Forum › Forum › Questions for candidates / Questions pour les candidat·e·s › What do you believe are roles members can play in/at CIRA?
What do you believe are roles members can play in/at CIRA?Posted by Daniel on September 20, 2023 at 9:15 pm
Do you believe (as is often the case for boards and executives at non-profit organizations) that the membership primarily exists to elect the board, accept the financials, and attend the AGM, or do you have a vision for more active participation by/with members, and if the latter, what is that vision?
MemberSeptember 22, 2023 at 4:55 am
Member engagement is important to ensure their needs and perspectives are considered. Members play a very important role in providing feedback on effectiveness of existing CIRA services, future services, and potentially corporate plans and priorities for community investment activities.
MemberSeptember 25, 2023 at 3:02 pm
I would like to see a world where the board can actively engage the members and stakeholders to gather feedback and input for current and future topics. Finding the modus to do this will take some time, but it should be a priority.
MemberSeptember 25, 2023 at 7:33 pm
One of the issues CIRA has is that members don’t know how to help and sometimes don’t even know they have a role. To correct that CIRA needs to better inform/involve members.
MemberSeptember 27, 2023 at 12:10 pm
Thank you for the question Daniel.
The traditional roles for board members you listed above are very important and will always be central to the value of good board governance. Ignoring traditional board responsibilities will only lead to trouble. However, CIRA is in a lucky position where it has a community of members who have self-selected themselves to be concerned about how the Internet impacts millions of Canadians. My vision is to look at creating institutional innovation to leverage the underutilized CIRA membership community through better participation and use of the membership to educate Canadians in their home communities.
My thoughts about leveraging the CIRA community are inspired by my participation in the ICANN community. Although ICANN is more than 20 years old now, I think it can be said that ICANN is an example of institutional innovation that wouldn’t be possible without the Internet. I wouldn’t want to replicate ICANN exactly, because CIRA needs to be an institution that’s built by Canadians and made for Canadian needs, however, ICANN’s use of Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committee helps ICANN produce more effective policy. ICANN uses its membership community to produce more policy work that could not be achieved by only using the limited time of its board members.
This is an opportunity for the CIRA, the board and the membership community. It’s not simple. It won’t be easy to change policy rules, process and culture. It also requires cooperation and buy-in from different stakeholder interests, but I honestly believe we have the potential to create value for Canadians if we look at ways for going beyond the conventional board roles that you mention in your question. If I’m elected to the board, I would use your question to start this conversation with the board and with all members.
MemberSeptember 27, 2023 at 12:59 pm
I believe your question can be broken into two questions, one about transparency and one about member participation. I believe the two questions are related in that more member participation will inevitably lead to more questions from the members and eventually to the CIRA organization appropriately responding to the demand for answers from members.
I also believe we need to be careful about what CIRA can and cannot do on its own. We do not have infinite resources, so we need to be careful about our priorities, making sure our priorities have the biggest positive impact on Canadians.
So, I would prioritize the opportunity for more CIRA membership participation. It’s not just an abstract question about the future. If you look at my track record, I’ve participated in the CIRA election process for many years now. Each year I gain more knowledge about how CIRA works and I learn about opportunities for where it could improve, but I’ve always had an eye open for how we can have better membership engagement.
Let’s look at some of the things I’ve learned.
In the 2019 election, I learned about how a board member candidate (a board member now), used the membership list to do an email campaign to help him win the election. It was a bit of a surprise to me back then because the election process information given to the candidates back then did not mention this technique.
The board election information given to candidates and members has since been properly updated to acknowledge the valid use of membership lists to contact members under the Canadian Not-For-Profit Act Section 23.7. However, the information given to members and the policies associated with the distribution and the use of the membership list have room for improvement. I think the open use of the membership list in 2019 was innovative and starts us on a path of member engagement innovation that is not yet done, and will take years to play itself out.
In June 2021, I successfully found the right legal wording to get access to the membership list myself. From a transparency point of view, I published my activity in the CIRA Member Facebook group that I had created in 2017.
Any CIRA member can join the group if interested, but please notice the join question which asks you to acknowledge you’re a member of CIRA. It’s not easy to enforce and anonymous trolls on social media often try to disrupt legitimate conversations, but it’s better than nothing … or better than the CIRA election forum that is created each year and then disappears at the end of the election removing all conversations for that year.
CIRA Member Facebook Group
In 2022 and 2023, it took me hours of time trying different ways of converting the locked PDF format into a usable format for me to actually use it to communicate with members. I’m not sure delivering the membership list in a PDF format is consistent with the intent of the Canadian Not-For-Profit Act Section 23.7, but it is what it is. There’s room for policy improvement here in my opinion.
In 2023, I’ve been experimenting with using the membership list to connect with members. I learned that it’s not just a question about having access to the list, but also a question of the digital marketing skills and money to use the list properly. Again, I think there’s a policy opportunity to not just focus on the list itself, but to have board candidates disclose how much money they’ve spent on their CIRA board election campaign. It would be nice to know how much money has been spent on past campaigns, but that’s water under the bridge now.
We should be looking for more policy reform in the area of CIRA elections. The recent policy change to charge $500 for the list may inadvertently restrict access to the membership list only to those who have financial resources. This will discourage many individual members and members with small and medium businesses from reaching out to each other.
By the way, I’ve spent $0 on all of my election campaigns, so far. Although, I may be forced to change tactics and start a fundraising drive in the future, if necessary.
Coming back from my learning to your original question … Yes, both transparency and member engagement are important. Member engagement should be the priority, since it has the opportunity to move CIRA org towards more transparency.
I’m happy to speak further with anyone interested in the topic via email, social media, telephone and/or in person.
I will continue to work towards better CIRA member engagement whether or not I’m elected to the board. 🙂
MemberOctober 1, 2023 at 2:09 am
Thank you, David for that answer (and I learn something new all the time). Prior the discussions on this year on this forum, I did not know that, in Canada, being a member of a national not-for-profit organization exposed my contact information to any member who wants it. I can see the logic, but I suspect this law predates modern concerns around privacy and safety of individuals. Nonetheless, it is what is. I am unfortunately unable to join the Facebook group, as I left Facebook some years ago and have no intention of returning that, or other, anti-social media rage machines.
I also do not believe that handing out membership lists is an effective way to create engagement. I suppose, it could be useful for informing members of an opt-in third-party forum, or similar venture/venue, but one-way email blasts are not effective at creating engagement, in and of themselves.
I’m therefore grateful you have not utilized the list in some kind of email blast, to date. I suspect a great many members feel the same way.
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