I have written blog posts on AOTA's OTConnections for the last few years with varying regularity. I try to be sure that my words are always kind, usually thoughtful and I hope mostly interesting. For the last three years my voice has been further shaped by my role on the AOTA Board of Directors. I don't regret that in the least but will share that sometimes I have wanted to blog on topics not appropriate for a professional social media site. Most of my blog posts will likely continue to be about some aspect of occupational therapy and when so will also be cross posted on OTConnections. From time to time, I will decide to write something more personal; maybe about politics, maybe about society, and most definitely about my cats and appropriately about life with my partner Paul. Those will only be found here. I hope you enjoy them. My inaugural post is a cross post reflecting on the participation and the lost chance to have an influence.
I have had two reasons to reflect on the value of participation in the last 3 days. Today in the staff meeting that I run I presented staff feedback on the three focal areas of our draft updated strategic plan. While feedback was positive overall I shared that 9% of those who gave feedback marked “neutral or disagree” on three or more of the evaluation questions, but when asked, “If YOU were in charge of this process, what would you do differently?” offered no comment or suggestion. The plan will move forward without any insights they might have shared and without their influence on the process or outcome.
On Saturday I attended the AOTA Annual Business Meeting where among other things we voted on a revision to the AOTA Bylaws. The revision was put forward after review by the six members of the Bylaws, Policies and Procedures Committee (BPPC) and unanimous approval by the Board of Directors. I have been an AOTA member for 32 years and have attended 31 conferences and 31 business meetings. I was fortunate to have strong mentoring early in my career that impressed upon me the importance and responsibility of attending the business meeting and participating. I strongly value any influence I have and take every opportunity to influence outcomes through participation.
I do not expect that all members attend every business meeting as attendance must be in person and requires the considerable expense to travel to the conference city. However, I am dismayed by the annual low turnout at the business meeting. As Secretary I had the honor (and fun) of calling the roll call of states. If I kept accurate records (they will be confirmed) we had members attend from 45 states and two territories. Because the “Rules of the Day” state that a quorum is established if 100 voting members are present and that the quorum will be deemed to be in existence for the remainder of the meeting, I completed a count of the hall prior to calling the states and determined that more than 200 persons were seated in the member areas.
Passage of the Bylaws raised some significant discussion. A handful of members voiced concern over one element of the revision via Email and on OTConnections prior to the meeting and several rose to speak in opposition to the motion to approve the Bylaws revision at the meeting. Because I was instrumental in drafting the revision and had the opportunity to vote as a member of the Board, I was naturally in support of adoption and disagreed with those rising to voice opposition.
I am not going to return to debate the merit of the revisions or the motion but I stand by my support of both.
I am going to give sincere praise for those who participated prior to, and at the annual business meeting.
The process of a Bylaws revision is complex. The BPPC drafts revisions and they go to the Board of Directors and are reviewed by AOTA legal counsel and the Executive Director and other staff. Often, as in this case, more changes were made. The draft was posted on the Website and solicitation of feedback was sought on the Website, in OT Practice and by other means. As in the past, response was limited. I will gladly correct any of the following if I am off by a count or two, but I understand that less than 5 persons sent an Email to the Email address provided to ask questions or give feedback. Nine posts by 6 members were made on the forum discussion offered on OTConnections. One-hundred eleven members voted at the business meeting. The Board of Directors members also raised their hands, I believe all in support, but do not think they were included in the tally of the vote, which was a close outcome of 57 in support of adoption and 54 in opposition. If we include the affirmative votes of the Board, the outcome is even more certain, although I understand that in close votes on important issues, outcomes are often questioned.
I am not certain how to get AOTA members to pay more attention to complicated and detailed work such as Bylaws revisions. I am not sure how to get more than a couple of hundred out of of thousands of attendees to attend the business meeting. I am not sure how to keep members from leaving early and missing an important vote because discussion runs long. I am not sure how to more clearly educate those in attendance that voting on the rules of the day matters…..a lot……. and will guide decision making throughout the meeting.
I am certain that some decisions are hard and that we made the right decision to pass the Bylaws revision. I am certain that I have a great deal of respect for the few members who wrote on OTConnections, Emailed or rose to speak at the business meeting for doing so despite my disagreement with their opinions. I am 100% confident that if you don’t participate, you have no influence.
Please choose to have an influence on your professional association in the future.
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.