This is a guest post by Laura Marks, Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies. Follow her on twitter @Laura_E_Marks
The headlines of your recent report, as Richard says, are “good news” and I too applaud the wider demographic now represented at the Board. As a new, female Deputy, under 60(!) I am doing my bit to widen our representation. This goes further with our Divisions now having a broader range of deputies bringing different perspectives and skills.
However, surely this is just stage one? It’s all well and good to have a more representative range of Deputies but this has to be the start of a trend to really improve our representation. And secondly, and more immediately, we need to consider what these Deputies are actually doing for the next two years.
The Deputy’s job is to understand how our constituencies are affected by matters facing their community, to engage with current and long-term issues, to act as a catalyst to action locally, to challenge the executive and to be heard.
Without this, the value of having a wider demographic range is somewhat limited.
Let me start with representation. How many Deputies campaigned in their constituencies last year? How many studied the issues and then ensured they were elected with real backing? How representative are we if we don’t have the considered support of our constituents? Our mandate comes through the depth of our representation – which I suggest, in some cases, could be improved.
Secondly, participation. There are some notable examples of where new deputies have stepped right up to the plate. Gabriel Webber’s blog shows how he is trying to engage with international issues, Sam Alston volunteered to be on the Oxfam Oversight group which is ongoing and challenging.
Several new deputies have been elected to divisions (on the Community Issues Division I am lucky to have Ilana Fenster, Georgina Bye and Rachel Elf) and of course, many others (including older new Deputies) have taken roles.
But there is a long way to go.
If our new Deputies (or established ones for that matter) are to he heard then they need to actively engage – working in their constituencies, speaking up at the plenary, helping decide where we want the Board to go. Just having a seat isn’t enough.
The Board of Deputies’ Women’s group (BoDWG) asked me to put together a list of the 17 Working Groups active within the Board, some new and still developing. These include social action, Closer to Israel, Heritage (cemeteries), fundraising, supporting educational projects and, crucially, political engagement.
Most groups require more enthusiastic, hard working members. We need Deputies to step up, supporting the vital work of the Board and, therefore, the community. It is only through engagement via our Deputies, that we can move forwards.
So my challenge to Change the Board is this. Changing the Board through a wider demographic is, for now done and dusted. The real tachlis is awaiting – get involved and take responsibility. Just let me know what you want to do and let’s get moving.
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