2014 AGM: Welcome Speech

IMG_2865Good morning everyone, my name is Michael Davis, and I am the Chair of Board Voice.

I am here to welcome you to the 5th Annual Board Voice conference held on the traditional, unceded territories of the Muqueam people.

We are unique in that we are a gathering of board members from all these Community Social Service agencies across the province, as opposed to paid staff. And our members are unique.

So I welcome Lana Thompson from Fort St John. Can you stand up and give us a wave Lana. Lana is from Community Bridge and they provides services for pregnant women and teens at risk of having low birth weight babies and the Nobody’s Perfect parenting education and support program and many other supports for families.

Welcome Terry Moist from Black Creek near Campbell River. Terry is with the John Howard Society North Island. They do a Detox and Stabilization Program for youth and provide outreach support to mentally disordered offenders and those found not criminally responsible. They also do supportive housing for youth

Welcome Wren Weston from Thomson Community Services in Kamloops. One of the services they provide is Group Living for several people in a residence with one or more caregivers.

Welcome Krissi Spinoza from Victoria’s Phoenix Human Services who provide Family Development and the Mental Health Outreach Program, as well as community living programs for children and adults.

They all have many other programs, but those give a sense of the range of services.

I welcome all of you amazing people, from across our province, doing remarkable volunteer work, helping so many people in so many different ways.

That is why we get onto boards, right? We want to help.IMG_3029

Then we find we are buried trying to understand how the agency works, where the money comes from, what the challenges are, who the players are, how the board and committees function.

Once we get our heads up out of that, we find our boards spend a lot of time pouring over financial statements, worrying about legal standing, trying to figure out insurance.

It sometimes seems we spend most of our time on our boards looking backward, reviewing what has already happened. Our fiduciary responsibilities are important. They are the basics and must be done. But I think many in this room yearn for those times they are asked to look forward.

And we are asked to look forward: strategic thinking. We are asked to plan out the next 1-5 years. Consider our core competences; our competitors; our funders; what are the needs we are seeing from our clients; and how can our agency best respond?

These are challenging discussions. We have to work to find not only effective answers, but even to find effective processes to facilitate the conversations. But they are stimulating. They are rewarding. It is one of our highest functions as a board, that forward-looking planning, that strategic thinking.IMG_3045

But I believe we have more to give. I believe our role is even greater. I believe we have a voice that should be heard by many more than sit around our board room tables.

We are not those confused volunteer anymore. We have gathered information, honed our skills. We have networks on the board, in the community, and across the province.

We are the engaged volunteer leaders of our communities. We are some of the most involved, caring, passionate people in those communities. And we have the opportunity to help shape the future, not just for our agency, but for our community.

What if we start to ask bigger questions? Engage and challenge our boards—and other leaders in our communities—with those questions.

Why is our agency here? Who do we serve? Are we relevant? What is our future in the community if we continue down this path? If we change direction? If we cease to exist?

Who are we competing with? What if we partnered instead? Could we better serve the client? Could we get more results with the dollars we have?

What are the biggest issues in our community? In our Province? What parts of those issues can our agency solve—do we ‘own’. Who ‘owns’ the other parts? Can we bring them to the table? Can we work together for positive change?

This is called generative thinking. And it hurts my brain to figure out how to make it happen, and it hurts my brain to try and nudge it forward. But it is exciting stuff. It is powerful in creating positive change. And it should be a significant part of our boards’ time and effort and focus—all of our boards.

Imagine what we can do—our boards, collectively across this province—with these kinds of discussions.IMG_3048

So I welcome you here to the fifth annual board voice conference. And I challenge you to ask those big questions over the next two days. I challenge you to take those questions back to your home boards and your communities.

I challenge you to ask them to your mayor and city councillors, to your MLAs and the Premier of our province. I challenge you to own that voice—your voice. The voice of the passionate, engaged community leader, hell bent on making things better for individuals, for your community, for our province.

So welcome Lanna, and Terry, and Wren and Krissi. Welcome all of you, my fellow board members.

The theme of our conference this year is Woven Together, Economic Development and Social Policy. This theme comes out of our observations while advocating for a Province-wide Social Policy Framework.

In the Northeast, one mayor bluntly told me if we get LNG and Site C without more cohesive and effective social policy from the government, it will tear this town apart.

Our Province has a developing skilled trades shortage, while half a generation of First Nations youth sits on the economic sidelines.

Our police officers in large urban centres are driven into the role of mental heath and social workers, while trying to combat street crime that restricts the growth of business in downtown cores.

Safe, healthy, engaged people living in supporting communities are good for business. Business has a role to play in advocating for and supporting effective social policy. And strong economic growth pays for the social services and infrastructure we need.

Economic development and Social Policy are intimately intertwined. One cannot thrive without the other. And both have an interest in each other’s success.

So this morning, we will here from some very compelling speakers on all sides of BC’s policy discussions. Just before lunch, John Horigan, leader of the Official Opposition and the BC NDP.

You will hear from Janet Austin, Chair of the Vancouver Board of Trade and CEO of the Vancouver YWCA.

Our first speaker is John Greschner, Deputy Representative for Children and Youth. I will tell you a bit more about John in a moment.

First I would like us to do a little more introducing.

As some of you may know, Doug Hayman will be retiring at the end of this year. I think this is his third ‘retirement’ isn’t it Doug? We will roast—and honour—Doug this evening.

But in the mean time, I am very excited to announce our new Executive Coordinator Tanis Dagert. Tanis is not officially working for us yet, but wanted to be here at our conference, so be nice to her. Tanis brings a remarkable range of skills and experience to the positon. She was the Coordinator of the ‘Alberni Clayoquot Health Network’; Community Capacity Facilitator at  BC Healthy Living Alliance; Manager Operations and Development, BCEd Online; and Executive Director, Nanaimo Foodshare Society. Welcome Tanis.

One of the most important functions of this conference is to meet others that share your passion for community social service and volunteering on boards. So let’s take a few moments to introduce yourselves to either your table or a table next door if you are travelling in a pack. Let’s welcome each other to Board Voices 5th annual conference.