Caroline Duckworth, Treasurer of The Society of Merchant Venturers, gave an informative talk that provided insights into the changing focus of the Society.
The Society of Merchant Venturers was formally established in 1552 by Royal Charter from Edward VI. For centuries it was synonymous with government in Bristol but now focuses on charitable organisations. Membership is by invitation only and the three critical criteria are (i) to be successful in chosen career, (ii) to be involved in civic society, and (iii) to be congenial. In a secret ballet, at least 75% of members must approve the prospective member. An initial and an annual fee are paid. The first woman member (non-honorary) joined in 2003 and now of 76 members, 7 are women.
The current areas of focus are:
- Education (of 4,000 pupils in 9 schools)
- Care for the Elderly
- Social Business
- Charitable Funding (£7million in the bank allows the Merchant Venturers to award approximately 90 small grants annually)
- Preservation of the Downs (Merchant Venterers own half of the Downs; Bristol Council the other half).
Under Caroline’s leadership, the emphasis of the Society is changing from Control to Collaboration.