DBA calls for views on vetting members

I was interested to read your comments on the issue of vetting design consultants for membership to organisations such as ours (DW Comment 19 April). We are currently reviewing our criterion and I would be interested to hear your readers views as I do not see it as an easy process.

Currently we have two categories of member, the first being full members who have to demonstrate that 50 per cent of their business is derived from design consultancy. Having satisfied this criterion, they then have to obtain two proposers from the existing membership who have been in business for more than one year, and they must provide three client testimonials. The second category is affiliates. These are companies which have a strong interest in supporting design excellence and who want to play a proactive role in our association’s development. Affiliates enjoy the same membership benefits, with the exception of being able to vote on policy.

The ability to pay our membership fee is obviously fundamental, but it is certainly not the only requirement. We do indeed refuse membership to organisations which do not fulfil our criteria.

Having said this, we are very interested in growth, as the bigger the association, the more we can do for the design industry. This said, some members do want us to tighten up criteria so that clients can chose a DBA member as an assurance of professionalism.

Others might think that this is a little dangerous for two reasons. First and foremost our role is concerned with improving design companies in all areas of their business through training and general advice. If design companies had to be perfect before they joined we would have a very small membership indeed. This argument suggests that any consultancy that genuinely wants to improve should be welcomed with open arms and embraced. The Design Business Association most certainly should not be a clique, it should be a broad church, vibrant, exciting and forward-thinking; one that promotes best practice and improves every member’s skills and abilities.

The second reason people cite for not moving too far down the quality mark route is that for whatever reason, quality can go down as well as up. Consultancies can hit financial difficulties, key staff can leave and so on. And so a vetting procedure would only be accurate for that particular moment in time.

Surely the DBA does not want to be a bureaucratic watchdog continually checking up on its membership? It should promote best practice in the first place without the need for a badge guarantee.

Whether the DBA tightens its membership rules or not, the groups who join are those who hold best practice in the highest regard. The main benefit of membership is the chance to improve their skills, and this attitude to excellence is the best testimony to accreditation I can think of.

I hope the above clarifies the rationale behind our current vetting procedure. Membership and accreditation are two separate issues and can be confused when looked at together. However, we are reviewing both and I would appreciate your readers’ views.

Jonathan Sands

Chairman

Design Business Association

London WC1

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