Power i user group Common UK has split from Common Europe.
The schism occurred at a meeting at the Common Europe Congress held in Stratford-upon-Avon back in June when Common UK's representatives resigned from the board. There is now no contact between the two groups.
Common UK is the i-oriented wing of the venerable IBM Computer Users Association (CUA). Common Europe is the umbrella organisation for Power i user groups from 15 countries. CUA and Common UK chairman Ray Titcombe says that the background to the breakdown in relations lies in changes to Common Europe's management team that were made last year.
Titcombe says: "A number of arbitrary decisions were immediately taken by this executive and any dissenting voices shouted down or completely ignored." He claims Common Europe's new executive had tried to make changes to the way the organisation was run at an earlier meeting but that board members originally voted against them.
"Prior to the board meeting in June of this year, many of the member countries were individually approached and told they should support the changes that were to be proposed again else they would be put forward time and again until agreed," he says. "At the board meeting in Stratford, all discussion was curtailed and a vote forced through that was very narrowly carried."
According to Titcombe, this was despite of a number of what he calls "ambiguities" and "blatant errors" in the proposals. He says: "At this point, a number of countries expressed deep concern at the tactics employed and some, including the UK, withdrew from the meeting."
Common Europe President Jan Leth-Kjaer says: "We are truly sorry that the UK-based IBM Computer Users' Association left, but it is fully their own choice. Some like changes, some don’t, but Common Europe had to change now and fast as members, both at the country-level and at the individual level, as well as IBM, IBM BPs and ISVs questioned our value. We faced this effect year after year with ever-larger significance."
The pan-European organisation's president, who is also president of Common Denmark, is disinclined to discuss the specifics of the disagreement. "All our focus is forward-looking and towards setting up a fully professional action group in every aspect – with a clear vision and strategy," he says. "We have already done many things and had our successes but there are still other major things to settle. Fortunately, it’s not too late to implement these and we are very, very purposeful."
Leth-Kjaer reports that Common Europe has established a new headquarters in Switzerland with experienced staff and is building a new website. He says that Common Europe's new initiatives have the support of the "vast majority" of its members.
"The members have already seen our new attitude and value and new countries have joined Common Europe because of this," he says. "And more will come in the future. The feedback from major players and partners all over Europe as well as the rest of the world have also acknowledged our initial work and actions. And we are also sure that the UK – in some form – will join Common Europe somehow."
Asked whether the spilt would be permanent, Titcombe says: "Common UK would be pleased to reopen dialogue with Common Europe, especially when the executive changes again. The original ideals of Common Europe still hold good."
However, although it remains in contact with its counterparts in mainland Europe at a country-level, Common UK looks set to have a more U.S.-centric future.
"Preparations are in hand to investigate a low-cost alternative for attendance for Common UK members to Common USA at their Minneapolis event in the spring of 2011," says Titcombe. "This should be close to the approximate costs of attending a Common Europe event, but give the delegate up to ten times the sessions to choose from compared to the Common Europe Conference. Also, we are planning to include an additional day’s education at the nearby IBM Rochester briefing centre. Common UK is determined to continue to deliver as good as or better options to its members as in the past."