Minutes from the BiCon Decision-Making Meeting 2017

Attendance: 63 plus chair

1. Welcome and Introduction – Fred Langridge chaired this meeting.

Fred introduced themself as chair, and Doug as assistant, and welcomed everyone.

2. Previous minutes

The minutes from last year’s decision-making plenary were agreed unanimously by those present as a true record of the meeting.

3. New project: Bi Forum

Rowan announced that they are setting up a new organisation called Bi Forum, biforum.org.uk. It aims to be a platform Bi+ voices, and to amplify them so they are heard and understood by Government services and other organisations. Bi Forum will initially run as a 1-year pilot project, planning to respond to consultations, react to examples of biphobia and bi erasure, and run surveys and outreach work in small meetings, feeding that in to reports. Rowan also wants to run a Bi Forum event to get input from activists and representatives from a range of people, probably in Edinburgh or Glasgow, around September 2018 or later. They are working with a range of organisations already. The official launch will be on 22 September at an event in Edinburgh. The aim is to seek a diversity of voices, and not a single point of view.

Rowan aims to go to BiCon Continuity Limited for funding to support this in the future when they have clearer plans.

4. Widening participation initiatives and continuity

Natalya reported that she was asked to raise this issue by Jacq of Bis of Colour. While BiCon has been trying to address racism, there is a feeling of loss of momentum, and there are issues ongoing. There are very few sessions covering race and racism. Several years ago, BiCon started to try to address the issue that it is not as safe and welcoming as it should be to black and minority ethnic attendees. There have been many microaggressions at BiCon, and this is unacceptable. There was race training for bi activists in 2011, and BiCon Organisers guidelines were updated in 2012 and 2013 on race, ethnicity and other characteristics. Some BiCons have had BME-targeted elements, but not all. Natalya ran a workshop on Friday, and will write this up and upload it after BiCon. One thing that has come out of this is conversation with the organisers of Black Pride. Bis of Colour are quite a small organisation; the rest of the community should support them, not dump on them. Natalya asked people to email her on the BiCon Continuity Limited address – info@biconcontinuity.org.uk – to join in and help.

There was a suggestion to make it obvious how to donate to Bis of Colour, so these are mentioned here: the crowdfunding of the Bis of Colour History Project at Gofundme.com/bochistory is currently the best place to donate.

There was widespread agreement that this is a serious issue that BiCon must take seriously and do better about.

There was a suggestion to have a workshop at future BiCons on recognising and addressing microaggressions.

5. Report from BiCon 2016

Elizabeth from BiCon Continuity Limited gave a short report, and thanked Kate and her team. There was a BiCon! There were quite a lot of people there and they had a fabulous time. They did not make a loss. Continuity were satisfied with the records and funds returned from the team, and can provide fuller financial details on request.

6. BiCon Continuity update

Elizabeth, Natalya, Karen and Ian from Continuity presented this item. Fuller information is on the Continuity website. The trustees asked anyone with questions to approach them and ask, and stressed it would not be an imposition.

Continuity's primary purpose is to protect BiCon's resources and assets, including its reputation. This means holding two years' deposits, which can be up to 50%-100% of the quoted costs. Continuity holds about £38,000, which is usually enough for two years' deposits. Continuity also gives out £10 to £500 grants to community projects promoting bi community activities in the UK, so that grants can be given throughout the year rather than having to wait for the DMP. Continuity accepts requests at any time, and gives help and advice to bidders. Requests must meet Continuity's charitable objects: to effectively promote bi inclusion in the UK.

Continuity gives advice and support to BiCon organising teams, as well as providing the funds for deposits.

One project funded through Continuity was a cultural exchange with BECAUSE, in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the USA. Calum reported that BECAUSE have been going for 25 years, and do some things better than BiCon, including inclusion of people of colour. Two places were funded for BECAUSE organisers to come over and join the BiCon organising team. The second part of the exchange is to send one or two people involved in organising future BiCons to Minneapolis to attend BECAUSE and get involved in organising it there. We would look to fund the travel to BECAUSE, and BECAUSE would make it possible for them to be there and attend the event. The proposal in principle is to send organisers of BiCon 2019 or later to BECAUSE in November 2018.

Elizabeth reported other funding requests, including being a contact for longer-term funding, creating relationships that are funded year on year. One example is joining ILGA.

Another issue that has come up is having Continuity be a place where ongoing records of conduct issues are stored and passed on to next year’s BiCon. The need for this arises from the Guideline change below. Continuity is considering the matter, which is legally very complicated.

There are at present five trustees of Continuity, whose responsibility is to look after BiCon's assets. They are looking for more trustees and will develop this process from September onwards.

One role Continuity has in looking after BiCon reputational and financial assets is to confirm that they are happy to give a deposit to a team to run a BiCon for the next year or two years. This was helpful last year, since the team wasn’t in place before the DMP, so a decision wasn’t made there. Continuity advise the team, and assess any possibility of reputational damage.

The trademark for BiCon has been registered, to help protect BiCon's reputation.

7. Future BiCons

a) 2018

A team has been talking to Continuity about running BiCon 2018! Katie introduced the team. The provisional dates will be 16-19 August. The first choice of venue is the University of Salford, a campus university. The event would be 100% self-catered, the site is pretty flat, the workshop, ents and accommodation are close together, the venue has its own station (Salford Crescent) and has lift access from the platforms to street level. The team has a backup option as well, on the same dates.

Katie S is the team leader. The other three people involved are Charley, Matt P, and Elizabeth.

The DMP voted overwhelmingly to support this plan, with three abstentions.

b) 2019

A team has been talking to Continuity about running BiCon 2019! Claire will lead the team. They’re looking at Lancaster, with University of Cumbria as a backup. No dates are set yet, but it's looking like August, or late July.
Claire has some team members, for ents and the website, and is looking for more to help with things such as the accommodation, sessions, and other logistics. To get in touch, send offers of help through Continuity (info@biconcontinuity.org.uk)

The DMP voted overwhelmingly to support this plan, with three abstentions.

8. Changes to the BiCon Organisers' Guidelines

All Guideline changes must be approved by two consecutive years' BiCons, and should be brought to the pre-decision-making meeting session for discussion.

Pending changes agreed last year:

Add to guideline B2:

(at the end of the first sentence:) "…and a code of conduct."
(at the end of the paragraph:) "…and a system for passing a conduct report to the next year's team."

With these additions the complete guideline B2 would read:

"BiCon should have published policies which include anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and confidentiality, and a code of conduct. People who consistently or seriously breach these policies – for example by harassing others, for any reason, including sexually or on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender or sexuality, or by breaching another attendee's confidentiality – should be required to leave and may be banned from future BiCons. BiCon should have a system in place to allow people to report harassment, discrimination and other incidents anonymously and a system for passing a conduct report to the next year's team."

These changes were approved by the 2017 meeting, so they came to 2017 for a second vote.

The meeting voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting these changes to the guidelines, with three abstentions.

9. AOB

a) Chris asked BiCon to consider some way of making public statements about specific issues. This was discussed at BiCon 2014 in Leeds, when the Orashia Edwards asylum deportation case came up. The minutes read:

h) Concerns were raised about the possible deportation of Orashia Edwards, a bisexual man living in Leeds, who is seeking asylum in the UK. Concern was also raised that bisexual asylum seekers are being encouraged to identify themselves to the authorities as lesbian or gay.

The petition to the Home Secretary about this case, and the appeal for help with legal funds, are at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/teresa-may-don-t-deport-orashia

The Bisexual Index intends to comment on this and raise awareness.

The issue of making public statements was also discussed in the workshop on the asylum system at this year's BiCon.
Many people felt that it is important to have a channel for members of the bi community to make such statements. This is being investigated, including by Bi Forum, and we hope to have more on this next year.

A number of people felt that BiCon itself was not the appropriate body to make such statements, but others disagreed, citing risks to BiCon attenders and organisers, including those in the Civil Service who are required to abstain from political activity. Other bisexual organisations can make such statements.

The meeting voted overwhelmingly in favour of thanking Chris for bringing this issue to our attention and for seeking to bring a voice to asylum seekers in this way.

b) There was a question about shadowing of BiCon organisers. The offer was extended, and there were no takers at the time.

c) There was a vote of thanks to this year's team for running BiCon, which passed with everyone in favour, and no abstentions.

d) Hilde spoke briefly about EuroBiCon, which happened last year. It was a massive success, with many UK attendees. There will be another in the next 5 years

e) Bi Pride UK is being planned for March 2019. Contact @BiPrideUK on Twitter and Facebook, and #BiPrideUK.