Delivered at the ACA New England Annual Meeting and Banquet, March 23, 2013
At a recent business conference, I had the good fortune of hearing a presentation by Peter Sheahan about the topic of change. He’s an entrepreneur and innovator, CEO of ChangeLabs… a very smart guy and an incredibly dynamic speaker.
One of his main points is that…Action precedes clarity.
If we wait until we have every detail figured out before we move forward, we will be too late. Because the goal is not to judge every initiative as a success or failure, but the goal is to learn everything you can, refine it and continue moving forward. While his points were predominantly focused on change in businesses…his theories can easily be applied to non-profits like ACA New England, schools, camps, or even individuals.
He defined 3 critical strategies for enacting positive change…
1. Drive for clarity and alignment
• Get clear, get focused, get inline
• Targeted asset allocation and alignment
• And the importance of avoiding the greatest obstacle to alignment...ego
2. Invest in manageable risks
• Small, well thought through intelligent risks
• Then scale the ones that do work, drop the ones that don't
• Goal is not to judge an initiative as a success or failure...it's always to learn something
3. Unleash collaboration
• Transformation does not happen in isolation
• Every decision has been rooted in a collaborative process that involves the contributions of multiple people and organizations
I’m proud of the fact that ACA New England has been moving forward over the past year by employing these very strategies I just described. While staying true to our mission and our core strengths, we’re strategically moving forward by investing in manageable risks through collaboration…all for the sake of advancing our mission.
And so I’d like to use a few minutes of our time this evening to highlight several notable accomplishments from the year gone by and a view of what lies ahead.
Campership Program and Camp Champions Celebration
• We’ve now officially moved from a modest pilot program sending 10 children to camp to a full fledged campership program that will enable over 150 at risk youth to attend accredited camps in New England this summer. And the Camp Champions event is almost exclusively responsible for that success. There’s incredible value here…certainly for the children…but also for us as an association. While the dollars come in and pass through to our camps, the visibility created by this annual event, the connections made, the media attention, the partnerships considered, the doors opened…all of this directly benefits the growth and strength of ACA New England. Certainly Mayor Menino helped raise our profile as we honored him this past fall…and we know that in honoring Eliza Dushku this year we’ve found another recipient who will help to raise awareness about the importance of quality camp experiences. Her 1.3 million twitter followers are certainly going to hear about it. I encourage you all to find a way to join in and support this annual event… not only to send even more at risk youth to camp, but also to support fundraising, friend-raising and increased visibility for ACA New England as a whole.
New and Expanded Education and Professional Development Opportunities
• This is a core strength of ACA New England and an area where we will continue to pursue growth.
• First, the quality of this conference continues to climb with this year being no exception
• Our New Camp Director Workshops have proven to be in growing demand and will be offered with increasing frequency in different states
• The upcoming Super Staff Day this spring will provide a new opportunity to front line staff
• And I know that as we speak, Bette continues to formulate the plans for new education, training and professional development opportunities that will extend it beyond what we already do.
Increased Collaboration and Connections
• The first year of our Summer Fund partnership was a success as we assisted them in evaluating 10 of their programs…The Summer Fund is the largest funding collaborative in the region and ACA New England is summer camp expert whom they’re eager to continue partnering with. Future collaboration may include providing them with additional tools and resources to measure the quality of the camps they fund each year…to train their directors in effective camp management practices…but ultimately to raise the quality of experiences that are provided top over 22,000 at-risk youth in the Greater Boston area each summer.
• Our staff and volunteers are also actively building inroads and relationships in the out of school time sphere. We recognize that we share many of the same goals and needs, and most importantly that we bring significant value to their table. We’ve identified organizations in each of the New England states and Bette is regularly attending conferences and workshops to make sure the voice of ACA New England is recognized as the expert in this field.
• We’re working closely with ACA National to collaborate on a number of initiatives and also with ACA New York New Jersey…jointly hosting a resident camp tour this fall.
• With our 6 state associations, we’re finding new ways to support each other and work together to leverage our strengths through joint workshops, public policy work and regular communication.
Further diversification of the Board
• We have intentionally broadened the perspectives and experiences within our volunteer leadership over the past year and are continuing to do so in the year ahead. While we will always have at our core a group of dedicated and experienced camp professionals, there’s no denying that we’ve gained new expertise and insight that will only serve to improve our strategic thinking. For example, we now have a Board member with deep legal expertise in nonprofits who is also a camp parent, another who founded and leads a nonprofit that helps provide camp experiences to children who have lost a parent, another from the world of financial management whose first loyalty is to his own New England camp, and another who is a local expert in the out of school time arena who can help us navigate this important community of allied professionals. I love working with this smart group of dedicated people who eagerly roll up their sleeves together to advance the work of ACA New England.
I look forward in the coming year to continue taking action, even as we continue to seek clarity in the evolving camp landscape. By working together with our Board, our staff, and our many volunteers, we will continue to be on the “learning edge of change” as we continue to offer the services and programs that continue to be our cores strengths.
Nat Saltonstall, President