Archive for the 'Transformation' Category

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An Open letter on the RAC Transformation Discussion

Many [I hope all of you] will have read the recent blogs posted by VE1OZ/HK3OZ, John Bartlett, VE3HG, Peter West and myself.

My three blogs were drafted from the comfort of my dorm at Mt. St. Vincent University in Halifax during the course of our Annual General Meeting and the Maritime DX Forum. The forum was sponsored by the Halifax Amateur Radio Club.

The purpose of the recent blogs is to encourage membership engagement and debate on the future of the RAC.

I am completely convinced that the RAC has an important role in amateur radio and will be around for many years to come. I am also convinced that we need to encourage membership to enter into the debate so as to better inform the discussions of your directors and executive now and at our planning meeting in late October.

RAC will be vibrant and relevant in the 21st Century because your directors and executive, in concert with the rest of the members are facing the future. We are facing the future with imagination, partnership and intelligence. We need to address issues: both real and perceived. Perception is often reality.

Some questions for you to consider and provide feedback to your directors:

  • What do you want from your national organization?
  • What services do you value?
  • Are you prepared to be involved? Run for office? Volunteer?
  • How do you think that the RAC can be made more open to members?
  • How should the RAC communicate with and engage its members?

There are numerous other questions that I could pose but the stimulus provided by the blogs is intended to initiate a dialogue with hams across this country. I believe that it was Oscar Wilde that said “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. The Radio Amateurs of Canada is on the move … help chart the course.

Geoff Bawden   VE4BAW

President and Chair

Field Services Gets Involved

Want to notice and thank Doug Mercer, V01DTM, Vice President of Field Services for RAC, for sending out a notice to the ARES national e-mail reflector inviting them to reading the Transformation documents. It’s vital to involve everyone in this debate and the Field Services folks are as involved as you can get.

While we’re on the topic of ARES, there was a very interesting article in last weekend’s Sunday New York Times about Weather Extremes and Climate Change (In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming) referenced here in a New York Times Blog post by Justin Gilllis.

So what’s this got to do with ARES?

Well some parts of this country could see significant weather pattern changes creating wide-spread weather related problems. (Pakistan is currently going through its worst rainy season on record. In one place I saw a report that 30 feet – you read that right – of rain had fallen. Ontario is in the middle of the hottest summer I can remember with over six weeks of 30 degree days. Wild fires in B.C. have been burning all summer and the list goes on.

Amateur Radio will have a more prominent and vital role to play if Global Warming really is happening. Go join your local ARES group and get training now.

Comments from ARRL CEO

When Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, speaks even I listen. I’ve met Dave down in Dayton and read his editorials in QST every month. Dave is the ARRL’s Chief Executive Officer and he sent me the following email and has given me permission to reprint them here:

Peter, someone called my attention to your RAC blog post today in response to Keith Baker. While I don’t want to inject myself into your domestic debate I must comment on your statement, “IMHO and in the opinion of some U.S. hams in high places in the ARRL, they don’t want us.”

Perhaps you just offered the comment to be provocative, but I haven’t heard that opinion expressed in the entire time since the Canadian Radio Relay League became a separate national organization, on January 1, 1988, after 67 years as a division of the ARRL. Then, as now, it wasn’t a matter of the ARRL not wanting Canada. It was a matter of how the interests of amateur radio could be best represented in Canada. That was and is a responsibility best shouldered by Canadians.

And just to set the record straight, Keith’s conjecture about ARRL membership in Canada is incorrect. We are pleased that many Canadian amateurs choose to be ARRL members, but the number is well below RAC’s membership – as it should be. There’s no substitute for supporting one’s own national organization.


Dave Sumner, K1ZZ

Keith Baker comments again

I hesitate to point everyone to Keith’s second comment because everyone else’s comments are just as valid and heartfelt but Keith has taken my counterpoints to his first comment and expanded upon them and he makes a lot of sense.

Here’s the link to Keith’s second comment.

And after you’ve read Keith’s missive go read everyone’s comments abut RAC and where we need to go and then add your own thoughts. The RAC Blog is open to everyone and that includes members and non-members and not just the RAC executive team or the VP of PR.

This is your blog.

Ham Radio Dying?

Keith Baker, VA3KSF/KB1SF has sent us a lengthy comment that deserves to be read by every ham in Canada who is interested in the evolution of Radio Amateurs of Canada. Keith is a former president of AMSAT – NA and as such is a knowledgeable and respected commentator on Amateur Radio and we should pay attention to the wisdom of his words.

I only have two places where Keith and I part company. It’s his opinion that “my hunch is that most have to do with the fact that the active ham population in our country is shrinking and that what new hams we are getting are simply not “joiners”.”

I believe hams are joiners. I’ve been an active member of the Skywide ARC, the Peel ARC, the Oakville ARC and Contest Club Ontario as well as RAC and the ARRL and I wasn’t alone at hundreds of wonderful club meetings (and some that weren’t so wonderful too).

Also the United States Amateur Radio population with 30,000 new licensees last year is growing faster than anytime in the history of ham radio. So why is Canada not experiencing the same phenomenal growth? It’s because we aren’t getting into the schools and reaching young people in the numbers that is happening in the U.S.

My second point of disagreement comes where Keith suggests we join the ARRL as a Canadian branch. IMHO and in the opinion of some U.S. hams in high places in the ARRL, they don’t want us. We are way too small in numbers to contribute anything but problems.

They don’t understand the Canadian perspective and the English/French – two solitudes concept scares them to death. We’re the land of socialist medi-care and multiculturalism and the Americans want nothing to do with us.

If you haven’t read Keith’s comment yet please do so and tell us what you think.

BTW: It’s becoming increasingly interesting to see who is speaking out and who isn’t in this national debate.

Comments running 50-50

Thanks to everyone who has emailed one of the RAC directors or executive members or who have left comments here on the blog.

Right now the comments are running 50-50 and range from let’s shut the door and walk away to let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work fixing RAC.

So let me repeat: How do we know RAC needs fixing? Here’s a short list:

  • RAC is running a deficit
  • Best guess says we’ll be out of money to fund everything in 18 months (Note: That doesn’t mean RAC’s dead. Just broke. Many of us can sympathize I bet.)
  • Membership numbers are declining. (And, this despite a national membership campaign which was been largely ignored.)
  • Criticism that RAC is an “old boy’s club” and secretive in its decision-making process
  • Some of our key infrastructure is being administered by individuals and is vulnerable
  • Complaints that members are being ignored by the leadership group (see comments on the blog)
  • Several high-profile programs in RAC are way over budget and no plans forthcoming for reforming them
  • Concerns voiced that the governance model is too exclusive and is failing to meet members’ needs

Now IMHO most of these items could be fixed in a very short period of time if we had the desire to do so. That’s where you come in.

Do you want a better national organization that’s financially healthy, offering popular programs and engaging in enlightened and inclusive governance? Do you want to support the hard work of volunteers who represent the interests of Amateur Radio in Canada with governments and international decision-making bodies? Do you want to keep your spectrum privileges?

In other words: Do you love the hobby? Well do you?

If you do (and I know hundreds – perhaps thousands – of you do because you’ve taken the time to read the transformational documents on this blog) then take this concern to your clubs and communities.

Tell RAC what you want – and don’t mince your words. The future of your national Amateur Radio association is in your hands.

Huge Groundswell of Hits on RAC Blog

The RAC Blog gets about 50 hits or views daily. That’s pretty good and I appreciate those of you who visit and I love those of you who leave comments but yesterday we hit a new high.

Yesterday over 350 of you came here to read about the RAC Transformation Change process that’s underway. That’s amazing.

I’m going to ask each of you who visits this blog site to do RAC and yourself a favour. Our official list of Canadian club email contacts is filled with errors. Even a list I handcrafted this week has many broken addresses. So if you are able, please alert the hams in your community (members and non-members alike) to this opportunity to help make Radio Amateurs of Canada more  responsive to your needs and needs of all Canadian amateur radio operators and send us your comments.

So far, the only comment has been this one:

“The best thing that can happen to RAC is for it to fold up it’s (sic) tent and fade away. It is like an ‘old’ building…. tear it down and throw it away and then plant flowers, grass and trees to improve the area.”

Is this what you think? Is this what should happen to our national organization? What’s your comment?

RAC Transformational Change

Thanks to the initiative by John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ, and RAC President Geoff Bawden, Radio Amateurs of Canada is beginning a nation-wide change process. All amateur radio operators in Canada, whether members of RAC or not, are being asked for their input into this process.

To help create a structure, John has posted seven documents about why change should happen and how RAC could begin this process (links to these pages are also in the column to the right).

But most importantly of all, we need to hear from you.

Please read these documents and then share your thoughts with RAC. This change is a long-time coming and may not come a moment too soon.

Don’t kid yourself. RAC is in serious trouble and must make some substantial and likely painful organizational changes if it is to survive.

This work is too important to be left in the hands of a few. Get involved. RAC needs you!

Moving forward

In one of his posts from RAC’s AGM held in Halifax, President Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW, said that the board and the executive need to have a “frank discussion of how things are really going, develop a team and develop a robust vision and plan and a strategy to execute the plan”.

I’ve taken some time to read between the lines and to some the president’s message might imply the following:

  • past discussions haven’t been frank
  • things aren’t going well
  • we have no team
  • there is no vision
  • we don’t have a plan
  • or a strategy
  • and the only thing likely to get executed is a few team members (I can think of one blog moderator.)

Now before Geoff gets on the telephone to demand whether I’ve lost my mind allow me a few more words.

I’ve been on the executive for a year and half and here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

  • Discussions are actually pretty good considering we’ve only all met in person just once. The folks on the board and executive are volunteers! Many of them are working very hard for the betterment of Amateur Radio in Canada.
  • Things are going better than it appears. Lot of work gets done that that never gets talked about.
  • The current email reflector isn’t contributing to team building IMHO and should be shut down. I’b be willing to meet online or by conference call weekly or twice a month.
  • We’ve got tons of vision. What we don’t have is your vision. We need more input from the members. I wonder whether a council of club president’s working with Geoff would be welcome?
  • There is no real plan and most implementation is done by eager dedicated individuals working on their own.
  • Our Core Values document is outdated but could make the basis of a pretty good vision statement.
  • And I hope RAC moves toward a mentoring – coaching format when it comes to new volunteers to service positions. Some vital things are not being done and this would help.
  • The management model needs changing as hams in southern Ontario and Quebec very poorly represented.
  • I’d love to see our management meetings open to all (to monitor) but I wouldn’t want the executive team to focus on these easily fix items. (This is something we tend to do.)
  • Finally and I know this is a big one for some folks: Since RAC is a public organization our financial statement and membership numbers should be readily available to all. I’d post them right here.

What I hope will happen is we agree to meet as a team over an extended period of time sometime soon. I trust we can convince John Bartlett, HK3OZ, who has been guiding the management team in the beginning of this visioning and planning process to come to Canada and help us finish this difficult group work.

Unlike business or government when it comes to membership-driven organizations like RAC vision and policy must come from the members.

But here’s the truth: My ideas and $1 will buy you a small coffee. What we need more than anything are open forums of discussion for members and non-members alike. There are too many people sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what RAC will do. RAC can’t do anything. RAC exists only on paper. The only people who can create a new sustainable vision for RAC are you the members.

Maybe we should start a RAC Wiki where everyone can contribute their ideas and dreams for RAC and the future of Amateur Radio in Canada? What do you think? Send us your comments and let’s get talking!

Where is RAC going?

I can’t help but shutter when I read the management troubles besetting our national police force. The situation was ugly and it’s getting uglier. So what can our national amateur radio organization learn from this troubling situation?

RAC is a national organization. As such it probably won’t come as much of surprise that over the years we’ve developed some intrenched ways of conducting business. Special interest groups have formed to work on some great projects that may have regional or local significance. Day to day new issues arise and are addressed to the best of our abilities. Friendships and alliances are forged and life goes on.

Over time, it gets increasingly difficult for the organization to keep doing business as usual. In fact, the concept of usual eventually flies out the window and there are sporadic complaints about how things are done and worries expressed about where we are going. Membership drops and finances are affected. Collectively we start grumbling about how “those guys” are doing it wrong. And perhaps, most damaging, we don’t get involved and just let the situation deteriorate.

Now I don’t think for a moment we’re in the same situation as the RCMP but RAC, as is any organization, whether be your amateur radio club, the place where you work or even life in your own home is subject to change over time. And when that time comes, it’s important to recognize the opportunity to realign and refresh the organization.

And that’s where RAC is right now.

We have an opportunity thanks to the vision of President Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW, and the support of the RAC Board of Directors and Executive group in bringing John Bartlett, HK3OZ, on board to lead us through a national change process. Now how we’re going to pull this off is another question. I’d love to be able to afford to bring all the stakeholders who wanted to participate into a big conference room for a week-long vision quest.

What would we talk about? Well we inherited our management structure. It’s worked for some years now but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. How? That’s what we need to talk about. Same thing with where do you think RAC should be in 2015 or 2020 and how do we get there? That’s what we’d talk about and we’d want to include everyone. And when I say everyone I mean everyone: members, past members, non members, supporters, critics, government, CW guys, QRPers….well you get the point. We’re a national organization and we’ve got to include everyone in the discussion.

Now don’t roll your eyes :) If you haven’t been on one of these group visioning processes you don’t know what you’re missing. If you have you know the enormous benefit that can result from the enormous effort needed. It’s not an easy process but when everyone is involved and there is a willingness to be completely engaged and transparent change can happen. I’ve personally been involved in several lengthy group processes and I came away a much better person for it and a much stronger member of the group.

So getting all of together isn’t realistic. So what should we do?

Well we could start the conversation here. John and Geoff both have the ability to post directly to the blog. I’m looking forward to what they will have to say here. And we want to hear what you have to say.

So let’s get talking. It’s your turn :)