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Mark Forbes on the USHPA BOD reform proposal

I write:

Maybe just expand the executive committee (which does the hard
work) to 7.

Mar writes:

That's essentially what this proposal does. It reduces the size of
the body that makes binding decisions down to ten, which is a number that can
reasonably operate on a phone call with monthly meetings. I've been a member of
the EC for quite some time, serving as Treasurer and VP over the years, and I've
participated in a lot of our conference calls. Getting 26 directors together on
a call is virtually impossible, and there's no way to have a discussion that
works. Even with plenty of advance notice, on such a significant question, we
were only able to muster 16 voting directors for an evening phone call to
approve moving forward with the draft of the proposed Bylaws.

I've been a member of the strategic planning committee that was tasked by the
board to work on this proposal and come up with the details. I have had some
significant reservations about it, as would anyone contemplating a major change
in a management structure. But I see good reasons for doing it, as well as some

The insurance crisis illustrated the difficulty of engaging a large board on a
complex task with time pressure. There was simply no way to keep the board
informed and get consensus approval of our effort to solve the problem. We
figured out what needed to be done between the small group of the EC and a few
other select people, and we told the board what they needed to approve. They
did, but they felt left out…and they were. That was unfortunate, but in a fluid
situation with many unknowns and new information arriving hourly, it's the best
we could do. It worked, and we pulled off a two-year project in just a few

We survived that crisis. For quite a long time it's been noted that our board,
by comparison with most other nonprofits, is unusually large. The question was
how to structure a board large enough and diverse enough to represent both
regional and flight-specific viewpoints, but small enough to act quickly and
decisively when faced with urgent issues. The Bylaws proposal that will be
presented to the members and voted upon is the best consensus structure we could
come up with. Maybe it's an improvement to our board, or maybe not. When we
surveyed the membership asking their opinion, it was 2-to-1 in favor of a
smaller board. So that's what we're proposing, and we'll see what the members

Tiki's right about needing to focus on membership retention and growth. But for
all the doom-and-gloom, our overall membership levels are not dramatically
declining. We have a structural problem in that many of our hang gliding members
are aging out, and we've seen that one coming for well over a decade. But our
original Articles Of Incorporation say that we're an organization devoted to
"the development, study, and use of fuel-less flight systems and aircraft
capable of being launched by human power alone". That's not "hang gliding" or
"paragliding" or anything else specific. It's human-launched, fuel-less flight,
in whatever form that happens to take. We're seeing increased interest in speed
wings over the past few years. We'll need to figure out how to incorporate them
into our organization if that's where the dominant interest of the public goes.

Tiki's focus is specifically on hang gliding. That's a worthy focus. But the
decline of hang gliding participation is not confined to just the US; it's a
worldwide phenomenon, along with a general decline in recreational aviation.
While we should do what we can to promote all facets of our sport, there are
tides of public attention which may be far beyond our efforts to change. Not to
say we shouldn't try, but we need to recognize that there are competing modes of
flight now, which wasn't true back in 1974. (Well, there were, but most of them
didn't evolve successfully. See the December 1975 issue of the magazine for a
directory.) Perhaps a future evolution of hang gliders (or something like them)
will once again gain market share?

A 26-member board has talked *for decades* about "growing the sport". It has not
succeeded in making any meaningful change in the number of people taking up
foot-launched flight. Perhaps a different structure would help? I don't know,
and my gut feeling is that whatever the board does, at whatever size, is not
going to materially affect the public popularity of our sport. What we *can* do
is to operate prudently and efficiently, with the greatest level of
responsiveness we can manage. A smaller board will, I believe, operate more
efficiently and be able to make decisions quicker. All of its members will be
directly involved in the decision process, not sitting on the sidelines while a
small subset does the work. At least, that's the intent.

The flip side of this is that a smaller board will have fewer viewpoints, and
may possibly miss things a larger board would not. That's why there's a
diversity aspect to the voting, to try to include as many disparate viewpoints
as we can within those ten voting members. There are fewer regions nationally in
the revised proposal, so it's much more a national-scale election, rather than a
regional one. Candidates are required to submit answers to a list of questions
about their experience and qualifications, to insure that members have enough
information about them to make an informed decision. There will be no write-in
candidates; if you're serious about wanting to be on the board, then you need to
make a convincing case for why you should be elected.

You should read the proposed Bylaws, and the various discussions and opinions
both pro and con. I'd encourage you to not reflexively vote for or against on
the basis of someone else's opinion, before you've even looked at what is
proposed. Consider the proposal fairly, then vote based on information.
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