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Convenors of Council of Somali Organisations Working Groups: Roles and Responsibilities

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The number and range of Council of Somali Organisations (CSO) working groups changes over time.  Working groups are the powerhouse of the CSO’s membership, providing a way to organise participation by active members, information dissemination, responses to consultations, lobbying and representation of CSO at ‘stakeholder and other meetings.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ model for CSO working group, but the roles and responsibilities of Convenors are fairly consistent, varying only insofar as some working groups meet more regularly than others or undertake special tasks.

Not all working groups or member organisations are represented on the CSO’s Board of Trustees (BoT).  All working groups have an appointed BoT liaison person. The BoT liaison person is appointed by the Director. They may be volunteers or paid staff of CSO.

The BoT liaison person reports back to the convenors matters arising at BoT meetings or via the BoT that the convenors need to fulfil their role, and also raises the concerns of the convenors with the BoT.  The BoT liaison person helps to ensure that reports from the working group are received by the BoT and cover all relevant information.

The BoT approves the appointment of convenors, although this can be done informally by email and does not require a BoT meeting or can be delegated to the Director.  Very often suggestions will be made by outgoing convenors, the working group itself, or the Director.

The BoT has the final say as to the working group that exist and who is appointed to convene the working group. It is for the BoT to appoint one or two convenors at its discretion.


2. Current working groups

The CSO’s Board agreed, as result of the Member’s Needs Assessment conducted in 2019 and a review of CSO’s objectives that the 3 major strategic themes for the next 3 years are;

  • Education;
  • Employment;
  • Health and Wellbeing;
  • and with the overarching theme of Criminal Justice across .

It is envisaged that over the course of the year that each theme will have its own Working Group as capacity builds up.


3. Core responsibilities of Convenors

  • Organise meetings of the working group as appropriate, including:
    • Setting date and venue of meetings
    • Compiling agenda with input from members
    • Informing BoT Liaison of dates of meetings so that this can be distributed through the mailing
    • Organising that minutes of meetings are taken and the dissemination of these minutes to members of the working group
  • Identify information to be disseminated to members of the working group (through the CSO Liaison person)
  • Identify matters arising in the working group that have implications for other areas of CSO’s activities and bring them to the attention of the BoT, the Director or convenors of other working groups as appropriate.
  • Keep records of working group meetings, meetings attended by the working group and consultation responses.  These can be held at the CSO, but convenors are responsible for keeping them up to date.
  • Assist CSO in the identification of members of the working group to assist in consultation responses and attendance at meetings and then oversee that those identified carry out the tasks they have agreed to do within the timescale and report back from any meetings within 5 working days.
  • Provide a regular report on activities of the working group and developments in their area to the CSO’s BoT provided the Friday in advance of the BoT meeting (the BoT Liaison person will notify of BoT meeting dates)
  • Provide a report for the CSO’s Annual Report/AGM on activities of the working group and developments during the year
  • Field any queries relayed from the Director or the BoT Liaison person from members or others within the working group’s area of expertise.  Conveners need not answer these themselves, but should be willing to assist in identifying someone who can.

It will be seen from the above that the core responsibilities of convenors are to organise the active members, rather than to be the participating members.

In some cases it may be the convenor who leads on a consultation response, or represents CSO at a meeting, but this is not necessarily case.  What matters is that the convenor takes responsibility for ensuring that members have an opportunity to participate and that, when they have undertaken to participate, they follow through.

Conveners also have the key responsibility of ensuring that the BoT and other parts of CSO are kept informed of activities of and matters arising within the working group via the BoT Liaison.


4. Other tasks convenors may be asked to do

  • Respond to press enquiries on behalf of CSO.  Where an enquiry requires specialist expertise not available on the BoT, convenors may be asked to speak to the press on behalf of CSO with prior approval of the Director only.
  • Represent CSO at ad hoc meetings on behalf of CSO, with prior approval of the Director only.  As with any representation of CSO at a meeting, the representative is expected to collect views of members in advance and provide a written report.
  • Also, all those who represent COS in external meetings are expected to adhere to COS policies and represent CSO views not personal views.


5. Working with CSO

  • The most important thing for CSO is that convenors respond to emails – even if only with a holding reply or a reply to say that they cannot assist.  The greatest difficulties are created if convenors do not respond.  The regular reports to the BoT provide key management information for the Secretariat.
  • Working groups are part of CSO, working for the benefit of CSO, its members and the Somali community at large.