Monthly Archive for August, 2010

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Post to Bob

Following Bob, VA3QV’s blog comments about RAC and its board of directors, RAC President Geoff Bawden sent this reply to Bob which was posted on his blog.

Hello Bob

There are a number of blogs from me on our blog site. As Peter posts them a quick read will look like they are all from Peter West .. [although being our VPPR he does generate the most "ink' [possibly John Bartlett excepted]. Any spelling errors are mine by the way… some of the Hailfax blogs were early in the morning!

You quote my blog on finances and note for that reason alone we should look at changes .. quite right but not the only reason and change must not just address financial issues, finances are only one of many issues…  I believe that you did link your readers to my blogs from Halifax [there were three]… thanks for that.

In late 2009 I collected all the strategic and planning documents for RAC over the last ten years and two documents stood out .. a 2006 Omega report and the 2008 Bartlett presentation. I had been looking for a strategic planning methodology for the board and executive and when John more recently emailed me from Colombia offering to help I invited John to the next board teleconference and we [the board and executive] determined to proceed with that specific exercise.

The board and executive will meet in Ottawa at the end of October to forge a strategic vision/proposal and plan for RAC. By the way everyone of the board and executive will be paying their own way .. digging into their own pockets. John will be coming up from Colombia at his own expense. The blog is intended to generate member and ham comments before the planning session and frankly to stir comment and debate.

This is a controversial approach .. not every ham supports this approach, however we have revieved more recommendations and comments in the last week as compared to any previous period. I doubt whether this public communication/publication is perfect [not everyone reads blogs] but I know that there are a number of clubs which have added the topic to their September agenda [the more clubs the merrier]. Club as well as individual ham input will prove very valuable.

I recommend that members email their Directors with their comments. I know that Directors are responding to many queries and not all queries or responses end up on the blog.

Take care .. thanks for your comments and putting this on your blog

Geoff Bawden  VE4BAW - President and Chair of the Board

What is RAC's Real Value?

Think about it for a moment:

What is the real value of Radio Amateurs of Canada?

Is not the potential to create a better experience for all licensed Amateur Radio operators in Canada?

Isn’t that it?

If you agree, then what do you think we need to do to realize this goal?

The Magnificent Seven

Bob, VA3QV, has got to be one of the best friends Radio Amateurs of Canada has in the blogosphere. His VA3QV Blog is must reading around here and today’s posting is no exception. Bob has got a pretty good grip on what’s being ailing RAC and has the courage to speak out about it. I highly recommend  you read Bob’s post. And watch the video :)

Bob makes some good points and I’d like to add my comments to them here.

Bob is correct in saying that John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ, created a document called RAC’s Strategic Future which was presented to the Radio Amateurs of Canada’s board meeting held in Cornwall back in 2008. Why was it not brought forward to the membership and acted upon is something that happened in 2008 and don’t have an answer.

What I can say is if you’ve read John’s work in bringing us back to this visioning process, you’ve not only seen everything that was in the 2008 document but a whole lot more.

What concerns me is in some of the communications dating back to the 2008 meeting there are some references to what might happen if RAC didn’t change. The conclusions back then were, among other things: that RAC would face declining membership; loss of revenue from sale of ads and  products; which would result in a  financial deficit.

Guess what?

Flash forward to 2010 and as Bob points out in his blog that’s where RAC finds itself.

Now Bob moves forward in his commentary to point the fickle finger of fate at what he calls the Magnificent 7 (which was really a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic The Seven Samurai) which is composed of the seven regional directors of RAC. (Well at least he didn’t lump President Geoff, VE4BAW into this as we might have had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but that’s another movie.)

Under RAC’s current governance structure the seven directors are the only folks with an actual vote when it comes down to making decisions. And, as much as I’d like to see this change, it’s not the real problem! In a year and half I have yet to hear the directors make a decision that hasn’t been for the overall good of Amateur Radio and Radio Amateurs of Canada.

What the larger problem has been is getting board and executive members to enlist the help of all members of Radio Amateurs of Canada to act upon the things that need doing. This board/executive group (and I’m including myself here) and the boards that preceded it have been pretty good at doing some things right but, the question remains, have we been doing the right things?

That’s why several of us are pushing very hard to implement this visioning process in 2010. If we members leave it in the hands of seven guys who got voted in and a dozen or so folks who got appointed (like me) to do the work then we’re in a lot more trouble than we might have thought. There’s too much work to go around and it’s all important work.

Let’s face reality here. Over the years some of the guys on the “team” haven’t been pulling their weight and some are working way too hard in their volunteer position but this is the nature of any group and should come as no surprise.

The problem is this fact has been pretty much ignored. There are no job descriptions and no work reviews. No one is held to account. This is a serious flaw in our management structure and needs to be addressed.

And I disagree with critics who say you can’t hold volunteers to account. Tell that to the volunteers who work fearlessly for organizations like the Canadian Red Cross Society or the men and women who put their lives on the line working for volunteer fire departments across Canada. Nonsense. We should expect more and demand more from our volunteers and those who aren’t willing to work hard during their tenure should make way for new blood. I believe strongly in rotation of leadership and I will rotate my way out of the VP of PR position to allow somebody else to get involved and make a contribution.

Take the national membership campaign for an example. I got all kinds of heat around not offering some incentives to encourage people to join. I don’t believe in offering incentives to join an organization where the benefits are so obvious. What I asked for was that everyone in the leadership group take personal responsibillity to ask at least 20 other hams to join our national organization.

So far, I’ve had two reports of minimal success. When Ontario South Assistant Director Doug, VE3JDF and I worked the Ontario Hamfest in Milton, which is a medium-size fleamarket, we got 25 people to join or renew in three hours. How? We asked everybody who walked passed the booth whether or not they were a RAC member. Those who said yes, we thanked for their support. Those who said no, we asked them to join us in supporting their national organization.

Poor President Geoff who has been with us for a year or so, I am certain sits up in bed and asks himself “what did I get myself into?” I, on the other hand, wake up in the middle of the night and go back to a restful sleep knowing we have a president with huge amounts of group experience and government work behind him. (Geoff’s a big mucky muck in the Manitoba government in case you didn’t know.) The few calls for his departure are both premature and uncalled for.

I’m not saying that President Geoff is going to save the day but I am saying he’s the best shot we’ve got right now and I for one do not intend to let him down by keeping my comments to myself or by not doing what I say I will do.

Now as to Bob’s comments about the directors’ comments. If Bob is speaking about the 2010 Transformational Process, I agree with him. There has been little comment or public support of the process and that concerns me.

However, if Bob is speaking about the directors’ willingness (even eagerness) to communicate directly with members and non-members who have raised issues, then I can clarify the situation. Every comment or blog posting that affects the board or RAC or has been a complaint aimed at an individual has been forwarded by me to the board/executive group email. In every case where there has been an accusation of neglect, the affected board member or members have communicated directly back to the person.

So far in 99.99% of the cases where we’ve been accused of ignoring someone it has been my experience that there was a simple breakdown in the communications. (When it comes to emails, we have the ability to search our database for the original email and often it just isn’t there. Some people put way too much faith in sending a single email and then not taking responsibility to follow it up or to make a personal telephone call. All of our phone numbers are on page 4 of TCA so really folks there’s no excuse to claim you were ignored if you didn’t take the time to call.)

Finally as to Bob’s comment about RAC being a secret society, I agree. Member-driven public organization should not have any closed meetings with the sole exceptions of issues dealing with competitive bidding for services or matters involving paid staff (where professional reputations are involved). Again in almost two years I have never heard a single decision discussed and voted upon that could not have taken place in public.

I hold a minority point of view here and have been told as much but that’s why we have annual general meetings which are run under Robert’s Rules of Order and are open to all (not just members) and subject to motions from members….like me and you :)

So Bob (and the rest of you) remember the power to change RAC for the better rests in the hands of the ultimate authority – the members – you OMs and YLs who care about Amateur Radio. This might come as a shock to a few folks.

Solar Cycle 24 underway but slowly

The Huntsville Alabama Hamfest last weekend heard from NASA’s Marshall Space Center solar scientist Dr. David Hathaway who presented a talk entitled “The Solar Dynamo Saga: Chapter 11“. (This link is to a PowerPoint presentation from NASA.

Dr. Hathaway’s conclusions: The good news is Solar Cycle 24 is definitely underway and should peak in July-August 2013. The bad news is Cycle 24 he predicts will be the weakest in the last 100 years.

Part 12 – The Man In The Mirror

John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ, has sent us Transforming RAC – Part 12 where he encourages us all to step in to the transformational process.

Over the last few weeks John and I have spoken almost daily and somedays several times a day about the process RAC has embarked upon. Initially I indicated that I was fearful of where this process could take Radio Amateurs of Canada. Based on my reading of the attempt back in 2008 to offer RAC the same process, which was not implemented, I asked John why he thought this time would be different. I said I didn’t think the leaders in RAC or the greater Amateur Radio community would step up and get involved.

We talked for days about my fears of the process and the participation of others and then my training as a group coach kicked in and I realized it wasn’t the process that I was afraid of it was my ability to participate in it!

So when I hear that some leaders in the Canadian Amateur Radio community question the public process we’ve started I can sympathize. Change is always challenging but the challenge isn’t about the process, it’s always about ourselves.

It’s about how we stay true to our word. How we retain our own integrity and trust ourselves to remain open and engaged especially in the face of anger or ridicule (which is always shame-based and is one of the great weapons that men in men’s groups try to use to defend themselves and their point of view).

Once I realized that my fears were all about me, I was immediately ready to engage because I know my agenda (and we all have agendas – I got that from President Geoff who laughed me off the telephone when I said I didn’t have an agenda when it came to this process) and it’s to do my very best to make RAC a better organization for all – members and non-members alike.

So don’t be afraid of the process. Here’s some gold from the men’s groups I coached:

Go look at the person in mirror and ask yourself what can he or she do to make RAC better for everybody who loves Amateur Radio in Canada.

Pakistani Hams Relief Work for Flood Victims

This from the ARRL: According to the Pakistan Amateur Radio Society (PARS) radio amateurs in Pakistan are working with the Islamabad Jeep Club and Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians to provide relief activities in those areas of Pakistan devastated by floods.

For more information including operating frequencies being used by PARS operators visit the ARRL link here.

New Kenwood TS-590

I stole this info off Bob Baillargeon’s excellent blog VE3MPG’s Blog where he talks about the highly anticipated release of the Kenwood TS-590.

Along with the normal stuff we expect from a new HF transceiver the TS-590 is said to have excellent receiver capabilities thanks to a 1st roofing filter directly after the mixer section and a second roofing filter which comes after the post amplifier. At around $2K this could be a real contender for those wanting a competition-grade transceiver under the current price range of $3K to $5K (and up).

Transforming RAC Parts 10 and 11

RAC’s friend and transformational guru John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ, has added a part 10 and 11 to his collection of thoughts and actions about how RAC can better serve the members.

The 11-part series has served a a catalyst for discussion about RAC’s future. We’ve received tons of comments and opinions which will form the basis of future discussions and actions designed to help all of us create a stronger national Amateur Radio organization.

John first offered this process back in 2008. He produced a RAC board/executive survey which said much the same as we’ve heard from you over the last few weeks. So what’s to say the 2010 transformational process is going to be anymore successful than the 2008? That’s the question of the hour, isn’t it?

What do we need to do to ensure the problems that were identified in 2008 and, for the most part, are still affecting RAC in 2010 are fixed?

First of all, the process isn’t about affixing blame. For better or worse, RAC is a volunteer organization and we get what we pay for (and I am including me and my participation here). So, if we don’t like the results so far, the question I have for you is what are you doing about it? There’s plenty of room for more volunteers to help and lead RAC committees and working groups.

Monday Morning Musings

Dave Hayes, VE3JX, sent me an email ver the weekend that is very typical of the many positive comments we’re received over the last couple of weeks. Thought I’d post his email (with Dave’s permission) which will join all of the other comments that will help form the future discussions about where RAC is going to go.

Greetings Peter (& John),

I must apologize for not writing sooner, since I have just become aware of this important discussion going on.  (I found out about it from a message sent on one of the ARES groups.)

Firstly, do not get discouraged quickly if you feel that there should be more response than what you’ve had.  It is summer and many things get put on hold.  Hopefully, we will see more input come September and forward.

I want to say that this whole process, as described by John in his 7-part blurb (or 9-, depending if you count the last two messages), is an opportunity of a lifetime for all to build the kind of organization that they want.  If there is any time that RAC management is listening, it is now.

That is not to say that I have been displeased with RAC or its governance; I am not.  However, this process should make RAC even more attractive than it already is.

RAC has not been, is not, and never will be, a perfect organization.  It is a product of imperfect human origin and as such is flawed itself.  Nonetheless, I believe it has honestly tried to represent, in the best way possible, the interests of amateur radio in Canada.

My experience has also been positive with respect to communication with RAC managers.  While most of my ideas have not been utilized, I have been given a courteous reception of them.

I am also not blind.  I can see how hardworking many of our past & present executive have been.  They have been selfless in their dedication to our RAC.  Such volunteers have to be appreciated and respected for their timeless devotion to us.  If people only took the time to honestly appraise what RAC has done with the very limited resources it has had, the old saying of Winston Churchill in his speech about the Battle of Britain would perhaps ring in their ears: “Never . . . was so much owed by so many to so few.”

I have heard the old phrase, “Old Boy’s Club” applied to RAC management, ad nauseum.  My experience has been the opposite.  If approached in a decent manner, response from RAC managers has been very positive and gracious.  Are they all perfect gentlemen?  Hardly.  Do they answer every email or query sent?  No.  But, mostly they do, especially if one is attacking a problem rather than a person.  Their attention is even more keen if a positive suggestion is included with the identification of a problem.

However, this is all rather superfluous rambling on my part.  Let the process begin to make RAC the place every Canadian amateur wants to be.  In the past, the problem has been perception of what RAC is like.  This process will be a start in changing the negative perception people now have of our organization to a positive one; that of RAC being their organization, because they will have helped make it so.  The trouble is: how do we involve them all?

This is the onerous task that falls in your lap, Peter.  The only suggestion I can make is an obvious one: make as much use as you can of club Presidents and club newsletter editors.  They can be a local extension of your arm to disseminate the invitation to join in the transformation process.  You are already trying to do that, I suspect.  Also available is an extensive field organization through which to promulgate the message.  That too is being used, I believe.

Now onto the Process, and the dream.  I like your dream, Peter; it seems to have covered all bases.  Transparency is an important feature of any membership organization, particularly financials, as you’ve mentioned.  Most of your dream would be my dream as well.

ARRL?

The American Radio Relay League is a fine organization.  I am currently a member of it, as I am also of RAC.  The prospect was raised of going back to ARRL to represent us.  That would be, in my view, a mistake.  We have to work hard in managing our own household rather than relying on “big brother” to bail us out of our internal squabbling.

I have great admiration and respect for ARRL; RAC can learn (and has learned) a lot from its operations, its “customer service”, its transparency.

All the same, it is an American organization created for Americans.  There are times when U.S. amateur interests are not the same as Canadian amateur interests.  An example would be the expansion of the 80m US phone sub-band.  Therefore, our interests, as Canadians, are best represented by a Canadian organization.  To give up on that notion is to say that we are not mature enough as a people to look after our own house.

Current RAC Structure

Some have charged that RAC’s current structure is backward, dictatorial, etc.  In essence, RAC’s structure somewhat mirrors that of the ARRL, with a few differences.  Can it be made better?  I’m sure it can.  But, don’t put all the blame on RAC for its internal structure.  RAC had to start somewhere, and they tried to incorporate much of the way the successful ARRL was run.  We can change it where it is advisable.

Let RAC Die!

This is rather dumb in my view.  It is a defeatist attitude.  RAC is my organization, or rather, RAC is OURS! Therefore, if we are upset with the way RAC is at present, don’t just give it away to those who are, in one’s view, ruining it.  We need RAC, and RAC needs us; more so now than at anytime in the past.  Let us be up to the challenge of rebuilding our organization into something we can all love.  My message to all Canadian amateurs would be: “I already love RAC; add your input so that you can love it too.”

John: Thanks for giving us a roadmap on how to do this.

Cheers,

Dave Hayes VE3JX

QSO with Ted Randall

I got an email over the weekend from Ted Randall, WB8PUM, who creates the QSO Podcast (available on ITunes). If you’re looking for a ham radio podcast then you’ll love Ted’s podcast which he records from various ham fests around the US. The current podcast has Ted interview a couple of guys about QRP and MFJ products while at the Huntsville Alabama Ham Fest.

BTW Ted’s audio is pretty good. Bet he’s running Heil commercial microphones. Just a guess. Heil mics are hugely popular in the amateur radio community (especially contesters who use his headphone/mic sets) but lots of musicians swear by Heil’s top end commercial mics.