Spring 2020 column - Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E Dr David Staples

Friday, 06 March 2020

From the Grand Secretary & Grand Scribe E

A few years ago, when I wrote my first Welcome column, I spoke of the three key tasks I was charged with as the newly appointed CEO for UGLE. The first was to bring together the operational and masonic sides of UGLE headquarters, the second was to modernise the way in which we administered the organisation and the third was to change the public perception of Freemasonry. The first and second were achievable using well-worn change management and people management tools. The third, however, requires something significant from you, and is far more difficult to realise. 

I meet many people who ask me about the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign – a line in the sand that declared the way we talk to the public about ourselves was about to change. Since that campaign we have reshaped the UGLE Communications team, polled and ‘focus grouped’ our way to realising precisely what the public think of us, and looked carefully at how we should portray ourselves. 

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that we need to start talking openly and proudly about who we are and what we do – what is our purpose? We don’t need to reinvent ourselves or pretend to be something we’re not, for we have a fabulous story to tell and more than 300 years of heritage and history to be proud of. We now have the resourcing, the will and the understanding to stop apologising for all those things which we are supposed to ‘be up to’ and start portraying the positive image we deserve. 

We don’t need to spoil the experience for prospective members by going into detail about our ceremonies; neither should we repeat the mistakes of other institutions by thinking that ‘modernising’ our language will solve all our problems. But is there anything wrong with explaining that the First Degree teaches us that all are created equal; the Second, that there is merit in improving ourselves; and the Third, that we have but one life to use wisely? Who could argue with such fundamental truths?

Here’s where you come in. We are an organisation with 48 ‘branch offices’. Each and every one of them must start to work with each other, and with us, to portray a coherent message to the public. We need to give you the tools to tell your stories in the best and most consistent way possible.

National campaigns will be much more effective if we understand the power in acting together with the same goal and purpose. This will be a first for UGLE, which has always jealously guarded the federated structure we have operated for centuries. But communications is a funny beast, and one or two dissenting voices will be seized upon and become the national story. 

We are tentatively dipping our toes into interesting – and dangerous – times, and we do not expect it to be all plain sailing. To help steer our path, we have the Communications and Marketing Working Party of the Board, chaired by RWB Ian Chandler, the Provincial Grand Master for Surrey, which consists of Provincial Grand Masters from each of the nine Regional Communications Groups. At an operational level, each Province has Provincial Communications Officers reporting to the PGMs but tied directly to the Communications Department here at UGLE. They act as a link between the centre and Provincial Communications structures and help us to ensure we are all pulling in the same direction.

In this way, we hope the strategy is set by our most senior members, with hundreds of years of masonic experience between them, advised appropriately by subject matter experts, and implemented in a professional, coordinated and timely way nationally.

For the first time in our history, we will be producing an Annual Report – but this will not be a bland corporate glossy. It will be a document with two main objectives: to show you, our members, what UGLE does with your membership fees and how we are administered and run, and what we hope to achieve in the future. It will also act as a reference document for the press and public, expanding on our core leaflets, website and messaging to show the breadth of what our members do: over 18 million hours of unpaid charitable, civic and voluntary activities a year. At National Living Wage, that would equate to over £167 million worth of activity – all in addition to our annual charitable spend of some £50 million!

More than half of Freemasons are actively encouraged to participate by our lodges or other lodge members and, despite being clearly predisposed to charitable giving, 58 per cent of our members have increased their charitable activities since becoming Freemasons. We have always been charitable, but for too long we have hidden our light, and we won’t do so any longer.

So hold on to your hats, because in the next 18 months you’re going to hear a lot about Freemasonry. Look out for our Annual Report, to be published around the April Investitures, and get involved in the national campaigns we will be running to position us where we once were, firmly in the public gaze. We are an organisation which is proud of the integrity of its members, the friendships and connections they will make, the good they do for the communities from which they are drawn and the fun we have along the journey.

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E

‘We don’t need to reinvent ourselves or pretend to be something we’re not, for we have a fabulous story to tell and more than 300 years of heritage and history to be proud of’

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