for re-election. Nominations for election to the vacant posts opened on 21st June 2012 and will close on 12th July 2012. Elections will be held at the AGM on 26th July 2012.

It is also possible for new directors to be added to the board at any time by co-option, although the new director will then need to be elected at the following AGM.


To this point Autscape has recruited directors informally (and largely by means of volunteers) from amongst the Autscape beneficiary community. Based on past experience, it is fairly unlikely that many (if any) qualified and capable candidates will submit nominations. Very few new directors have come on to the Autscape board in recent years. For some time Autscape has been overly dependent on the skills of a small number of individuals and now faces a likely skill shortage as a consequence of retirements of long serving members of the board.

Those retiring include the current chair and treasurer and represent some skills which are not readily available amongst the remaining board members. The first of the references which follow this report is to a simple skills audit for boards of trustees. Using this as a checklist (eliminating a few areas not relevant to Autscape and adding in a couple), it is possible to identify those areas where, following the August 2012 retirements, Autscape is going to be most in need of particular skills.

RED – The board is expected to be without sufficient skills
YELLOW – The board is expected to be relying too heavily on too small a number of individuals for these skills
GREEN – The board is expected to have sufficient skills

Administration (Yellow)
Board/committee experience (Yellow)
Change management (Yellow)
Charity/voluntary organisation governance (Yellow)
Conflict resolution (Red)
Beneficiary awareness/ability to interact with participants (Green)
Enterprise/business developmentv (Red)
Facilitating meetings (Red)
Finance (Red)
Fundraising (Yellow)
HR/training (Yellow)
Income generation (Yellow)
Influencing (Red)
IT/systems (Yellow)
Leadership (Red)
Legal (Yellow)
Listening (Red)
Marketing (Yellow)
People management (Red)
PR/communications (Green)
Project management (Red)
Relationship management (Red)

Chairing Autscape requires ALL of the skills: conflict resolution, meeting facilitation, influencing, leadership, listening, people management, project management and relationship management in one individual. And preferably board/committee experience and/or charity/voluntary organisation governance. Though in Autscape’s case we may prefer to prioritise knowledge or experience of Autscape and/or being autistic.

Being treasurer of a charitable company requires ALL of the skills: finance, administration and legal. And preferably board/committee experience and/or charity/voluntary organisation governance. Additionally the treasurer needs organisation, initiative, the ability to meet deadlines reliably and, almost certainly, the ability to communicate by telephone.

But this is not just about replacing a chair and a treasurer. Even if Autscape had suitable replacements lined up (which we don’t), we are still too reliant on key individuals for other skills as well notably:
Board/committee experience
Charity/voluntary organisation governance
Development, change and project management

The non-typical backgrounds of all of Autscape’s trustees to date means that most of our directors have no previous trustee, charity or committee experience. Recruiting solely from the very small Autscape beneficiary community, it is always going to be impossible to find sufficient committed individuals who also have the skills and experience which the Autscape board needs.

Autscape is and should continue to be an autistic-led organisation. But we need to consider how best to balance this priority with the need to ensure a sufficiently skilled board to effectively run the organisation.

It is not realistic to think that these skills gaps can be filled entirely by means of informal recruitment from within the Autscape beneficiary community. The addition of other recruitment approaches which draw from communities beyond the Autscape beneficiary community is needed to ensure sufficient skills to maintain an effective Autscape board in the long term. At the same time, there is a need to consider what measures are needed to ensure that Autscape remains autistic-led.


It should be no surprise that all 3 of this year’s retiring directors have decided not to seek re-election. Between them, they have given around 16 years of service to Autscape. ‘Burn out’ amongst Autscape’s longer serving board members has been a looming problem for some time. Autscape’s unusual organisational structure, in which board members perform both all governance and all management functions, means that the demands on those board members with rare or key skills are substantial and relentless.

As the same time, few current board members have prior experience of charity or committee work on which to draw to reduce their workload. The demands of the job also require much in areas in which most autistics face challenges: initiative and the ability to reliably execute actions, communication, interaction, administrative and personal organisation and others. And, as in many organisations, it is those who already have the greatest personal and professional responsibilities in their non-Autscape lives, who shoulder the greatest responsibilities for Autscape.

Autscape’s organisational structure and distribution of workload amongst board members have both progressed positively over the last few years, but progress has been very slow. There are still too many burdens on too few shoulders. Autscape needs to act, not only to address the immediate situation, but also to prevent it recurring. This time, simply begging retirees to stay is not going to resolve the problem. Doing so in the past has simply postponed rather than resolved Autscape’s retention problems.

The board needs to consider whether the way in which Autscape currently works is actually sustainable in the long term. In most charities, governance and management are more separated. There is no such thing as a ‘typical charity’ but it is common in charities (other than the very smallest) for a board of trustees to provide governance and some high level management functions, one or more paid employees to carry out most of the management functions and a mixture of paid employees and volunteers to carry out the day to day work of the charity.

One possible way forward would be to seek to move Autscape towards a model along those lines. The goal would be to retain governance with a majority autistic board, but to seek to move at least some management and day to day running tasks to one or more paid staff and/or volunteers.

Concrete recommendations

(1) Create one or more role descriptions emphasising the skills we particularly need to recruit and draft advertisement(s)

(2) (a) Place an explicit advertisement for new trustees on the Autscape website with a prominent link on the front page

(b) Circulate the advertisement widely to other organisations (e.g. other charities and businesses working in autism and related fields (they may contain suitable people even if some of the organisations are not entirely like minded); big companies who encourage their staff to volunteer; universities, research centres and anywhere else we can think of and potentially interested individuals)

(c) Advertise via online trustee recruitment services such as NCVO’s trusteebank; CTN’s trusteefinder (www.trusteenet.org.uk/jobs-search); The Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales offers charities a free access to its members’ jobs board (www.icaewjobs.com); The Big Give (www.thebiggive.org.uk/charities/trustees) now offers charities the opportunity to ask for trustees as well as attract donations.

(d) Register with a brokerage service such as that offered by TrusteeWorks http://www.reachskills.org.uk/promote-your-vacancy

(3) (a) Seek legal advice to draft a change to the governing document to require Autscape to maintain a majority autistic board with the intention of proposing such a change to the members at the 2013 AGM.

(b) In the meantime, to propose an advisory motion at the 2012 AGM seeking the memberships’ view on
(i) whether Autscape should require a majority of autistic people on the board and if so in what proportion (51% or 75%)
(ii) whether Autscape should be required to maintain a majority of autistic members and if so in what proportion (51% or 75%)

In both cases using Autscape’s own definition of ‘autistic people’ which is “for the avoidance of doubt the phrase ‘autistic people’ shall include all people who consider themselves to be autistic or to be close to the autistic spectrum whether or not they have been formally diagnosed as such.” (Article 3). Also see Appendix for background information

(4) Following the appointment of sufficient new trustees to sustain the essential work of the organisation, to form an ‘organisational development’ working group to develop proposals about the long term development of Autscape and, in particular, models for (a) a sustainable Autscape which does roughly what it does now; and (b) a larger organisation which would move towards active fundraising and having some paid staff in order to run multiple conferences and events. The aim would be to allow the board and, where appropriate, the members to consider which of these models are both viable and preferable.

Proposals intended to begin the process of implementing these recommendations will be made at the meeting on 1st July 2012.

Company Secretary






For reference the rules and requirements of some other organisations which may be of interest are listed here.

ARM (an unincorporated members organisation) requires that all members of its executive committee must be diagnosed autistic and full membership of the organisation is only open to ‘autistic individuals’ (although this is not defined).

Disability Rights UK (which is a charitable company) formed in January 2012 by the merger of Disability Alliance, Radar and National Centre for Independent Living will only allow organisations to become members of it if: the organisation’s constitution states that its Board must have no fewer than 51% disabled people; its Board has 75% disabled people, or if it only has 51% disabled people, has agreed to increase this to 75% disabled people within three years; if the organisation has members, at least 75% of them in total should be organisations led by disabled people, or be individual disabled people.


Having spoken to the venue regarding a bar they are happy for us to have one and suggested the Small Conference Hall as this has got hard floor and a kitchen off it. (Whilst we could have it anywhere, they were concerned about spills on the carpet and the general undertone I detected was that they would prefer a bar and drinks to be contained in this area).

I suggest we keep the bar simple and explain this to participants in case they expect the full range of drinks to be available. The drinks I would sell are cans of Beer, Larger and Cider and bottles of Alcopops of various flavours. Possibily also wine and Baileys. However, the latter two would require glasses and although plastic glasses are easy and cheap it might not be necessary to sell them if everybody was happy with the other things. I would also like to sell soft drinks and crisps (Ready Salted, Salt and Vinegar and Cheese and Onion only), as it is advisable (from my research), that whenever alcohol is sold, soft drinks should be available and salty snacks.

If we didn't do wine and Baileys, everything would be sold in the bottle or can and we could even operate this as an honesty bar. An honesty bar would be better for staffing reasons but I would prefer it if for most of the time somebody was responsible for overseeing it. I don't mind doing this when I am available (as at some point I will have to put my daughter to bed). I am also happy to take responsibility for it. I would also like to have the right to prevent somebody from buying anymore if I felt their was good reason. (ie excessively drunk)

The venue are also happy to clear up bottles and cans for recycling.

The problems are

  1. Buying the stock. This would involve Kalen who has the cash and carry card. We would have to go to the Cash and Carry on Monday afternoon and stock up
  2. Where to keep the stock. It hasn't been asked yet but possibly a spare bedroom
  3. How much stock to buy. I would need to do some sums on this but I don't think we would need that much. Given what has been said already I guesstimate that only about 40 people would be drinkers. I would also prefer to buy less stock and restock so we are not stuck with a load at the end.
  4. What price to sell it at. It would have to be enough to make a profit but also not too high that people would not buy it.
  5. What to do with any excess. We could sell it off cheap on the last day or if I do my sums right we might not have that much in which case I would buy it myself to bring home.

There is a lot to take in but I don't think this needs to be complicated. It can be done very simply.

I work on the various bars and sweet stalls that we have for the friends of the school and I know that there can be a lot of profit to be made. However, I have never done the stock purchasing. On Friday I should be able to talk to the person that does though and get a better idea of wholesale prices, retail prices and profit etc.



September 2011 Minutes 1.11

In areas which fall under (a) Technical (including the implementation of areas under (b) and (c)) this would require the web systems manager to have the agreement of no-one

In areas which fall under (b) Appearance, Navigation, Coordination of the creation and updating of substantial content other than that under (c), this would require the web systems manager to have the agreement of the chair or other representative of sc-pub

In areas which fall under (c) Substantial content of organisation sections, administrative updating and correction, legal compliance and prompting review, this would require the web systems manager to have the agreement of the company secretary.