This code has been written to inform members of Network MESH (West London) about how the group is run and the rules by which the trustees abide in running it. It has been prompted especially by the impact of the internet on the spread of information, and the need to exercise due care in regard to personal details in an increasingly digital world.
1. The entire group website is accessible to anyone who visits it, with no member-only section. Its main function is to allow someone who has ME, or thinks they have ME, to find us, find out about us and to contact us. Joining the group is by post or online. Payment of the membership fee (plus any donation) is by cheque in the post to the membership secretary. Joiners can also print out the form on the website and send it in the post to the membership secretary. Those who do not have printer can contact the chair who will send a membership form in the post. (Equally, those who are not on the internet can ring the chair who will put a membership form in the post to them).
2. Contact details on the website are those of the group officers who have agreed to have them there. No contact details of members (name, phone number, email address) are to be placed on the website unless express permission to do this has been obtained from them.
3. The current issue of the group newsletter, Outreach, is not available for view on the website, nor are any past copies. Website visitors are told that the group newsletter is only available to members, to whom it is sent directly every quarter, either by post or as an email attachment.
1. The group membership database is maintained on the computer of the group membership secretary. It is never disclosed or sent to third parties, nor are third parties allowed to access it. Only trustees of Network MESH are permitted to access the database and to keep copies on their computer, as and when they require it for the running of the group.
2. On the membership joining form, new members are asked if they wish to be on the Public or the Private list. Roughly two-thirds of members choose to be on the Public list. From time to time, the Public list is sent out with the newsletter, to allow those who are on it to see the contact details of other members who are on it, so facilitating communication between members. The Private list is never circulated to members.
3. The chair maintains a group email list, for circulating items of information about group events and items of general ME interest between newsletters. About two-thirds of the group have an email address. The group email list is similarly divided into Public and Private sections. When an email is sent out it goes to everyone whose email we have but those on the Private list are “blind copied” so that no one receiving the email can see their email address. The email addresses of those on the Public list are visible to all.
1. Outreach is published quarterly. It is sent to members by post or, if they so choose, as a PDF attachment to their email address. It contains information on forthcoming group events, items of local interest to people with ME, national news of interest to people with ME, and contributions from members (which need not be ME-related). In practice, many news items of interest to people with ME are both local and national. Members are free to contribute news items that they have gleaned online or from reading in a publication that they think will interest other members. These can reflect different views. From time to time, the group may express a view in the newsletter.
2. We need to bear in mind that the majority of group members do not belong to a national ME charity and therefore do not receive news on ME developments via the national charity member magazines. Similarly, one-third of members do not have internet access and, even for those who do have a computer, they are often restricted in what their illness allows them to do on the Web to keep up with developments.
3. Cost pressures mean that it is necessary to encourage members to receive Outreach by email. There can, of course, be no control over what members do with the PDF once they receive it. Currently, 22 paper copies are distributed to a range of people outside Network MESH: 11 other ME groups, 4 national ME charities, the Hillingdon ME clinic, voluntary agencies etc.
4. Anyone who writes for Outreach does so on the understanding that there is a small risk that their article is distributed electronically beyond the membership. If, for reasons of their own, this is a concern to them they are free to write anonymously, either just using their first name or as “A member”.
5. The editor of Outreach receives contributions (either electronically or by post) and organises the layout of the newsletter as she receives them. She has editorial control but will normally consult the chair before making a decision. If there is any disagreement or controversy associated with an item the chair will discuss this with the other trustees of Network MESH who will reach a conclusion. The chair “signs off” the final draft of the newsletter before it goes to the printers.
6. To reduce the workload of newsletter editors, groups within ME London are able to make use of a central database of recent articles on a Dropbox website (“MELbox”) set up specifically for this purpose. Participants must be invited in. They can upload articles to the site and use any that are on there for their own newsletter. It is not a public site and is only accessible to those who have been invited in.