The world is run by those who show up.
This phrase has been attributed to many individuals over the years and has become a rallying call for members of organizations to become engaged in the direction of that organization.
Implicit is the assumption that individual engagement is the key to affecting the decisions made by the organization. Correspondingly, bylaws of many member organizations are created to support such a notion and often the membership elects representatives to a board of directors to see that the membership’s points of engagement are addressed.
The path charted, and the impact of the board’s actions, are the indicators to the membership by which the organization should be held accountable.
Without the expectation of accountability to the membership, the organization runs the risk of charting a direction independent of the members it was created to represent. That should not be acceptable, but what can individual members do to foster better representation?
Let your membership expire and walk away is one option.
Effective as that may seem, membership is not always easily ended. In some instances, becoming a non-member is more difficult than becoming a member.
For example, member organizations that collect point of sale levies may have a refund process. However, unless the majority of producers obtain refunds, the actions of the organization are likely to continue, independent of your lack of engagement.
If an organization created to represent you appears to be on a path that leaves you dissatisfied, another option might be to identify what will allow you to be better represented. In all likelihood, it is an increase in communicated accountability.
Accountability to the membership is the foundation of member satisfaction. Without well-communicated accountability by the board and staff, the foundation of support begins to crumble.
If the board and staff are unaccountable to the membership, whose interests do they serve?
Yet, as easy as it may be to point out the lack of accountability, the true value of individual membership is the ability to be the change you want to see. The willingness and opportunity to act is fundamental to fostering accountable representation.
Equally as important is the willingness of current leadership to encourage and engage its members. Without it, those piloting the organization may not be leading from the membership but rather following their own self-interests.
As members of organizations created to represent us, not only do we need to be prepared to show up in whatever form it takes, but we also have to be prepared to ask for, and expect, accountability from those we elect and hire to represent our interests.
Without the expectation of account-able decisions, the self-serving actions of a few will unfairly come at the expense of many.
Ross Macdonald, M.Sc., P.Ag., ranches in southern Saskatchewan.