My year as past President has gone by quickly. My duties and responsibilities were less than the two previous years, but as an active member of the Executive I have of course been involved on a number of fronts.
For this column, in many ways the swan song of my Executive involvement, I thought I would informally summarise some of the issues that were discussed at the recent CSEG offsite strategy meeting. It’s a neat synopsis of the many issues that are currently on the boil within the CSEG, and an indication of the current health and vibrancy of our organization.
Since being started by Doug Uffen several years ago, these offsite meetings have taken place sporadically, and adopted many different formats. But generally speaking the purpose of the meetings has been the same – to get input from a cross section of CSEG Executive and committee members, on a variety of topics that are relevant to the society, with the goal of formulating and implementing a long term plan and vision, which of course should ultimately benefit the members. This year invitees were the current Executive, the most recent 10 past Presidents, and the Chairs of all the various CSEG committees. The meeting was organized by Jim Racette and Sheryl Meggeson, and Barry Korchinski, himself a CSEG past President, graciously acted as the meeting facilitator and did an outstanding job.
What follows is my perspective of what the key points were in each of the 5 main topic areas that were addressed at the meeting.
The main discussions revolved around the need to ensure that the current social events are relevant and accessible to the younger component of the CSEG membership, with various ideas presented to achieve that. Some people felt that we should look at running some new events, much like the JGF was recently created. Further discussions revolved around the need for the Executive to receive accurate financial reports from the social event committees, without of course impinging on each event’s financial independence and ability to attract sponsorship.
General consensus was that the CSEG does a good job meeting the members’ technical needs, via the RECORDER, Convention, DoodleTrain, etc. Concern over declining Luncheon attendance was discussed. Ideas were thrown around including ways to put on more topical or interesting talks, and ways to publicise and facilitate ticket sales better.
Relationships with other organizations
An interesting topic – what directions will our relationships with the CSPG, APEGGA, the SEG and others take? With the CSPG the general feeling expressed was that us moving closer to them is just a natural progression reflecting the way geosciences is conducted in industry, with a blurring of boundaries between disciplines, and not something we need to worry about; certainly not a situation of one society or the other trying to take over the other.
The SEG is consciously making efforts to become more of an international organization. Should we be worried that they will try to muscle in on “our turf”? Again, no one felt there was cause for concern. The SEG and CSEG are on very good terms – our own Larry Lines is SEG President-Elect, and many other CSEG members are currently involved in other capacities within the SEG. So we see the relationship between the CSEG and our parent society the SEG as continuing to be positive and beneficial to both sides and their respective memberships.
We also discussed how the CSEG will work with our newly formed Foundation. We are aware of other societies with similar Trusts or Foundations where the visions of the parent society and the trust have diverged, and an acrimonious relationship has developed. In order to avoid this, the Executive will create some guidelines to ensure harmonious and productive relations between these two arms of the CSEG as the Foundation grows with time.
The CSEG relies heavily on volunteers to deliver the various programs to members, so it’s very important to always make sure that our volunteer situation is healthy. One interesting discussion was around whether the CSEG should hire more staff. The pro is that then we are not so dependent on volunteers, the con is that more staff comes with higher fixed costs, and runs the risk of a more bureaucratic society, for want of a better term.
Related to volunteer issues is the question of whether running candidates against one another is a healthy thing. This is a question I and many others close to the CSEG have wrestled with. When we run two excellent candidates, does the one who loses also lose the desire to volunteer any further with the CSEG? There is some evidence that this is the case. On the other hand, there are so many reasons that contested elections are an excellent idea. It is such a good idea that it is one of the main pillars of Western society. So there was some discussion around this, with no resolution. One excellent suggestion put forward by Neil Rutherford was that election candidates, by standing for election, would be committing to a 2-year stint: if they won the election they would serve on the Executive, if they lost they would serve on a committee of their choice. Sounds like a winning solution to me.
Financial / membership
This was a fairly brief discussion as the CSEG is currently in excellent financial health. We discussed the need to maintain a healthy restricted operating fund, to protect the CSEG in case of future lean years, while staying onside with Revenue Canada. Again we discussed the Foundation and when in the fiscal year transfers, if any, should be made. We briefly touched on the cost of membership and events; the general consensus was that as long as the society is break even or better, there should not be significant price increases for anything. And lastly, we touched on member retention, and ways to enhance that.
All these discussions were very fruitful, and I look forward to seeing them result in actual plans that are executed for the benefit of the members.
On a personal level I have certainly enjoyed my time on the Executive, particularly working with my predecessor Jim Stenhouse, my successor Doug Bogstie, and his successor François Aubin, the CSEG staff Jim and Sheryl, and the many other wonderful people who help out with the CSEG. We have a great society, and I look forward to my continued involvement.