Developing New Systems for ACAT Administration and Communication

Sloper, J., 2002. Developing New Systems for ACAT Administration and Communication. Reformulation, Autumn, pp.31-33.


Developing New Systems for ACAT Administration and Communication

Jon Sloper

In the light of the fact that ACAT is both growing as an organisation and becoming more and more widely spread it seems time to consider a new approach to the shape of the organisation and administration of ACAT. In the past everything has been London-centred and all administration and many training courses revolved around the London Hospitals of Guys and St Thomas’. Now there are more courses in many more locations around the country and more recently around the globe. Managing the Diaspora is increasingly difficult and creating a sense of a cohesive organisation is an ever-increasing challenge.

Given the developments in new technology, especially the functionality of personal computers and the Internet, it seems worthwhile to explore how this new technology can be made use of in the possible development of ACAT. Since 2000 ACAT has had a presence on the Internet. The website has primarily served a strong public relations function, spreading the word about CAT as a form of therapy. Over 500 enquiries have been received from people wanting to find a local CAT therapist. A similar number of enquiries have also been received from people wanting to know more about training or retraining in CAT. For the membership the website has been a store of the recent ACATnews archives and a vehicle for advertising Conferences, CPD courses and workshops. During this time over 70-80% of the members of ACAT have now sent their email address to the ACAT Database.

It seems high time to consider how the Internet can be used as a more dynamic tool for internal communication within ACAT and how it may bring about a new organisational model for the running and administration of ACAT.

At the moment things look like this…
The major lines of communication are all through the London Office or happen randomly through personal contact between groups and/or individuals. This inundates the office with communications that could be diverted directly to the people that need to respond to them.

And on a group by group basis the same model holds. Consider the ACAT Council for example, where at present members travel from all over the country to attend meetings and work on projects together. In this new model there would be a continual potential for dialogue and debate regardless of physical location. Much business could be conducted through this networking approach. Decision-making could be facilitated and day-to-day business could be conducted without lengthy travel or the inconvenience of finding mutually convenient times to meet. Physical meetings for Council may not need to take place as frequently and may even be shorter in duration as a result of this type of ongoing communication.

Through this sort of change to the institution of ACAT the things that deter many people from becoming more involved in the running of ACAT may well be reduced or eradicated. Problems with having limited time available, a dislike of travelling for meetings, a sense of isolation and lack of support outside the meeting itself can all be ameliorated by the introduction of this sort of system. The individual is in a network that is present whenever he or she is available to work on things. The resources for work are equally available in whatever location or on whatever occasion the individual happens to find him/herself available to work.

Administratively then the changes would lead to a reduction in the secretarial work undertaken by the ACAT Administrator. This would create an increase in the time available to work on the more strategic administrative tasks of the organisation, possibly including more work on membership recruitment and member services for example and having more time for aspects like financial management and accounting. There may also be more time available to work on ACAT events and projects when the “envelope-stuffing” element of the Administrator’s work is reduced.

Further functions can also be added to such a system. Online membership renewal and the online payment of subscriptions or booking fees for places on ACAT Conferences could be introduced to the system.

To aid the thinking process and plan behind this project I have outlined some of the areas that would influence the structure of the “virtual office” and organisation.

Firstly I have considered who it is who uses ACAT and what they would find useful additions or enhancements to the services offered by the ACAT organisation. Then I have begun to indicate some of the practical issues that need addressing to implement this sort of project.

Users of and Workers in ACAT
The Administration of ACAT has to deal with many different levels of confidentiality and therefore security.

To operate as a “virtual organisation” the pathways of communication between peers needs to be kept at an appropriate level of security.

The Packages Available to Each Sector of the Organisation
Briefly described here is a list of the types of service and information that different “Users” of ACAT can expect to gain from the new office system. It is arranged in a hierarchy which corresponds to the levels of security required to safeguard each type of information or each function of the service offered. It starts with the public-access level.

General Public / Clients / Patients
Information on:
                         Introducing CAT
                         Training Courses
                         Special CAT Events
                         Local Therapists
                         Selected Literature Review
                         Joining ACAT
                         Complaints and Feedback
Access to:
                         Therapists
                         Council Officers
                         Administrator

Trainees / Associate / International Members / Other Mental Health Workers
All of the above plus…
Information on:
                         Courses – Standards Requirements
                         Teaching materials – CAT Literature
                         ACATnews
                         ACAT Handbook
Access to:
                         Trainers
                         Supervisors
                         Other Trainees (could be helpful for projects and essays)
                         Trainees / Training Bulletin Board

Practitioners / Therapists
All of the above, plus…
Information on:
                         CPD Events / Workshops
                         Special Interest Groups
Access to:
                         Other Therapists
                         Special Interest Group Bulletin Boards
                         CAT Network Newsgroup
                         Advisory Service on the Appropriate Use of CAT

Supervisors
All of the above, plus…
Information on:
                         Supervisors’ Events
Access to:
                         Other Supervisors
                         Supervisor Bulletin Board

Trainers
All of the above, plus…
Information on:
                         Trainers’ Events
Access to:
                         Other Trainers
                         Trainers’ Bulletin Board
                         Training Materials
                         Trainee Email Addresses

Council / Administrator
All of the above, plus…
Information on:
                         ACAT business / finances / meetings
Access to:
                         ACAT Council Newsgroup
                         Database of membership
                         Bulletin Boards for Committees of ACAT

To make this model work the current website would develop in the following way:

  • Setting up a secure website with Encrytped Password-Protected access for members.
  • Setting up a secure online interactive members’ database with password protection for administration and communication purposes.
  • Setting up “enquiry” functions to enable the public to find local therapists and therapists to find local supervisors and training.
  • Setting up live newsgroups for members to hold discussions.

The existing site would need the following work:

  • Improving the archiving of CAT Literature.
  • Improving the presentation of CAT as a therapy to general public.
  • Creating a hierarchy of information and detail according to the different functions of each element of the site.
  • Updating Membership Contact information.
  • Updating course and event information.
  • Updating contact information for ACAT Council Officers.

Project Management
Before this project is taken forward a full itemisation of need would be required to confirm the model outlined in the above “Packages” section. The work would be fully delineated and thoroughly mapped before any work is undertaken to implement these suggestions. The Chair of ACAT and ACAT Council will oversee and guide all these planning stages and will be responsible for arranging the introduction and management of the project.

Costing
At present this is an early discussion paper and as such it is not possible to put an exact fee to the work that would be involved in setting up this project. As currently described the work would need specialist programming to deliver this solution. There is also a need to upgrade the Internet hosting service that ACAT has with its ISP. All costs will be outlined at the initial mapping stage described above and then will be presented to Council for authorisation.

Financial Benefits / Recovering the Cost
As with the current database project the more effective management and collection of the membership fees, coupled with an increase in services available to members, should lead to an increase in membership numbers and revenue. Service-enhancements to Affiliates and Other Mental Health Professionals could also lead to an increase in membership (and thus revenue). A reduction in costs to the organisation and membership is also expected with reduced travel time, postage costs and stationery consumption.

Conclusion
In short this project stands to bring ACAT into a whole new organisational paradigm. It aims to provide a new model that will allow ACAT to continue to grow and develop as a worldwide network of support and communication among ACAT members, clients/patients, and the general public. It also aims to radically enable and empower ACAT members to become more closely involved with the running of the organisation. It hopes to assist the Administrator in carrying out his work, and make it easier for ACAT Council to perform their tasks as stewards of ACAT and its Members.

Jon Sloper
30th September 2002

sitemanager@acat.org.uk

Postscript
Jon Sloper will be presenting a fuller introduction to this model at the forthcoming AGM on the 9th November 2002.

If you have any questions or ideas about this new project then please let him know prior to the AGM and he will try and address them in his presentation.

Jon can be contacted directly by email or by post through the ACAT office.

Full Reference

Sloper, J., 2002. Developing New Systems for ACAT Administration and Communication. Reformulation, Autumn, pp.31-33.

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