At a luncheon for 50 League members at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill (ervk.org), Wylecia Wiggs Harris expressed enthusiasm about her job as CEO of the national League and was honest with us about the significant challenges we face.
She was happy to report that at the end of January, even before the full effects of the November election were felt, our membership was already up 7% [nationwide] while new Leagues were being formed and more new members were still coming.
But while we end the first century of LWV history strong, she challenged us to start our next century even stronger. We have always been evolving, but as change picks up speed, we need to move beyond evolution to transformation. Many new members are younger and more action-oriented than current ones. We want to retain them and to prepare for the next generation of members. We also need to be sure that our relevance is evident to those outside the League. We need greater diversity in age, ethnicity, and perspective.
Wylecia spoke of letting go of past mistakes – “There are no perfect organizations, no perfect people.” We also need to evaluate which elements of our deep culture serve us well and which don’t.
Finally she spoke with passion about reclaiming our role at all levels of League as the premier authority on election reform. With increased competition from younger, more agile organizations, we must vigorously defend our core issues and our role in election reform at the national, state and local levels.
The conversation about our “transformational journey” began with LWVUS board and staff and continued with the 2016 Convention, a board-appointed committee tasked with elevating the discussion, and a retreat in Pocantico Hills (NY) early this year. Our LWVNYS Board President and Secretary, Dare Thompson and Jane Park, and our Executive Director, Laura Bierman, were among the 30 or so Pocantico participants.
Questions included in the talk:
1. How do we provide more community face time for local Leagues by shifting administrative responsibility elsewhere?
2. Do we need to engage individuals differently in micro volunteer activities to hook them into League?
3. How can we change our economic engine to ensure all levels of League are successful?
The conversation will continue at LWVUS Council 2017 in June.