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Report on ICOM review and reform, 1998-2001

Report on ICOM review and reform, 1998-2001: Work of the Executive Council's Task Force for renovation (ICOM-RTF) and its final Recommendations for change (for resolution at ICOM's General Assembly, Barcelona, 2001)

Bernice Murphy
Chairperson of ICOM Reform Task Force
(March 2001)

Since the Triennial Assembly in Melbourne (October 1998) ICOM has entered a new century. Fifty-five years since its creation (in 1946), and twenty-seven years since the last significant changes in ICOM's structure and organisation (in 1974), ICOM has faced a variety of contemporary challenges and issues concerning its future development.

In Melbourne, there was a strong call through many forums of ICOM for review and renovation of the organisation. It was realised in the months following, however, that organisational reform was a substantial challenge that exceeded ICOM's normal momentum and structures to accomplish successfully. It required more than ICOM's usual communication and operations to address the challenges of change. Furthermore, it was evident that any review and recommendations that arose would need to be pursued in a comprehensive, integrated manner.

The Task Force (ICOM-RTF) was constituted in June 1999, following formal sessions of both the Executive and Advisory organs of ICOM in Paris at this time. Composed of nominees from both the Advisory Committee and Executive Council, the Task Force was charged to review ICOM as an organisation and establish priorities for its improved functioning in a rapidly changing world. ICOM-RTFwas given a mandate to address the challenges facing ICOM both inclusively and comprehensively.

Members of the Task Force (ICOM-RTF)
Jacques Perot (ICOM President)
Alissandra Cummins (Chairperson, Advisory Committee)
Aidan Walsh (ICOM-UK)
Knut Wik (ICOM-Norway)
Marie Christine van der Sman (ICOM-Netherlands)
Frans Ellenbroek (ICOM-MPR)
Nancy Hushion (INTERCOM)
Michael Dauskardt (Affiliated Organizations - European Open-Air Museums)
Lucía Astudillo (Executive Council)
Bernice Murphy (ICOM Vice-President - Chairperson of ICOM Reform Task Force)

Ex officio: Manus Brinkman (Secretary-General of ICOM)

ICOM-RTF meetings
The Task Force has held six face-to-face meetings since June 1999: in October 1999 in Paris; in December 1999 in Madrid (enabling a joint workshop with the Executive Council at that time); and again in Paris in early April; in June, September, and finally December 2000 (at the time of an Extraordinary Advisory Committee meeting, along with the regular end-of-year convening of the Executive Council).

The Task Force considered it desirable to move affirmatively on whatever changes could be achieved speedily and flexibly, for the earliest possible benefit to ICOM. Meanwhile more time would be required on some issues that required detailed, even technical attention subsequently -- for example, a comprehensive revision of the ICOM Statutes.

The Task Force was greatly helped not only by responses received from Chairpersons of Committees (its appeals for feedback through the Advisory structures), but also by all the conversations that occurred on the ICOM-L discussion list (http://home.ease.lsoft.com/archives/icom-l.html), proving the potential of this particular facility established through ICOM's move to an Internet Web site and electronic capability in 1995. The many voices and interventions on ICOM-L kept raising and re-shaping key issues, and helped clarify tasks and issues for ICOM-RTF to incorporate in its review.

The Task Force especially thanks ICOM's Internet adviser and ICOM-L list moderator, Cary Karp, based in the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Department of Information Technology) for his assistance in facilitating these discussions. This process has activated the first substantial use of a flexible, rapid-response "electronic forum", gathering the opinion of members, not only of Chairpersons represented in the Advisory Committee. It has provided ICOM with a model of faster, more flexible gathering of expertise and professional opinion than has been possible earlier in ICOM's history, and will become more crucial in the years ahead.

As Chairperson of the Task Force I would like to thank its members most sincerely for their voluntary commitment of valuable time and expertise for the benefit of ICOM. I would like to pay particular tribute to Nancy Hushion, who took a key role in establishing the actual Strategic Planning Model we adopted after our first meeting, and ensured that we accomplished some of the specific tasks involved through this model, according to the tight schedules we set ourselves.

I particularly express appreciation also to Jacques Perot, as ICOM President, for giving his personal commitment both to the Task Force and to the spirit of renovation and reform of ICOM. I also thank the Executive Council for its support, and its co-operation in entering into a Workshop process with the Task Force in the founding stages concerning Values and Mission development, as well as the Council'a detailed discussions of the draft Recommendations, in both June and December 2000.

I thank everyone named above, together with ICOM Secretary-General Manus Brinkman, who has been an ex officio member of the Task Force throughout. I also thank the whole Secretariat staff of ICOM, whose involvement was crucial to the process of review: especially Eloïsa Zell, Joëlle Thibet, Valérie Jullien, Elisabeth Jani, Jennifer Thévenot, Sylvie Délice and Thomas Jandia. Without the analyses of the Secretariat on an individual basis, the final recommended Action Plan for ICOM could not have been soundly developed by the Task Force.

Immediately following this triennium of review and recommended reform of ICOM (in fact following the Barcelona General Assembly and election of a new Executive Council, for 2001-2004), it is desirable for ICOM to expedite work on a revised set of constitutional and core documents for the who,e organisation (including a fundamental re-drafting of the ICOM Statutes).

ICOM-RTF has co-operated in the present triennium with the Ethics Committee's review of the ICOM Code of Professional Ethics, resulting in a substantial revision of the Code by that committee, under the Chairmanship of Geoffrey Lewis. The Code also deserves further consideration, and possible recasting in a more simplified and readily applicable format, during the triennium between Barcelona and Seoul.

The results of the Task Force's evolving work and consultations were first set out in full (with background analysis of the organisation's parts) in a comprehensive study: "A Tool Box for Renovating ICOM": Report from Task Force for Review and Reform of ICOM [ICOM-RTF]. This was a 102-page Report, divided into 16 Sections, providing a detailed analysis of ICOM, its historical evolution, parallel parts and current functioning. The Report, advocating change through 56 Recommendations summarised in the early pages for easy reference, was circulated in English, French and Spanish in late May 2000. It was considered by the ICOM Executive Council & ICOM Advisory Committee in their mid-year sessions in Paris in June 2000, and suggestions then made were taken into consideration by the Task Force in the final form presented in Barcelona.

The larger 102-pp."Tool Box Report" remains a significant reference work on reform for ICOM. It would be important to utilise this set of tools further in the next triennium, for background to any recommended changes that are adopted by ICOM in Barcelona, and need to be implemented immediately afterwards.

However the larger body of the report has not been brought forward to the full ICOM General Assembly. Only the first and last sections of the Tool Box Report are presented finally, for clarity and precise consideration by the Assembly: (a) the Recommendations (slightly revised, following important discussions during the Executive Council sessions and Extraordinary Advisory Committee meeting in Paris in December 2000); and (b) the final ICOM Strategic Plan, 2001-2007 (replacing the former style of ICOM's Programme of Activities for the forthcoming triennium).

With this review and summary of our processes, I finally convey the outcome of the collective work accomplished by the ICOM Reform Task Force to the Executive Council, Advisory Committee, and to the General Assembly of ICOM.

The Task Force looks forward to an engaged consideration of the key results of its work: the Recommendations, and the ICOM Strategic Plan, 2001-2007 emerging from the six face-to-face meetings and eighteen months of evolving work of ICOM-RTF. These two documents provide a condensed summary of our meetings, workshops, consultations and drafting of recommendations for change. They set out a blue-print for organisational transformation for ICOM, some aspects of which are already under way.

The twin final documents are designed to help navigate critical paths of change for all parts of ICOM in the years ahead. In addition to change and increased flexibility, they also seek to build on what ICOM carries forward as solid achievements of the organisation through its long and substantial history.

Bernice Murphy
Chairperson of ICOM Reform Task Force
(March 2001)


Updated: 15 June 2005