Forum › Forum › Questions for candidates / Questions pour les candidat·e·s › What do you believe are roles members can play in/at CIRA? › Reply To: What do you believe are roles members can play in/at CIRA?
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. 🙂