IVFDF: Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival

Consitution Addendum


This document is intended to be read alongside the constitution and standing orders, to aid understanding and answer common questions. It is not officially endorsed by the IVFDF Representatives, and should therefore not be considered authoritative.

Anything with a capital letter (such as Member Society) probably has a special meaning in the constitution and standing orders.

Maintained by Andrew Swaine: send comments/corrections to andrew-webmaster@swaine.me.uk.


Revision History

23/12/04: Version 1.0. First revision following adoption of a new constitution and standing orders at IVFDF 2004.


1. IVFDF is controlled by a central organising body (often referred to as IVFDF-central). This delegates the running of each festival to an independent Festival Committee. The constitution and standing orders are for IVFDF-central, although they do make some requirements on the individual Festival Committees.

2. Every British student folk society which comes to IVFDF is a Member Society of IVFDF (subject to some administrative requirements). Decisions for IVFDF are made by Representatives Meetings, in which each Member Society nominates two Voting Members. There is an Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM) at each IVFDF, although if decisions need to be taken between these then an Emergency Representatives Meeting (ERM) or Electronic Vote (EV, done by e-mail) can be called. Essentially anyone with a defined role in the constitution and standing orders is permitted to attend meetings by right, and whoever is chairing the meeting can allow others to attend so in practice meetings are usually open to all within reason. Note that there are no extra votes given to Festival Committees or Officers, you have to be chosen by a Member Society to vote.

3. The constitution specifies things which are fundamental to the running of IVFDF-central, such as who makes the decisions, conduct of decision-making meetings, specification of key roles, and how to change the constitution. In theory it is our last line of defence against a hostile takeover bid from another organisation, and so changing it is a fairly rigorous procedure -- three months notice is required (although minor changes to the proposal are permitted after this), and a two thirds majority at a Representatives Meeting is required.

4. The standing orders capture everything else about how IVFDF is run, but are really no more than an ongoing statement of policy. They can be changed at any time by an ordinary majority vote of the Representatives, with no prior notice.

5. There is a magic e-mail list, ivfdf-news@ivfdf.org, to which essentially all those with a right to turn up to a Representatives Meeting must be subscribed. Whenever official notice is required for something (for example an ERM has been called) it must be posted here.

6. The officers, all of whom may delegate, are:

7. Each festival is required to return at least half of any profits to central funds, in return for use of the "IVFDF brand" (which brings with it several hundred people to a festival). Historically most festivals choose to return all their profits to central funds.

8. External Adviserns (1 lead, who must have been on an IVFDF committee in the last 10 years, and 2 assistants) are appointed to report back to the reps on the progress of the festival. Festival committees must report back to their lead external adviser every four months. These are discussed more in "External Adviserns and Festival Independence" below.

9. An initial loan is paid 2 years in advance following submission of a balanced budget. Additional grants and loans are provisionally promised 2 years in advance but paid 1 year in advance based upon the advice of the lead external adviser. Underwriting is granted 1 year in advance, also based upon the advice of the lead external adviser.

10. The venue and organising body (festival committee) for an IVFDF is preliminary chosen two years in advance, and confirmed one year in advance. In exceptional circumstances and with a two-thirds majority the reps can change their mind on or before the one-year point (see "External Adviserns and Festival Independence" below).

11. The list of obligations of a festival committee is listed in the standing orders, including:

12. Technically, ultimate liability for IVFDF-central lies with the member societies (Const 12.1.3). In practice IVFDF is constitutionally prohibited from entering into debt (Const 11.1), so the risk to individual societies is negligible. Losses should require an incompetent and/or corrupt Treasurer!

13. Ultimate liability for a given festival lies with the Festival Committee, NOT with IVFDF-central. This is crucial to preventing one festival from taking the rest of IVFDF down with it. However the underwriting and external advisers are intented to minimise the risk to Festival Committees. If you feel strongly that the risk is still too great, do something to help increase the size of the underwriting pot!

14. The ARM is the responsibility of the festival it is held at, but they can nominate others to be chair and secretary. A minimum agenda is specified in the standing orders (although it can of course be changed at the ARM if necessary, so it is really a guide). It includes:

External Advisers and Festival Independence

This needs clearer explanation. The role of external advisers is a fine balancing act:

Once IVFDF-central, at a reps meeting, has provisionally appointed a festival committee to run a festival, there is a very little power it has over that festival. It cannot insist upon any aspects of the running of the festival that have not been previously laid down in the constitution and standing orders, so for example it cannot make demands that a particular band is booked, or make demands about the format of the festival (but note the aims and objectives in section 2 of the constitution!) However, as a safeguard there are several sanctions it can impose at the "one year in advance" point:

Withdrawing support is a "nuke" option requiring a two-thirds majority, and requires no confidence in a committee's ability to run "a successful festival", as opposed to a festival they approve of. I consider a successful festival to the one which upholds the aims of IVFDF and breaks even. This option is designed for the festival committee that appears to disappear from the face of the planet, or whose budget is so unrealistic that the festival is in serious danger of not happening. Before using this option the following must be considered:

Other than this, the sanctions involve withholding financial support, to prevent a failing festival taking IVFDF-central down with it. For example, if a festival budget appears unrealistic, the reps may decide to withhold underwriting support.

The external adviser and assistants have a general advisory role which they will agree with the festival committee. The actual power of the external adviser however is very simple: to advise an IVFDF reps meeting on the state of a festival, and if necessary whether the above sanctions should be imposed, or whether any additional financial support should be given. A festival committee may choose to ignore any or all of the advice given by their external adviser, and the external adviser may advise the reps meeting that the festival is a bad risk, although it is hoped that problems are solved before this is necessary. In turn the IVFDF reps meeting may choose to ignore the external adviser and take the associated risk.

In practice, the external advisers' primary duty is to help the festival be a success, specifically such help that is "necessary, welcome and practical" (S.O. 4.6). This is carefully worded to indicate that:

Another way of looking at it is that it's not the external advisers' fault if a festival fails, but it is their fault if it fails for forseeable reasons and no-one noticed.

Notes on the Constitution

2.3. A discrimination statement is also sometimes required for funding.

3.1. You need two students present at an IVFDF to join. This allays the concern that, if you want to take over IVFDF, the way to do it is to find a friendly university with little society regulation and create a large number of empty societies. This way it is a little bit harder, since you need a lot of students to help you.

3.2. Member Societies must register at the ARM, rather than just at the Festival, for reasons of accountability.

3.4. A society can miss one IVFDF and still be a Member Society. Miss two IVFDFs (or more precisely, fail to send two students for two years) and membership expires. One "lean" year does not result in instant dismissal. After that, if your society isn't sending students to IVFDF for whatever reason then the Chair will probably let you attend the ARM but you can't vote.

4.2. The quorum formula is slightly complicated but always ensures that a quorum is possible. This way we are covered for all eventualities, although if we get down to 2 Member Societies then there are probably more pressing things to worry about than whether a meeting is quorate! The formula also has a "three universities" clause because some universities have a number of independent societies which shouldn't be able to stitch things up between them.

5.4. Only two members of a festival committee have right of attendence so the chair can keep a reasonable control over numbers if necessary -- member societies aren't permitted to send their whole committee by right either, and we don't want to have to define the term "committee member". In practice a large part if not all of the committee (depending on its size) is usually present, especially if they're the committee running next year's festival.

6.3. Note that the chair of the ARM doesn't have to be the chair of the festival. This is mainly because that way we don't have to define who the festival chair is, but also because e.g. the chairman might have strong views on things to be discussed in the meeting, and might want to appoint someone more neutral to chair it instead.

6.4.1. Note that this is no more specific than appointing a "Festival Committee". It does not say it must be a member society, or based at a university. It is not the intention that the ARM appoints every person on that committee, merely that a committee comes forward and is appointed as a whole. The committee may change its members at any time (Const 9.3).

8. The Electronic Voting (EV) mechanism permits any business other than constitutional change (which explicitly requires an RM) to be carried out electronically. While early proposals were going to limit it to certain predefined classes of decision, this complicates things somewhat, and leads to an ultimately time-consuming and irrelevant debate on the definition of "important business" that can't be decided by EV. When drafting the constitution we agreed that electronic voting is at least as fair as an ERM, since at least all societies get to see everything that is voted upon this way -- not everyone can make an ERM.

Note that, in the absence of an obvious arbitration mechanism, if there are any disputes as to the validity of an EV it is declared void, presumably forcing an ERM instead.

9.2. Providing the Archivist with the Festival Committee mailing list should suffice here in most cases.

9.3. Explicit permission for a festival committee to change its officers and membership is given to avoid ambiguity, since IVFDF appoints the committee to run a festival, not a university (see notes on Const 6.4.1).

9.4. This is the clause that allows support for a festival to be withdrawn up to one year in advance. See "External advisers and Festival Independence" above for why this is necessary and why Festival Committees shouldn't worry too much about this.

10. Once upon a time there was a long-term role called "Information Point" which provided a fixed address fo IVFDF to ensure that people could regain contact with the festival if they miss it for a few years. With the information age and www.ivfdf.org this is no longer a problem!

Note that IVFDF-central doesn't have an executive committee capable of making decisions by itself -- authority is delegated to individual officers only. If we expect IVFDF-central to be an active organisation working with lots of universities, an executive committee may be useful. This has a largish impact on the constitution, and we would need to define what decisions such a committee may make before forming it. At present there doesn't appear to be a need for one, and the Electronic Voting mechanism reduces the need.

10.1.7. Without this we have a group without a nominal leader, which could be important in some situations.

10.2. Note that the Archivist is not barred from voting or sitting on a festival committee. It's hard to see what the conflict of interest is here, and this avoids leaving us with the situation that a good and competent Archivist is forced to stand down so they can run a festival -- there aren't that many people to go round!

10.3. Additional officers are specified in the standing orders, such as the development officer.

10.5. If a post becomes vacant, the most important thing is that someone else picks it up as quickly as possible, rather than spending ages in an election procedure. It would be too complicated to specify what happens if the remaining officers (there are probably only two of them) disagree since this makes things far too complicated. We instead rely on those in charge to Do The Right Thing, which given past experience is fairly certain. We're running a festival, not a country!

11.2. This has to be worded such that the Treasurer doesn't need to send cheques halfway across the country for signing each time he/she needs to make a payment.

12.1. The dissolution period is sufficient to be absolutely sure that two consecutive festivals have failed to occur.

13. This is a careful balancing act between the need for people to have time to consult about constitutional amendments in advance, versus the need to allow necessary fine-tuning of amendments at the last minute. For example, it might be necessary to introduce a clarification or limitation on an amendment at the RM. The procedure is:

13.5. This section requires a certain amount of self-descipline on the part of the RM to define "matters raised with due notice". If the Voting Members of the RM feel that amendments are being proposed which go outside this then they should and probably will vote against them. The RM is explictly permitted to make modifications required to keep the constitution consistent, for example renumbering points or preventing reuse of terms in a conflicting manner.

Notes on the Standing Orders

The standing orders can be changed at any RM or by EV, and can therefore be viewed as statements of policy in most cases. They capture the essence of "how IVFDF really works". If an RM decides anything with long-term importance it should probably be proposed as an amendment to the Standing Orders to make sure it doesn't get forgotten by later generations of representatives.

1.1. The ARM agenda given here captures everything that the rest of the Constitution and Standing Orders requires to be done at an ARM, but may of course be changed on the fly like any other Standing Order.

1.2. ARM documents must be available in advance. It's not good enough to give people a pile of paper as they walk in the door -- time is tight and they won't have time to read it.

1.4. We've spent a long time discussing whether it is best to hold the ARM on the Saturday or the Sunday so we can cajole people into running a festival and reconvene if necessary -- usually the reps meeting is held on a Saturday and it has been known for it to be necessary to reconvene the following morning. This does mean that we might not be in a position to judge the success (or otherwise) of the current festival, but the ARM isn't really about the current festival -- it's about the ones after it.

1.5. Some people feel quite strongly that students should make the decisions, but this is quite hard to legislate on, and it is ultimately not really our business, so it is left as a recommendation.

2.1. ERM funding is in the Standing Orders so that, while there is a default, an RM can decide to do things differently. For example, an RM might decide to centrally subsidise an ERM. It's deliberatly vague -- if anyone starts causing a fuss over the precise definition of "borne equally", and what constitutes a cost, then make funding of the ERM the first item on the ERM agenda, and decide what makes sense at the time.

3.1. In practice it's usually the last weekend of February or the first weekend of March, but it doesn't have to be!

3.2. Just in case anyone is left in any doubt where the final liability for a festival lays, a statement in the festival constitution separating its liability from IVFDF-central should help keep the central funds separate.

3.4. It is (hopefully) almost inconceivable that a festival would be run without public liability insurance, but worth making explicit, for the good of all of us.

3.5. A requirement for compatible aims should help with funding.

3.6. Every Festival Committee has an obigation to produce a report to help future festivals succeed, which extends beyond merely providing final accounts. Note that this report might be read by any future Festival Committee at the very least, and so should be purged of information which, under the data protection act, should be kept private. We can't do much to make people stick to the time limit but as time goes on memories fade and it becomes increasingly hard to produce an accurate report, so please do your bit and don't consider your work for the festival done until this is delivered to the Archivist!

3.7. A requirement to return half of all profits, regardless of whether underwriting is given. In discussions we agreed that even if underwriting is not given, the Festival still benefits from being awarded the IVFDF "franchise" -- they agree to return profits in return for a pretty large guaranteed audience.

4. See "External Advisers and Festival Independence" above. A single person is in charge, although others may be assigned to help, to limit the "hassle factor" applied to any festival committee. It must be someone with recent experience of a festival committee and that person is deliberately not excluded from sitting on another festival committee, since this should be viewed as a positive thing.

4.3. Hopefully the hassle factor for festivals which haven't wound up yet is considered a good thing here -- see the comments on the final report (S.O. 3.6 above)!

5.1.2. The Archivist is made explicitly responsible for Internet services and data backup. The Archivist would therefore normally be the web site administrator. He/she must also ensure others can administer the services. A separate document exists defining the management structure at present and proposing how access should be given to others and to whom. It's deemed easier to leave that level of decision to the Archivist.