Tonight was a meet up for EquityUK’s Online Branch. A meet up or a meeting?
They are different and importantly so. Equity is the trade union for performers and creative production professionals. Thanks very simplistic but sufficient for the purposes of this post. The branch network gives members real time physical opportunities to meet, exchange experiences and receive updates. These branches are spread across the UK. But what if you don’t reside within sensible traveling distance of a branch’s meeting location? Any member can attend any branch, in theory. The Online Branch was conceived to provide a branch for members for who for what ever reason the physical branches aren’t accessible to them. For some it’s work, others it’s destination even timezone if overseas and others it’s care responsibilities or a variety of challenges making physical attended impractical. Enter stage left the Online Branch.
With this in mind for the Online Branch it could not just be a replication of a physical branch.
So Meet Up vs Meeting? Meetings have official structure, they are led by an agenda. Meetings are united and with a determined number of people decisions can be made collectively through motions, debates, conclude with a vote and progressed for action or developed by the branch. That’s the official bit. Some argue that’s the boring bit.
A meet up is a social affair. Like minded colleagues coming together. For the online branch a technology solution to enable the official bit forms the foundation of the Online Branch. It’s ideology and it’s goal is to place the democratic lever to afford change within the reach of all members of the union and not only when they can go to a Meeting.
A branch is its members and the activity must be determined and led by the members. The online branch has a committee of nine who have held together the ideals since the branch received its official sanction from Council in 2016.
Here in 2021 members are coming together using video meeting platform Zoom from Scotland, Wales, East Midlands, Sussex, New York, Berlin and Los Angeles.
In the intervening years various technology solutions have be developed, discarded, discovered and explored. The most recent milestone was not a technological one but a human one. Equity assigned union organiser Dominic Bascombe to support us.
A technology discovery report was commissioned just prior to the pandemic last March so world events have surpassed us in regards to securing union funds to evolve the technology we would ideally have built. But I’m a firm believer that people follow people not platforms. The platforms augment and assist.
Reaching the people, engaging the Online Branch members is the task at hand while we acquire the technology to uncouple the physical from the temporal we must meet.
The meet ups scheduled are commitments from the branch chair to open a door. The meetings will be scheduled in accordance with the members of the branch. That’s where they get hand in that democratic lever.
Tonight the desire to hold Meetings was requested. An interest in understanding the union’s structure and their (those attending the meet up) role and purpose within it was revealed. That was music to my ears.
One member located in the US had questions about work and visa logistics across UK and EU following a recent film contract opportunity.
A very heartening Meet Up. I will report all the raised points and suggestions to the committee and our organiser.
The branch is open for business. Now we have to desire what that business is.