Positioning NAI for the Next 30 Years

The Bylaws Revision Task Force has been working hard for the past year to prepare NAI for growth and opportunity. Now it’s your turn! We are asking you to read over the new Constitution and revised Bylaws for NAI and give us your thoughts.

A major milestone like celebrating NAI’s 30th anniversary always presents an opportunity to reflect on the future – we know where we have been, where do we want to go? For those of us in leadership positions within the organization, this is no idle contemplation, but a solemn responsibility.

One issue that NAI’s board of directors has wrestled with over the past six years is that of awkward governance documents that restrict our ability to respond to changing challenges and new opportunities in an agile fashion. The last bylaws revision (2012) changed the board structure in two major ways: Board members were now elected directly by the membership rather than the board being composed of region and section directors; and a separate Advisory Council was set up for region and section directors with two representatives on the board. This addressed the work overload for regional and sectional leaders who essentially had had two big (volunteer) jobs, but maintained a way for the regions and sections to continue to meet, discuss issues and have an impact on board decision-making.

While this new board system has worked well, and is popular with the membership, the actual bylaws (written by a law firm) were constructed on a corporate template that could charitably be called “cumbersome.” Requiring a long process and a 2/3 majority positive vote of at least 10% of the membership to make even the smallest operational change, the end result was that no changes could realistically be made – even adding a committee, expanding election rights of members, changing the date of the conference, etc. without a vote. Like many organizations, NAI gradually got out of whack between what the bylaws said and what actual practice had become, and so a bylaw revision was necessary.

After much deliberation, it was decided to tackle a more thorough revision instead of minor tweaks to address the lack of flexibility. The result was the creation of a Constitution, or foundational governance document, with all of the core aspects of the organization – much like the original Articles of Incorporation. Any aspect of these core components needs a vote by the entire membership to be changed or amended in any way. The revised bylaws will continue to contain the more operational aspects of the organization. Either the membership at large or the members of the board of directors can propose amendments or changes. These amendments will be voted on by the board, allowing for more timely implementation.

Over the next several months we will be posting more about the revisions and answering questions. We encourage you to leave a comment or suggestion – we are hoping to encourage an active conversation about these changes to make sure everyone is comfortable with them. After all, it is your NAI!

—Bylaws Revision Task Force
Cem Basman
Jay Miller
Tom Mullin
Theresa Coble
Pepe Chavez
Margo Carlock

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First Day of Sessions at the International Conference in Sigtuna, Sweden

Sunday was the first full day of the conference. Ted Cable presented the Keynote Address (“Becoming Better Interpreters and Better Citizens of the World”) to a packed hall – there were a total of 160 people attending the conference from 40 countries. It did what a truly good keynote will do – set the temperament for the conference to come. There was a genuine feeling of comraderie and “world citizenship” in the air as people greeted old friends and introduced themselves to newly met colleagues.

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Breakout sessions were held throughout the morning – all told we had 23 sessions and three workshops to choose from in six time slots. Two that I attended were “Interpreting beguinages: about women social experiments and other dangerous things” and “City Stories: interpreting Georgian Bath for local to global audiences.”

The afternoon was spent in study tours. We had three to pick from: the village of Sigtuna, the oldest city in Sweden; the castle of Skokloster, a 16th century chateau; and the city of Uppsala. Having spent some time in Uppsala the past couple of days, I opted for Skokloster. Nothing like a good castle for a museum geek!

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We were met by the museum director herself, Rebecka Enhorning, who gave us an overall history of the castle and the family that built it. We then divided into two groups, one to tour the interior of the castle while the other traipsed through the formal gardens under the tutelage of Anders Glassel, a landscape and park cultural specialist with the state. After brief refreshments in the café garden, the two groups switched.

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The most fascinating tidbit I took away from the garden tour was that the linden trees that formed the allees were over 300 years old (for the most part). They had begun the process of rooting the little sucker branches to grow into mature trees and replacing any of the trees that were not original, so that eventually all would once again be the same stock as when first planted.

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Perhaps my favorite part of the castle tour was the unfinished grand ballroom on the third floor of the castle. This was one of the last parts of the castle to be worked on, and it was left as it was on the day in 1594 when word came that the master had died (and there were no funds to complete the project, so…..). It was a fascinating look into the construction techniques and materials from so very long ago.

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Back in Sigtuna at the Folkhogskola we had dinner and gathered for drinks on the patio. Our hosts had arranged for a truly Swedish experience – a Huldrans Natt, which was a walk into the night forest for storytelling of Swedish folklore by the firepit.

International Conference on Heritage Interpretation – Sigtuna, Sweden

Following the really excellent one-day  Nordic -Baltic Seminar on Heritage Interpretation held in Uppsala, I headed to Sigtuna.

 

I was excited to visit this oldest city in Sweden, having read up on it before the trip.  As a history geek from way back, I was looking forward to exploring the town and checking out the museum and the historic sites.

English: The ruins of St. Olofs Church in Sigt...
English: The ruins of St. Olofs Church in Sigtuna, Sweden dating back to the 12th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew from the preliminary information that Sigtuna is recognized for the conservation and interpretation of its cultural heritage.  I was also looking forward to meeting people in the interpretation world – feeling a bit like the new kid on the block and hoping I fit in!

 

It seemed as though everyone checking in that first day had one thought – head down to the lake and sit in the sunshine absorbing the local scene and having lunch (and incidentally some most righteous Swedish beer and cider).

 

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We were all on a tight budget, so there was much sharing of plates.  Sweden has turned out to be a pretty expensive place, so looking for more casual options to dining has become somewhat of a treasure hunt.

 

Back at the Sigtuna Foghogskola (roughly translated as community school) we found our assigned rooms.  It was like being back in a college dorm, with small but comfortable rooms and a bath down the hall.  There was a welcome reception in one of the main classrooms with words from the Conference Steering Group (Interpret Europe, NAI and the Swedish Cente for Nature Interpretation), and an introduction to Sigtuna by Gun Erikssen, Chair of the Municipality Council.  This was followed by a wonderful presentation of Swedish folkdance that had everyone (well, the most uninhibited folks which comprised the vast majority of the crowd!) up and dancing in circles like dervishes.

 

This was followed by an informal buffet dinner and cash bar in the main dining room.  We are approaching midsummer’s eve and the longest day of the year, so it was surprisingly bright out and very deceptive.  The professional chit chat and networking were in full swing, and it was hard to believe we were nearing 11pm when eveyone finally gave up the ghost and called it a night.

 

I have to say I headed back to my room feeling energized and appreciative of the exposure to so many interesting people.  I can’t wait to see what the next few days will bring!

 

 

 

Margo Carlock

 

NAI

 

 

 

 

 

First Days in Sweden

I landed in Sweden after a relatively uneventful flight and spent the first night at a hostel that had originally housed the distillery that  created Absolut vodka (1868).  Good omen!

We made our way to Uppsala, home of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and site of the Nordic Seminar on Heritage Interpretation – a sort of overflow conference for the Interpret Europe main event.  Amy Letheridge (NAI President) and I had been asked to present a short session on Cooperation & Training Courses: Tools for Deveopment of the Profession.  As the new kid on the block, I was excited at the opportunity to meet so many people well-known in the fielnd of interpretatio.  For Amy, it was old-home week as she greeted friends and acquaintances from all over Europe (and beyond).

Sam Ham was there from the Univrsity of Idaho and presented on Interpretation as Strategic Communication (and plugged his new book which is marvelous).  We heard from Eva Sandberg, Director of the Swedish Centre for Nature Interpretation, about their Thought Listing research and project – more about that later.  Other speakers through the day included Per Sonnvik, Nordic Cooperation Group for Nature Interpretation (Interpretation for Children & Young People in the Nordic Countries); Lisa Brochu & Tim Merriman, Heartfelt Associates (Interpretive Planning); Arne Bondo, Danish Raners’ Assoc. & Jes Aagaard, Danish Nature Agency (The Future of Nordic-Baltic Cooperation); and Michael Glen, Interpret Europe (International Collaboration, Good Practice & Research).

There was a lot of great conversation, sharing of experiences and general conviviality.  All in all, a great introduction!

Margo Carlock

 

Heading to Sweden – International Conference!

Just as I am getting comfortable around the NAI national office in Fort Collins, its time for a road trip!  I’ll be heading to Sigtuna, Sweden next week for our international conference in partnership with Interpret Europe and the Swedish Centre for Nature Interpretation.

The International Conference presents a unique opportunity to network with colleagues across the globe, learning from best practices and sharing what we’ve experienced.  In today’s global world, making these connections makes sense.  Unfortunately, many of our members are not able to make the trip, so I hope in some small way to bring the conference to you by posting my impressions of the proceedings and sharing a little of what is discussed there on the NAI blog.

The conference runs June 15-19.  Stay tuned!

— Margo Carlock, NAI Executive Director

 

 

Let Me Hear From You!

ImageToday marks my second week with NAI, and although my head is spinning a bit, I am very excited to be here, working with such a great staff and board to move the association forward.  It is a beautiful spring day in Fort Collins – 84 degrees and sunny, and the weather matches my mood.  A four-day cross-country road trip and the first phase of unpacking boxes are behind me.  I have planted an herb garden and bought a bicycle and now feel one with the Colorado zeitgeist!

The more I learn about NAI, its mission and membership, the more I am struck by similarities with the museum community that has been my world for the past 19 years.  Both share a passion for the preservation and interpretation of historic, cultural and environmental heritage.  Both have dedicated staff and volunteers, who deal with the challenges of tight budgets and tight timeframes.  For both, education is the key mission.

I have been amazed over the years at the dedication and resiliency of people who work in the nonprofit cultural and environmental sectors.  They certainly aren’t in it for the pay!  But the benefits, both tangible and intangible, make all the difference.  For the most part we work in beautiful or at least interesting locations, we get to work with the public and meet interesting people, and we get to feed that abiding love for history, nature, science and art.

One of the reasons I decided to apply for this position was the very evident commitment of the board to the mission of the organization and its determination to preserve and build on the respect that NAI engenders worldwide.   I have been in the nonprofit arena for more years than I care to admit, and one truth is universal – the selfless dedication of board members is the key to a healthy and thriving organization.

I have three primary goals for my tenure – to grow membership, especially by reaching out to under-represented interpretive disciplines such as historic sites and art; to develop member services that will help interpreters in their careers and daily work lives; and to ensure that the organization is on a sound financial footing and following best practices in association management.

Right now I am in a listening and learning mode.  I am grateful for the comments and well wishes I’ve received already from members, and I am anxious to hear from all of the NAI stakeholders – members and nonmembers alike.  Well, maybe not all – there are about 5,000 members and I wouldn’t get anything done if I answered every one! But I want to hear from you.  I welcome any and all comments, suggestions, complaints, and kudos for the organization.  I want to know what you like about NAI, where you see the need for some improvement, and what thoughts you have for its future.  NAI is a wonderful organization, and I am proud to be part of the staff serving its members in the interpretation and related fields.

— Margo Carlock