Throwing out the bath water, not the baby

In 2008, the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) was ready to create a new model for their chapters. Fast forward to February 2012, when on a volunteer leadership call, three local leaders shared how the new model is working in their states. We heard proof that volunteer leaders will embrace change and in fact make it their own. AADE had successfully thrown out the dirty bath water (old structure) without losing their members and volunteers.

Nadine Merker, director, volunteer services, had shared the AADE story during an ASAE Annual Meeting session last August (here’s recap and links). At that point, they were four months away from the deadline for chapters to embrace the new model.  Now two months into the new year, the news is heartening.

A little background: AADE replaced its traditional chapter program with a state-based program that features a state Coordinating Body (CB) with Local Networking Groups (LNG). The financial, database and web management is handled by AADE offices in Chicago. This streamlines the responsibilities and the workload of volunteers. The volunteer structure is based on an adhocracy model. An online community portal, called MY AADE NETWORK, is the hub.

During the February call, three volunteer leaders, representing two CBs and an LNG, shared how they were activating aspects of the new model. The common themes expressed focused on how the new systems, especially online registration, web-based communications, and financial management, created greater efficiency and more member involvement. They also shared with their peers, that yes it took a leap a faith in a new system, new portal and in AADE HQ staff, but it was worth it.

“Using the registration took away a lot of burden and stress from us. It was nice feeling like a guest at your own party!”

“We had kind of felt isolated and [this new model and portal] reminded us that we have similar experiences … we are stronger together.”

“We were supported every step of the way.”

Too often association staffs feel that volunteers are a burden and that we need to “wait until the current leaders retire.” But AADE’s experience tells a different story.  Part of what made it work of course was the staff’s ability to believe in the change and to know the difference between when they had to stand firm on an issue and when they could bend. This let members have a voice in the process.

I have to say I was so bowled over by the three volunteers. They took the leap of faith and became partners in positive change. I salute you Patricia “Mickey” Stuart, BS CDE MPH MS, Patricia Adams, RN CDE, and Gary Rothenberg, DPM CDE.