It Seems to Us: Another Step in Strategic Planning
First of all, thanks to everyone who provided input at this stage of the strategic planning process. While the quantity of comments received has not been overwhelming, the quality is impressive. The agenda for the January 2009 Board meeting included a discussion of the membership input, the intent being to give the newly elected Executive Committee some guidance as it prepares material to be used as the starting point for Board consideration in July.
Categorizing the comments received revealed some interesting patterns. The most popular category was promotion of Amateur Radio: to whom, by what media, and on which themes. "AARP," young people (both directly and through their parents and educational administrators), and technology-oriented adults were mentioned several times as target groups. Several members mentioned advertising as a medium. Others identified a need for material designed specifically for personal presentations to educators, explaining the educational and career benefits of Amateur Radio involvement.
The hands-on aspect of Amateur Radio technology was seen as an underutilized strength by several members. We may not be able to mess around with the insides of microprocessors, but there are many opportunities for gaining experience with telecommunications technology that are unique to Amateur Radio. We have a tradition of sharing our innovations with one another that is attractive to the current generation of amateur technologists and electronics experimenters. We're not doing everything we could to bring the opportunities that are inherent in Amateur Radio to the attention of those kindred spirits.
The second most popular category for comment was emergency, disaster and public service communications. Wide-ranging views were expressed, particularly on training and certification issues, our relationships with the agencies we serve, and our use of digital technology. Amateur Radio's role in disaster response has evolved considerably since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and this no doubt will continue, but there is a need for the ARRL to enunciate a clear vision of where this evolutionary process ought to take us so we can be sure that we are headed in the right direction.
Membership issues were the next most frequently mentioned. A recurring theme was to give members more choice in how they receive information from the ARRL, including alternatives to receiving QST by mail. We are already investing in how this might be achieved: A major action taken by the Board in January was to approve funding for the third and final phase of a new ARRL Web site that we hope to bring on line at the end of the year. The new site will offer new possibilities for building and serving communities of interest and will make it easier for members to find in-depth information on the specific topics that interest them.
Comments about the governance of the League generally advocated improving communication between the ARRL and its members, greater transparency in decision-making, and more opportunities for grassroots involvement before ARRL positions and proposals are adopted. The planning process itself drew some criticism, both with regard to the existing Strategic Plan and the exclusion of non-members from the process. While members of an organization naturally have a greater voice in its affairs, we are certainly interested in what we need to do to be seen as more relevant by non-members and how we can bring former members back into the fold. Several apparently independent comments were received about the ARRL's Mission Statement, urging that it be reviewed and given greater visibility; this will definitely be included in the Board's work plan for July.
Several members commented to the effect that the ARRL should be more open to cooperation with and support of other Amateur Radio organizations. This topic seems to be ripe for consideration. The growing diversity of interests within Amateur Radio is both a strength and a weakness. As the national association that seeks to advocate on behalf of Amateur Radio as a whole, we cannot hope for a volunteer Board or a professional staff that possesses expertise in every facet of this expanding universe. We must find more ways to tap the expertise that exists within our membership and to interface with other organizations that share our goals.
A number of members raised the specific problem of antenna restrictions, particularly with regard to residences that are subject to private regulations (CC&Rs and homeowners' associations). This issue is at the top of the list of legislative objectives for the 111th Congress that was adopted by the Board in January. Not all members see legislation as the only solution; technology offers a growing number of ways for those who must live under such restrictions to pursue Amateur Radio.
Board members considered all of this input, added some thoughts of their own, and turned it over to the Executive Committee to take the next step at its March meeting.
If you are a member who hasn't yet taken the opportunity to provide input or if you would like to supplement your earlier comments, it's not too late! Visit www.arrl.org/stratplan for background resources and instructions. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.
David Sumner, K1ZZ
ARRL Chief Executive Officer