The Grand Council – Its History and Activities
At last month’s Board of Directors meeting, the Grand Council was disbanded after a little over twenty years of service to the Society. After the decision was announced, it became clear that some members of the SCA weren’t aware of the Grand Council, its history or its activities. The Gazette thought it would be useful to provide this information. Our thanks to the former Grand Council and Board members who provided the information for this article. Without a comprehensive written record of the SCA, it took many people to recreate our own history. – Mistress Catrin o’r Rhyd For
The Grand Council was an informal committee created by the SCA’s Board of Directors in the mid-1990’s after a difficult time for the SCA. An Executive Director had been hired who wasn’t familiar with the organization, and his handling of proposed changes and the membership’s concerns were unpopular. The proposals included a “pay-to-play” policy that might have required memberships in order to fight, receive awards, hold an office, or attend events. In addition, the SCA was facing extreme financial problems, which took the membership by surprise. When members requested access to the books, the Executive Director and the SCA’s legal counsel interpreted the governing documents as not allowing members access.
Several things happened as a result of this. Members sued for the right to access the financial records and won the case. An “SCA reform” email list was created with hundreds of members that advocated for change. Three Board members stepped down. Ansteorra incorporated as a separate organization, although it remained affiliated with the SCA. The royalty of the kingdoms met at Estrella and eleven of the thirteen kingdoms signed the Estrella Compact. The compact stated that the kingdoms would recognize each other’s “laws, customs, traditions, ranks and titles in perpetuity, no matter what their affiliations and circumstances”. This would have allowed more kingdoms to incorporate outside the SCA’s corporate structure, while still preserving a connected game for its participants.
Several actions followed this activity. The non-SCA Executive Director left. The corporate financial records were made available to the members. The Board modified the “pay-to-play” proposal, removing some of the restrictions and adding a fee for non-members attending events.
In addition, the Board created two advisory groups – the Inter-Kingdom Advisory Council and the Grand Council. Each group was given a specific area of the SCA to examine and were asked to provide feedback to the Board. The Inter-Kingdom Advisory Council was assigned the “game side”, as in things that affected the historical re-creation and inter-kingdom activities. The Grand Council was assigned the SCA’s corporate and organizational structure.
It isn’t possible to describe the Grand Council’s activities as one static structure since they changed over the years. The following are some things that stayed the same and some that didn’t.
- The Grand Council originally picked its own schedule and topics, although it was required to provide a quarterly update to the Board. Sometime around 2006, the Board required that the Grand Council review topics that they submitted also. The schedule also defaulted largely to quarterly reports.
- The Grand Council was supposed to include members that represented each Kingdom and at-large members. Actual membership varied depending on whether or not Kingdoms had people interested in filling a seat.
- Communication was originally via a newsletter in which comments were compiled and distributed electronically and in print. This format was changed to an email list.
- Input to the Board from the IKAC diminished over several years, and it was disbanded. As a result, the Grand Council’s mandate grew to include matters that affected the SCA’s medieval re-creation.
Over the years, the Grand Council discussed many topics that they proposed themselves. Early topics included outsourcing the corporate office functions, direct elections of Directors, and the impeachment process for Directors. Later topics included the Ministry of Children and child care rules; ending physical newsletters; the pros and cons of a new Peerage; how to decide whether to create another peerage; participant retention; alternative revenue models for the SCA; improved policies for social media/social networking; a new communications policy for the SCA; and officer training at all levels of the Society.
Topics requested by the Board over the years included how to improve the value of membership; a mandatory Code of Conduct for the SCA; creating a policy for dealing with individuals who have committed crimes outside of the SCA; an official start and end date for what is the SCA’s time period; whether to require membership for awards or combat; improvements to TI or CA; topics to add to the Known World Handbook; what should be, or what are, the requirements for a successful SCA reign; a tiered membership format; officer retention and recruiting; and analysis of the demographics of the SCA.
The Board disbanded the Grand Council at last month’s meeting with thanks for their service. John Fulton, Richard Sherman, and Andrew Coleman were assigned to investigate the creation of a new vehicle which could facilitate communication between the membership and the Board. At this point the format of the committee is unknown. A preference has been stated by the Board for the Kingdoms to have representation on and control over most of the committee. In addition, it will be expected to use social media to connect with the membership and give them access to the committee’s work. The Society’s new President, John Fulton, has invited anyone with suggestions for the design of the committee to contact him at email@example.com.