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What makes a good Congress agenda item?

Read our tips on submitting an agenda item that is sure to engage delegates

An engaging topic in the main hall at Congress can mean the difference between queues at the mic or a quick snooze for delegates. So what makes a stimulating debate and how can you ensure that your issue gets members taking to the stage to have their say?


When thinking about a potential agenda item topic, you should aim for it to be all, or at least some, of the following... 

Topical and current

A useful tool is PEST analysis. Think about your item with:

  • Political factors - E.g. Is it something affected by the change in government or is new legislation needed?
  • Economic factors - E.g. Is the current economic situation impacting on it with direct or indirect cuts? Is it in need of protection?
  • Sociocultural factors - E.g. Is a certain section of society affected? Perhaps age, gender, religion, race or sexuality is acting as a barrier?
  • Technological factors - E.g. Has new technology affected practice for better or for worse?

Relevant with broad appeal

If your topic is too narrow it will not engage enough delegates. The more people who have an interest the more valuable the debate will be.

A new or emerging issue, or a new angle on an existing issue

New topics are well placed to stimulate debate and existing issues can develop and throw up new challenges.

Pay, terms and conditions and the financial situation in the NHS often present issues. So it's about finding the right question to ask.

Something where members' views could make a real difference

There are certain issues where people are keen to hear the views of nurses. For example, assisted suicide has caused great deal of debate in the public arena. The public has an interest in what we have to say and are prepared to take notice of our views and opinions.

Possible to achieve and not already happening

Be realistic about what you want to debate. It's more valuable to debate something where our resulting actions can make a difference. One nurse for every patient may be your dream, but adequate staffing on the ward is a more realistic goal. It's up to you to check action hasn't already taken place.

Have a four-country perspective

National uniforms for everyone! While nursing staff in England's ears might prick with interest, members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be quick to point out that they already have national uniforms. But that's not to say a uniform debate is off the table. Members from the three countries could contribute to a debate by sharing their experiences.

Not recently debated at Congress

Double check that your topic hasn't already debated recently.

Congress 2016

Congress 2015

Congress 2014

Congress 2013

Other factors

Every year RCN Council decides its priorities for the coming year at its July Council meeting. It's useful to look at these and see where your topic might fit in.

Think about how the media will receive your item:

  • has it stimulated debate in the media before, or is it likely to generate interest in the future?
  • is it current?
  • is it relevant to the public?
  • does it affect people's lives?
  • will it affect how people see nursing or the RCN?

Resolution or matter for discussion?

Resolutions

Resolutions ask Congress to decide something and often includes a call for action. They use words such as ‘ask’, ‘decide’, ‘calls on’ or ‘shows support’. For example:

  • That this meeting of RCN Congress asks Council to lobby…
  • That this meeting of RCN Congress decides to…
  • That RCN Congress calls on governments to change…
  • That RCN Congress shows support for…

Matter for discussion

Matters for discussion are requests for a discussion about an issue. Wording uses terms such as ‘discusses’, ‘reflects on’ or ‘considers. For example:

  • That this meeting of RCN Congress discusses…
  • That this meeting of RCN Congress reflects on…
  • That RCN Congress considers…

Submit an agenda item

Got a topic that you think should be debated at Congress? Submit it here. 

Support

If you need help or advice with putting together an agenda item, contact congressagenda@rcn.org.uk