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Policy planning and advocacy

The dictionary defines ‘policy’ as “political sagacity; statecraft; prudent conduct, sagacity; craftiness; cause of action adopted by government, party, etc.” It is the last definition that is most apt but the others provide a clue to the nature of association policies. Policies provide the infrastructure that underpin and justify the association’s activities. Without them chaos would occur in that decisions would be taken in one set of circumstances and others in a different set of circumstances which, without any structure of coherent policies to which they can be referred, would quickly produce a situation where one set of decisions bore no relationship to the others and even produce situations where they might conflict. Policies are formulated by either individuals but more often, at least in their completed form, by groups of people. It is not unusual for a working party or task force or commission (the name is not important) to be established with a set task such as to examine a policy for the association in the area of _ and to report back with a proposed draft in the time-scale of y. Most policy statements have to run the gamut of endorsements and approvals from a hierarchy of committees because any proposed policy is likely to have implications not only for the working party drafting it but also for other parts of the organisation and which may have been overlooked. Wide consultation is therefore usually the hallmark of a successful policy deliberation exercise. An unsuccessful policy statement is easy to identify; it proves not to be acceptable to large parts of the membership and it is more “honour’d in the breach than the observance.” Policies can be changed, and definitely should be regularly reviewed to investigate their relevance and need for correction in changed circumstances. However changes, particularly major ones, should be avoided as much as possible for fear of damaging the credibility of the organisation incurred by too many and too speedy amendments. Obviously it is important to get it as right as possible the first time.

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