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September 11, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

The mother of all 'to do' lists

Louise, James and myself spent a good chunk of time yesterday going through the Memorandum of Association and the Articles of Association. They are basically the documents that explain what the Open Rights Group will be doing and how, and are a legal requirement for incorporating a company, which we will need to do in order to be able to take donations and act as a non-profit.

It's one of those tasks, though, that puts the 'argh' into 'tedious'. And talking of tasks, here's what we've achieved so far:

  1. We've found free office space in central London for the next six months, which is a significant coup because it's going to save us a lot of money and provide us with valuable resources.
  2. We've taken advice on the best legal form for the organisation to take - a company limited by guarantee - that will both protect members and give them a voice.
  3. We've obtained and are going through boilerplate constitutional documents: the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
  4. We've got a name, (and boy, was that time consuming!), and have checked Companies House regarding such a name.
  5. I've set up this interim blog on my own hosted server to keep you as informed as possible as what's going on and are making arrangements for a permanent home for our online presence.
  6. I've personally bought domain names, although I can't cover all variations because my budget's not big enough.
  7. We've been drafting roles and responsibilities documents for the Interim Board, Interim Advisory Council and Interim Executive Director.
  8. We've been hunting out potential supplementary sources of funding and have some good leads there.
  9. We've been trying to track down pro bono professional advice regarding things like incorporation.
  10. We've investigated the costs of different methods for gathering donations.
  11. We've been looking at potential free venues for holding plenary and other meetings and have started planning the first meeting.
  12. We've been fielding press requests for information, including BBC Radio 5, BBCi, Channel 4 Despatches, ZDNet, and the Washington Internet Daily.
  13. We've been looking into best practice on governance of not-for-profit organisations.
  14. We've been consulting other not-for-profits to find out about the pitfalls that we need to avoid, particularly in terms of the legalities and organisational issues.
  15. I've been invited to speak at three conferences on digital rights issues (details to be confirmed - I'll blog them when they are).
  16. We've been doing preliminary research into the various digital rights issues that we may be covering.
  17. I've been doing research into the 'digital rights landscape' - who's doing what in digital rights.
  18. We've been gathering volunteers - people who have emailed us to offer their help.
  19. We've drafted an initial campaign plan.
  20. We've been thinking about things like communications plans, website development plans, volunteer plans, future strategy etc.
  21. We've drafted a preliminary budget.
  22. We've been in close liaison with the EFF (beyond our contact through Danny and Cory), as well as speaking to members of FIPR, the FFII, No2ID, Citizens Online, CDR, STAND, UKIF and UKNOF.

Of course we still have a lot to do, including (and this list is by no means in exhaustive or in any sort of order):

  1. Finalise the Memorandum and Articles of Association, and have them checked by a lawyer.
  2. Decide on the financial Standing Orders
  3. Incorporate.
  4. Find a bank and open an account.
  5. Open PayPal account.
  6. Set up membership processes and follow up on the pledge.
  7. Finalise the organisation structure to provide accountability, transparency and expert input.
  8. Write job descriptions for the Board and Advisory Council members, and the Executive Director.
  9. Decide how we will decide who is doing what going forward.
  10. Pursue funding opportunities.
  11. Decide on types of membership.
  12. Design processes for membership decision making and financial control.
  13. Investigate Data Protection as regards the membership database.
  14. Set up an appropriate membership database.
  15. Find out legal requirements for everything from insurance to Health and Safety to employment law to contracts.
  16. Register with the Inland Revenue.
  17. Communications plan.
  18. Campaigns plan.
  19. Find pro bono experts.
  20. Benefactor management plan.

OK, so that gives you a taster of what we're spending our spare time doing, and what we still have to do.

If you happen to be, or know, a lawyer willing to work pro bono with experience in setting up a non-profit company limited by guarantee, please contact us. We would also like to speak to a pro bono accountant if at all possible, and someone with expertise in Data Protection Act compliance.

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Comments (6)

  1. Suw:
    Sep 14, 2005 at 04:24 PM

    Having had a look, a CIC would not be appropriate for us, for the same reason that we can't apply for charity status:

    "A CIC cannot be formed to support political activities"

    http://www.cicregulator.gov.uk/aboutUs.shtml

    We are undoubtedly political, as we'll be attempting to influence legislation, so that rules CICs out.

  2. Suw:
    Sep 13, 2005 at 11:34 PM

    Simon: I'm all for swapping good ideas!

    Nick: Thanks for the link. I've passed it on to the group and someone's got in touch with them, so fingers crossed.

    Mark: Glad this was what you were after. Only reason it didn't happen faster was because I was rushed off my feet. Still am!

  3. David:
    Sep 14, 2005 at 04:09 PM

    Wouldn't this be more appropriate?

    http://www.dti.gov.uk/cics

    The Community Interest Company (CIC) is a new type of company, designed for social enterprises that want to use their profits and assets for the public good. CICs will be easy to set up, with all the flexibility and certainty of the company form, but with some special features to ensure they are working for the benefit of the community. CICs will report to an independent regulator on how they are delivering for the community and how they are involving their stakeholders in their activities.

  4. Nick B:
    Sep 12, 2005 at 09:39 AM

    Do you know of these chaps?

    http://www.probonogroup.org.uk/

  5. Mark Fowler:
    Sep 12, 2005 at 10:12 AM

    Suw, thanks so much for keeping us informed. This is exactly what I was asking for.

    Keep up the good work, and let me know if there's anything you think I can do to help (though looking at that list, at this time I have very little specialist skills to offer.)

  6. Simon McGarr:
    Sep 11, 2005 at 10:45 PM

    I laughed when I read your to do list. It looks just like the one we're working on in Ireland. Though we beat you to the Memo and Arts meeting by a day.

    Subject to approval by the rest of the as yet officially unnamed group here in Ireland, would you care to swap Memo and Arts drafts, to see if there are any good ideas to steal?



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