Saturday, November 7, 2015

What Happens at FIC Board Meetings

I'm at Liberty Village (Union Bridge MD) this weekend, for the FIC's fall organizational meetings. These will be the last set of meetings at which I'll be the main administrator. Starting Monday I'll be offloading the lion's share of the executive tasks to my successor, Sky Blue of Twin Oaks.

As is common, we have a lot on our plates:

2016 Budget
Our essential challenge is keeping our appetites in line with our menu. We have no trouble whatsoever thinking up good things to do faster than we can manifest the money to accomplish them. That means we constantly need to rein in and prioritize our ideas, funding only the most important and most promising over the next 12 months.

In particular, we'll be creating the new position of Social Media Director in a better attempt to stay active and topical in those newer communication channels. We're also boosting the size of our travel subsidies to get Board and staff members to meetings.

Relations with Sister Organizations

The Global Ecovillage Network is headquartered at Findhorn in Scotland, and operates worldwide. After many years of operating as parallel yet mostly independent entities, communications between us have picked up in the last two years and we're exploring ways to collaborate, including the possibility of a unified directory of communities, and more regular participation in each other's activities.

The Cohousing Association of the US is a network that covers one of the vibrant subsets of the intentional communities movement. As such it behooves us to think about ways to strengthen the lines of communication. Coho/US recently announced a conference on Aging in Community for May 19-21, in Salt Lake City—but that's awkward for FIC because we've scheduled our spring organizational meetings for May 20-22 in Oregon, making it hard for us to have a presence at their event. We're looking hard at whether we can reconfigure our spring meetings to avoid this conflict.

Coho/US is also encouraging all cohousing groups in the country to hold an open house this coming April 30. This seems like a good idea to us, and we'll be checking closely to see how that goes.

—School of Living
This Mid-Atlantic network has roots that go back into the 1930s and Ralph Borsodi. It includes a community land trust that holds six pieces of property in three states (PA, MD, and VA), and they approached us to discuss the possibility of joint events, joint grant applications, partnering on educational programs, and youth initiatives.

—Goddard College
This Vermont-based school has been a leader in developing online courses, and we discussed the possibility that students might find it appealing to get college credit for hands on learning in intentional communities.

Overhauling our Directory Listing Questionnaire 
Last spring we made the decision to publish a new edition of Communities Directory (our seventh), and we're busily at work trying to get all the ducks in line. We took advantage of several key players being in the same room to overhaul the Directory listing questionnaire for the first time in 20 years, and coordinate the timing of publicity associated with next week's launch of our Kickstarter campaign to raise production funds for this effort. (I'll blog about this again next week, when we actually start the campaign.)

This has always been an important component of FIC's mix of programs, even though we haven't always had the staff to be active. Our essential challenge is how to keep the costs of events affordable while at the same time generating enough income to fairly compensate staff for the substantial investment it takes to pull off a quality event.

In the discussion this weekend we've been looking at some far ranging ideas for approaching this differently, including videos tours of communities that are offered online (a virtual event); Earth Day open houses; a music tour where name artists give house concerts at intentional communities, followed by workshops; and a robust webinar series where people are brought in initially by free content.

Strategic Planning 
This work is a continuation from the spring. Starting with something we drafted six months ago, we're devoting time this weekend to polishing a revised vision and mission statement that we can use to assess program elements and new ideas.

In addition we got clearer on the relationship of staff to Board in light of how things have been reorganized following my stepping down as the main administrator.

In all, FIC meetings can be regularly relied upon to keep several of us off the streets for three days every spring and fall.

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