One year ago today, an HI-USA assembly of volunteer leaders convened in Chicago and voted a monumental decision for this 77 year old nonprofit: to unify all 26 area chapters (we call them “councils”) and the national office into a single organization. In the time since, staff and volunteers have worked resolutely together towards that goal.
Their decision was a generous one. Previously separate councils would be combined, and their local boards dissolved. The existing national board would resign in favor of a newly elected Transition Board. Staff, both local and national, would be reconfigured.
Profound change seems seldom sought, in the nonprofit sector or elsewhere. Yet an 18-month decision making process that began in 2009, led by a joint group of volunteers and staff, concluded that, if HI-USA’s unique mission of intercultural understanding was ever to be fully realized, talent and finances needed to be combined. A fragmented structure must be unified. Mission would be put ahead of provincial interests, and change, however challenging, embraced.
That spirit of magnanimity continues today. Seven councils in six different states have unified to date, with another six councils due within the next month or so. We are well on our way to completing unification by the end of 2013, on the early side of the 2-4 years projected by our planning consultants.
At the same time, HI-USA is rapidly transforming itself. A sharp focus (18-30 year olds) has been decided by the Transition Board. Fresh program strategies are being developed by senior staff, with help from joint staff-volunteer resource groups. An innovative regional structure has been successfully launched in the Central states, with focus now shifting to organizing the Southeast. Valuable new staff positions, now within financial reach due to unification economies of scale, are being funded and filled.
What are the ingredients of our post-6/11/11 progress? Love of mission. Respect for democratic process. Generosity of time and talent, by volunteers and staff across the country working hard to make unification a success.
One year later, it’s a vitalizing time for the emerging unified organization, and for future of U.S. hostelling. Many thanks to our staff and volunteers who are standing tall as mission advocates and organizational supporters.