South West U3A Region

News

Message from the Third Age Trust about Beacon Management Software

You may have received a communication recently from a firm promoting a system called U3AWeb. This communication is grossly misleading in making a completely false claim. The Trust is categorically not ‘abandoning’ Beacon. On the contrary The Trust has recently given notice that it is planning a major upgrade to Beacon. This is a common occurrence in the software industry as you will appreciate.

Beacon is used very successfully by nearly 300 U3As across the UK. It provides exceptional benefits for U3A Committees in managing their U3As. The Trust receives many letters of support and appreciation of the Beacon System. It is supported by a large team of enthusiastic U3A Volunteers as well as by a specialist software firm. The Beacon Team have recently expanded their capacity to help U3As manage the important function of taking on a U3As data so that they can be up and running with Beacon quickly, simply and efficiently. The Trust continues to invest in Beacon functionality and has recently employed a full time technical lead. However, like all software systems, technology continues to advance and all systems need to be upgraded. The Trust has decided to upgrade Beacon, sooner rather than later, and given fifteen months notice. The upgrade is planned for 1st April, 2020.

The decision on how a U3A manages its affairs is of course entirely its decision. U3As need to be aware, however, that there are a number of factors to consider. The advent of GDPR now means privacy and data security are important considerations. Obviously, any system needs to have all the functions one would expect in managing a U3A as well as the support infrastructure that can cope with user queries as well as any technical problems. In this regard, size matters. This also applies to home grown systems. Functionality, security and support are the three main factors that need to be considered in whatever system a U3A choses to use.

It is very import to The Trust, that those U3As that use Beacon have confidence in the continued support of Beacon. It is one reason for the efforts the Trust is making to consult widely with the Beacon Volunteer Team, Beacon Users and the wider U3A community. Any questions you have shoud be addressed to beacon@u3a.org.uk

Ian McCannah Sam Mauger
Chair, Chief Executive Officer,
Third Age Trust Third Age Trust

LAUNCESTON & DISTRICT U3A

WE CELEBRATE 25 YEARS
Launceston celebrating!
Our 2018 Annual General Meeting gave us the opportunity to celebrate our organisation’s 25th anniversary.
In attendance were two of the founding members – David Brown and Anne Richardson. Together they cut the celebration cake, with Peter Vernon, outgoing Chairman, and Mike Tremeer, incoming Chairman.For full report see links

Always in the news Display at Honiton Library Having celebrated their 25th anniversary this year,Honiton U3a put on a display at Honiton library to show what the the U3a is and to raise awareness.See link for full report.

Honiton Reading for Pleasure Group Honiton Book Discussion reviewed Michael Morpgo's Private Peaceful on Radio Devon. See link for full report.

Induction Training 17th September, at St Erme Community Centre, Trispen
The day began with coffee and finding places to sit. Trispen Workshop There were 13 delegates from 5 U3As in the West Cornwall Link Group.
Val, our leader for the day, then asked everyone to find someone they didn’t know to sit by and to find out about them. After a short while we were then invited to tell the rest of the group what we had found out.
All ice broken, the day was set on course for good interaction. Val went through a Power Point presentation (without reading slides out) and these generated many questions and suggestions. For example not everyone present realised that all committee members are trustees of their U3A.
We had a break for lunch, which was excellent, and a gluten free meal was provided even though it hadn’t been ordered.
After lunch Val gave each of the three groups 3 case studies to discuss and put their thoughts on flip chart paper to share later with the whole group. Again there was a good deal of discussion as to whether a policy for safeguarding was necessary; how to get information out to non-computer users; how trips were funded; what the £3.50 pays for etc..
This was a most successful day for all concerned and many new links were forged.
Thank you all.
Thanks too to the staff at St Erme Community Centre for being so helpful.

Since writing the above report I’ve been asked if this was the first workshop in this area. It wasn’t but it was the first for many years. Launceston has recently been the nearest option and I wanted to bring workshops closer to the far west of Cornwall. I’m open to further suggestions and would dearly like to have members come forward for training as Start-up volunteers.
Jill Nicholls

Interest Groups Matters workshop Group at the workshop
On September 20th around 50 U3A members from across Devon gathered at the Devon Hotel, Exeter, for a workshop aimed primarily at Group Leaders and Coordinators. (The correct nomenclature for these roles was debated!) The day was brilliantly led by Sophie Wellings, Advice & Volunteering Manager for the U3A Trust, and Michaela Moody, a hugely experienced Trust volunteer.
The objectives of the day were to review the guiding principles of the U3A; to discuss the roles and responsibilities of group leaders and coordinators; to discuss ways of coping with challenges associated with leading groups; and to share best practice.
A number of common problems quickly became apparent, such as how to recruit group leaders, waiting lists for groups, and communication within groups. Sophie and Michaela stressed that all members should be made aware that U3A is a self-help organisation, and that they should be encouraged to give as well as take. A direct approach often works best!
The important role of group coordinators was to the fore. They are there to support group leaders. Various suggestions were put forward as to how this could be done, including induction sessions for new leaders, regular meetings for leaders, and visits to the different groups. They also have a role to play in mediating in any disputes arising within groups.
Thanks go to Sophie and Michaela for a well-structured day which was both informative and stimulating. I am sure that we all went away with renewed enthusiasm and lots of ideas to feed back to our members.
Liz Hext (Kingsbridge Estuary U3A.)
Work of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Mick Harrison's role involves speaking to community groups across Devon and Cornwall about the work of your Police and Crime Commissioner. At the same time he also take your views back to the Police and Crime Commissioners Office. If you would be interested in him speaking to your group and listening to what you have to say, please drop him an email so that a suitable date can be arranged- Mick.Harrison@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk