The CTSI Big Membership Debate Survey 2019 in now live

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Where do we start?

There is an old joke about a guy who stops to ask for directions and in response gets a sarcastic and unhelpful answer, “well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here”. A little wistfully, I suppose, that’s where CTSI begins its membership strategy. Not lost, but not quite on the right track either.

Before we step out though, into the age of alternative facts and fake news, it’s worth reminding ourselves of three irrefutable truths we face as a membership organisation.

Some inconvenient truths

ONE. Our member numbers have been decimated by the same centrally imposed cuts that hit local government and trading standards.  More than 50% gone in less than a decade with dire budget forecasts for the coming years.

TWO. Our membership age profile is, euphemistically, somewhere on the mature side.  Call out, “it’s Friday, it’s five to five!” at any CTSI branch meeting and there will surely be a response yelled by the majority that is incomprehensible to any millennials who wander past.  And wandering past they are.  As we haemorrhage members through retirement and austerity, we are simply not replacing them in anywhere near the numbers required to retain a critical mass trajectory.

THREE. Commerce has transformed. Digital is in charge and here to stay. CTSI, its members and trading standards services need to better reflect the way business is done to meet the regulatory needs of a modern economy.  We cannot remain analogue officers in a digital world.

What can we do?

So, if that’s where we are, how do we change to get to where we want to go? Well, dear CTSI member (and non-member) in trading standards. It’s time to have your say as part of The Big Membership Strategy.

There are some straightforward things we might have to do for starters.  Our piecemeal membership regulations have evolved into a cluttered basket of labels, each with different voting rights, prices and privileges that I am sure made sense to someone at some time.  Diversity is nice, and if you can name all thirteen categories of CTSI membership, kudos to you.  However, if you try to justify them not being cut, clarified and streamlined, I hold less truck with your view.

Are we open to the right people?

There is a famous Marx quote (Groucho, not Karl), where he said he would not want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member.  Now. Have we got that bit right? At the moment our joining threshold is almost singularly based on the attainment of qualification. You got the right letters?  In you come!  But, and here’s a challenge. Should that be the case?  Are we missing out on welcoming hardworking trading standards staff in national bodies or private sector roles that maybe didn’t pass the same exams as us – but are just as diligent, competent and professional?

What would you want, Dear Member?

Also, what do you get out of membership, and what would you want? Is the value proposition right? Free entry to an annual Symposium, qualifications and competency pathways, national representation on big issues like Brexit, professional publications and solid networks of expert, like-minded professionals aside.  What do you want?  Crucially too, what would it take for those disgruntled TS colleagues – or ex-members – on the outside of the tent to cross the threshold? What will it take to turn that student member into a lifelong member?

On the ropes….. but not out!

Not an easy challenge, won’t you agree? Beaten by the twin fists of austerity and anti-regulation, buckling under excessive responsibilities, it’s fair to say our trading standards service is on the ropes – if not taking a slow standing count. The referee holding both gloves tightly and scanning the eyes for signs of a future in the fight.  No-one’s throwing the towel in, but how do we get back up?  Must we drop down a weight division – change, and come back stronger?

Let’s have the debate, let’s hear your views and all your ideas, big and small.

Have Your Say

Please help us to make our membership work better for you and others. Post your comments, ideas and questions – big and small – below. And let us know if you agree or disagree with other’s comments.