Having read the recent emails and agreed with much of what Grahame says, I feel that I should clarify how the Society is set up from a legal aspect and also comment on the relationship between the President, Council and the office function.
The society is both a limited company (with membersí liability restricted to 1 pound and a Registered Charity which was sanctioned because of its educational remit. Council members are both trustees of the charity and directors of the Limited Company.
As some of you may be aware, for many years the society was administered by Michael and Deidre Rust from their home in Kent. They had a rather unusual remuneration which involved some form of commission payment on sales. One former President told me once that during the latter part of their involvement Council never seemed to know what was going on and it was only after the Rusts retired and the Office moved the Malvern that the situation became clear. At the time of the move, Ian Clements was appointed as Director of the Society and Company Secretary. He was not a dowser but a very experienced charity administrator - just what was needed at the time. During his year with the Society Ian worked hard to bring some semblance of order to the finances and other operational procedures.
Ian soon decided to move on to another job and that is when, in 2003, I was appointed as Director, mainly because of my own financial and organisational skills. At that time the Society had a trading loss of over 50000 pounds if I remember correctly. I learned at a later date that Ian had resigned as he realised what an almost impossible task lay ahead!
Prior to my appointment, I had been asked to join the Educational Sub-Committee in view of my own interest in teaching dowsing Ė very much as a learner myself at that time!
The job of Director at that time had been scaled down from a full time job to 25 hours a week with the savings used to fund the appointment of a second clerical assistant.
The relationship between the Director and Council was that the Director supplied the Council with financial and administrative reports together with proposals for future action. These were discussed with the President in a full day meeting at my home prior to the full Council meeting the same weekend. This together with phone calls and email discussions meant that the President was kept up to date with the affairs of the Society. Council discussed the various issues and made decisions which were then implemented by the Director and office staff. Obviously, Iíve no idea what has been happening since Peter Farrell left.
Prior to the 07/08 recession we were making good progress with a well-attended training programme which, as Grahame says, provided substantial income, (actually the Societyís main income), as well as a concurrent increase in membership, which I think reached the dizzy heights of around 1700 people.
Once the recession hit and the media machine created an atmosphere of fear we saw a drop in members and course attendees, which meant we had to instigate sensible cost saving measures. It was always a fine balancing act because my view was that any cut in service resulted in a less attractive product to members. Sadly this has now proved to be very true.
I retired in 2011 and Peter Farrell was appointed in a correct manner after a series of competitive interviews. At the time he was clearly the best candidate with experience in running charitable organisations and he expressed a keen interest in learning about dowsing. Of course the promise was not realised and it appeared that the effective lines of communication between him, the President and Council soon broke down.
Following my retirement I always made myself available to Grahame and latterly Isabel, but in the last couple of years or so it became apparent that, although my views were frequently being sought, no notice was being taken at all! I know from others that we have all had similar experiences which has been disheartening. Like Grahame, my wife Jill has proof read Dowsing Today several times and she has on several occasions offered to help sort out the website, to no avail.
After the Tutor Register was abruptly discontinued I was asked by a number of tutors if I would head up a new training organisation but although it was good to be asked, my interests have taken me in other directions and from the dowsing point of view, Trencrom Dowsers, which is run by Jill, is pursuing close links with our neighbouring groups, Tamar Dowsers and Devon Dowsers. That is where we see the immediate dowsing future in the South West.
This message is much longer than I intended but I hope that it is useful it setting the record straight.
By the way, I think Rory is quite right; the way the society operates now needs to change. The old business model was never right and there seems to be no way back for that now.
Yes, (...) we must ensure that the BSD does not end and Grahame would make an excellent figurehead again.
I do though think that there are changes needed. It can survive if it cuts its cloth accordingly and takes a back seat for a few years whilst dowsing is built back up by local groups and their regional events.
We don't need an expensive paper magazine for example but someone in the office managing social media and taking bookings for regional events is a must. A £10 per annum membership that local groups could promote would also help build up a new database of members as well as provide a little extra income.
I am not sure if the annual conference is profitable or not, but things that are not, ought to be either changed or postponed.
The BSD acts and can act as a great portal for people to come into dowsing and from my point of view that could easily be kept going.
Anyway, thanks for your email Grace
All the best
Rory Duff (Bristol Dowsers)
Can we take up your offer to publicise our ideas on your website and in your newsletter?
Would the follow text be suitable:
At the forthcoming BSD spring symposium, there is a proposal to discuss the future of the BSD. We would like to offer some suggestions as to how that discussion might fruitfully be structured, and some general ideas on the future of the BSD.
At present it seems that there is a commitment to an open discussion framed as 'The way forward Ė group discussion and positive, focused solution generation for the future of the Society'. While admirable in intention and sentiment, we worry that this is too vague to bring about any concrete and practical plans for change.
A more fruitful approach, we suggest, would be to hold a series of parallel discussions, in separate rooms, on specific topics, including the magazine, the website, role of the council, liaison with local groups, the shop, and so on. Small groups of people could discuss an issue that they are interested in, and potentially with which they are able to give practical help, and to take any decisions or plans forward. (Personally, Andrew would be willing to help with the journal.) Small groups may be able to identify talent that can be approached. (We have heard worrying reports of well respected members of the dowsing community, with much needed expertise, not being approached.)
More generally, thinking of the future of the BSD, for us the core of the BSD is its local groups. We would like to see those groups at the fore-front of the Society, and indeed that the home page of the website should focus on them. In addition, we feel that the Society has to think in terms of the services it can provide, rather than what it would ideally like to provide. For example, although some members may not be able to access a magazine that is only published online, an online magazine (being cheaper to produce) is far better than no magazine at all, which seems to be the situation at the moment.
Also, we would like to see the BSD website as a forum for members to share ideas and elicit help. Perhaps the future of the BSD is as a virtual organisation, so the website needs to be developed as the hub of the dowsing community.
We have one last thought: if the BSD is threatened with closure, would one of the larger local groups be in a position to take over the national co-ordination of dowsing, either by having the appropriate skills and commitment (e.g. to running the website, publishing a magazine or newsletter and perhaps organising/publicising events) already within its members, or at least be able to identify and liaise with national members with those skills?
So, that's the text, and signed from both Grace and Andrew.
What do you think?
Many thanks for the offer of publicity!
All best wishes,
Now that I am making some progress in recovering from my major surgery - but will not yet be able to attend the Worcester meeting - I would like to add a few (constructive) comments.
Firstly, anything I write below is a personal opinion - and other members of the Tamar Dowsers may take a very different view.
My membership of the BSD has been one of the most enjoyable and most important aspects of my life for the last couple of decades.
Despite the current unsatisfactory situation, I remain a BSD loyalist, and will be so as long as there is a BSD to support.
The benefit of having a Ďnationalí dowsing organisation of some description cannot be overemphasised.
Many other countries are hugely impressed by the BSD, and would dearly like to have one themselves.
However, starting an institution like the BSD from scratch today would be an uphill task anywhere, and we should be mindful that although it comes from another era, it has huge value to those for whom there is no credible alternative but to keep their heads down and plough a lonely furrow.
Here in the South West, the three groups in Devon and Cornwall are going through a period of growth and renewal, showcased by the runaway success of a regional event last spring. The only reason we havenít repeated it this year is to avoid being saddled with administrative work that comes with something that could easily become as big as the BSD Conference itself, but without the paid staff or commercial interests to shoulder much of the work.
However, when I talk to people at Conference and the Symposium, they are often rather solitary folk who either have no local group, donít like their local group or come from abroad (see below).
Without a BSD or similar, these people would feel even more out in an unfriendly wilderness that they do now. Every time I have attended a national meeting, I have come away energised and enthusiastic - even if some of the talks werenít to my liking. Iíve always found the experience useful and, even more so, I have found just being at the event to be thoroughly enjoyable. So many of those attending will tell you that it is the one time of the year when they can be themselves, and express themselves, in a safe and supportive environment. This is not to be cast aside lightly.
With the best will in the world, local groups are not going to develop much of an international dimension. While in a sociological sense we are sadly going through a period of national and local retrenchment, dowsing knows nor respects administrative borders. It is a world-wide phenomenon - and we can often learn more from talking to a fellow dowser from another culture for a few minutes, or someone who holds a radically different philosophy, that from days of chatting with our mates, however enjoyable that may be.
If it were possible to have an International (or, dare I say it, European) dowsing organisation, to which all local groups could belong, then that may be a better long-term direction of travel. However, who would or could organise such a mythical beast is unclear - and, much as I would support it, a dowsing equivalent of Roy Jenkins Europe of the Regions seems as distant as itís political equivalent. The BSD (or similar), as a national grouping, seems to be the most credible current measure available to us.
I am sure that the DRG, Earth Energies, Health, Water Divining and Archaeology (plus a few others) could run as separate entities on a national basis, should the BSD fold altogether. However, this would cast into the flames perhaps the most important function that the BSD has acquired over the decades - ie that of linking the various aspects of the craft into a common thread of understanding. If I had stuck to my guns as a nerdy Earth Energy follower and Hamish Miller acolyte, I would have missed out on much of the contact and information that has led me to discover a deeper understanding of what dowsing really tells us about our own version of reality - and I know I speak for many others in that respect. Sharing information and, more importantly, experience across the various disciplines is again something not to be dumped without some credible idea of how it could be re-invented or re-provided
Over time, we have picked up a few unhelpful attributes as a community, which has led us to the current situation. The most obvious is that for many of those lucky enough to have well-run and reasonably enlightened group within travelling distance, the BSD is little more than a nice-to-have addition. The successful local groups have (unintentionally) sucked the strength out of the BSD in their areas. When I attend a national event, the number of other attendees from the south west can be counted in single figures. Yes, the events seem to be held far away and the cost of travelling, and of staying over, can be significant, but if people really felt the desire they would find a way of getting there. Most people I know will travel for a show, or a concert, or an exhibition, to Bristol or Birmingham or London if they really want to see it. But the local dowsing events, which cost next to nothing and require no long journeys, satisfy most immediate needs and are much easier on the purse.
Hopefully, local groups from Cornwall to Kent to Yorkshire to Cumbria will continue to thrive but, in which case, the BSD needs to provide something different. The international dimension is an obvious role, but so too is a national dowsing archive in some form, and a national resource of expertise. And, never forget, a national drawing together of like-minded souls from radically different backgrounds and interests, who have the common ground that dowsing works for them (despite the onslaught of the sceptics and naysayers).
The big issue is, of course, that none of these are commercial activities. The income generating aspects of the craft have long since been hollowed out by private suppliers (as they have across the whole of the community sector). Much as people like myself may regret it, thatís not a clock that can easily be turned back. The BSD is not, and can never be, a commercial company. It has no product to sell - and, unlike other charities, it doesnít even have poorly donkeys or crisis-hit families as a focus for finance generation.
We are essentially just a group of like-minded people who enjoy getting together - often (shock, horror) face-to-face - to talk about common interests and issues. To do this, we have to be willing to fund our charity for its own sake. If we derive some personal benefit from it, then thatís nice, but itís an add-on. The nature of being a dowser (an essentially solitary activity) is to gain understanding about the world around us, by a range of very low-cost activities. The BSD is just a sort of ethic Mothership, which we may visit occasionally.
If the BSD is to survive (and I hope it does) it does need to revisit itís roots - in a 21st century way - and accept that it is essentially an academic, and a experiential, social club. To misquote President Hoover ďItís not what you can get from the BSD (ie itís not about 1980ís-style value to money) but what you can give to it.Ē - or as Karl Marx (not someone known for his interest in the woo-woo) proclaimed "We should give what we can to our community, and take only what we needĒ.
As I am sure QEII will have said at some point - I wish well to the good ship BSD, and all who continue to sail in her.
I will also forward this text to the BSD Office, as input to their own debate about the potential future and direction of the organisation.