Not For Profit and Out of Control

Yesterday my non-profit working life got a little out of control, with back-to-back meetings from noon to 6:00 p.m. It was exhausting, but also an interesting study in contrasts. The day started with an L.M. Montgomery Land Trust meeting at Ravenwood. An hour later I was up the trail at the University of PEI Robertson Library for an Access 2009 steering committee meeting, and at 4:00 p.m. back here at the office there was a Quality of Island Life Coop directors meeting. Here’s how they compare.

Use of Acronyms: Quality of Island Life meeting winds hands-down. Being mostly from the government and eco-sectors, QoIL members are all about the acronyms: they simply can’t help themselves. So you hear sentences like “we could access some CURA money to develop a business case for streamlining an SESRN grant to do a SWAT analysis of the community ROI factors.” Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But only a little one.

Breadth of Membership: The Access 2009 folks are all librarians, the QoIL people are all anti-establishmentarians, so the Land Trust wins this race. Our board includes people from non-profits, farmers, small business owners, public servants, and tourism operators.

Rollicking Good Time: Man those librarians are funny. Really. To the point where one hour meetings become two hour meetings simply to accommodate the sarcasm overhead.

Group Process: Another win for QoIL. Everything around the QoIL table is about new-style inclusive group process: we take straw polls, engage facilitators, ensure everyone gets a chance to speak. There’s more group process intelligence in a QoIL meeting than you’ll find anywhere else on PEI. And, most of the time, it works very well. Over at the Land Trust we’re all-Robert’s Rules-all-the-time, which works in its old school way (“all those in favour signify by saying yea… contrary minded nea”). The librarians are, relatively speaking, anarchists.

Accommodation of Crazy Ideas: Access 2009. Where else can you propose web-enabling a gymnasium scoreboard to allow conference presentations to be voted up or down by the audience and be taken seriously? Runner up is QoIL, where I’ve managed to conjure up a few pie-in-the-sky ideas and make them seem real.

Herculean Tasks: No contest here, it’s the Land Trust. We’re amidst a multi-year effort to preserve 622 acres of coastal agricultural land from development. It’s a huge task.

Food: There were all manner of treats from the “gummy bear” family at the Access meeting, but that was it for the afternoon. Last year, before we migrated our QoIL meetings here to Reinvented HQ, you’d find wine and beer and brie and hot tea on offer; I have clearly let the team down in this regard. Our December meeting was pot-luck, however, and man can those anti-establishmentarians whip up some good food. Land Trust meetings are strictly bring-your-own-lunch.

What’s really interesting is that there’s absolutely no overlap between the groups: they are distinct and separate slices of Island society, and I’d hazard a guess that most of the people around one table wouldn’t know most of the people from the other two. But they’re all good people, fascinating to work with, and although it took a lot to make it through the endless day, it was, ultimately, all worth it.


Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on March 12, 2009 - 23:42 Permalink

Not to point out a SNAFU on your acronym post, but it’s a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

Two weeks ago I did some work for the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of Defense. We joked about needing a CAD — a civilian acronym dictionary.

Al's picture
Al on March 13, 2009 - 09:08 Permalink

A lot more than just librarians work in libraries, and I’m pretty sure the Access meeting had a few :)

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 14, 2009 - 19:46 Permalink

I use librarian in the broad “person involved with a library” sense. We are all librarians, after a fact, aren’t we?

And it’s possible that my colleagues were referencing a “Special Weapons And Tactics” analysis, isn’t it?