by Rick Morin

(Editor's Note: "From Your Perspective" is a column that appears occasionally. Its contents vary from technology to religion, from internal goings-on to items of concern in the blindness field in general. The opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the opinions expressed herein.)

I am 53 and relatively new to ACB. I've been working with my state affiliate (the Bay State Council of the Blind) closely over the last 18 months and am very thankful for the mentorship and coaching I've received. I've learned a lot about the history and tradition of ACB, but find myself questioning why certain things are done the way they are.

I'm a 30-year veteran of the corporate world and have held many mainstream positions and continue my successful career that is not related to my disability.

One of the most overused catch-words in business these days is "transformation." Businesses need to be responsive to changing times and conditions. The path to transforming any organization is never a straight line and is never achieved in a single step. It is relatively easy to define the "future state," but the journey from current to future state is extremely difficult; many executives fail because they are unable to lead their organizations through change to stay responsive to current market conditions.

Ken Stewart, the wise man that he is, told me early on in my ACB life that change is accomplished in increments, or as he says, being an "incrementalist." I philosophically agree with this but often find myself arguing that we settle and accept baby steps when we could move things further faster if we are a bit more aggressive and tap into the energy of fresh blood from diverse backgrounds.

I submit that we should be more willing to take educated risks. It is easy to over-think things in long, protracted debates that have a tendency to alienate many. Let's decide things expeditiously, recognizing that a lot of things happen between conventions, take decisive action, and when we occasionally err, fix the problem. Those who take risks are right the vast majority of the time and advance things faster. Those who are risk-averse tend to focus on process to arrive at the elusive perfect solution and decision-making can be slowed down to a crawl.

One of the greatest contributions leaders make to the success of many organizations, be it profit or non-profit, staffed with volunteers or otherwise, is to embrace diversity in its truest sense. When diversity is valued, things will change over time.

Diversity means that not everyone is like-minded. Leaders need to embrace diversity and promote it in their actions. Change requires an environment receptive to change and as much as we say we are a grass roots organization, the leaders have much more impact on the prevailing environment within ACB than we may want to admit.

Being receptive to change does not mean that you change everything. It is a cultural and attitudinal attribute. Dynamic organizations tend to grow. Those perceived as set in their ways and dismissive to considering change tend not to attract new members or grow by attracting more like-minded people. There is a great danger in discouraging people from questioning the status quo, even when one is convinced that certain things are sacred and will never change. Highly motivated and driven people react very negatively to things that are unilaterally decided or perceived as such, and to the notion that certain things "just can't/won't change."

Leaders cannot mandate change, but they can stifle change and drive certain people away. It is the unwillingness to change that causes groups of people to be expelled from other organizations.

It is important that we understand how ACB has arrived at this point. Ray Campbell's insistence that we read "People of Vision" is extremely good advice and I encourage all folks to read it.

There has been much dialogue about ACB's election process. I personally do not understand why the standing and delegate votes are combined. The delegate vote, if done consistently and not allowing members in multiple affiliates to cast multiple votes, should represent the will of all of ACB's membership, including those who cannot attend the convention. The standing vote could easily subvert the delegate vote.

I suggest that we evaluate tallying the standing vote and delegate vote separately. If the outcome of each is different, the election should be declared a stalemate and another means used to derive the final outcome. I'm not sure what that mechanism would be but I am sure we could find one if we agree to the concept.

I recommend we study the election results over the last 20 years, separating the standing vote and delegate vote. This would give us some interesting facts to consider when evaluating whether change is needed in the election process. I suspect that this may already have been looked at. If so, please pass the findings on to everyone who is interested in seeing them.

I recognize that there are many factors that must be considered before changing something as vital as our election process. The reason the issue is being debated at all is that there are constituencies within ACB who feel disenfranchised. We owe it to those who are disenfranchised to study how they can be brought into the mainstream, recognizing that there are multiple reasons for such disenfranchisement that may require different means to reach these people.

I submit that disenfranchisement is the "core" issue. How do we not lose sight of the core issue? I salute the young members of ACB who are asking a ton of questions and encourage you to do more. These folks have a clarity of vision that comes with being young. Let's do all we can to embrace these new folks and let them force us all to look at things from perspectives that perhaps we had not considered before or in a while. The idealism of youth does not mean "know-it-all" any more than does wisdom derived from a lifetime of experiences.

We all need to get out of our comfort zones. I know it's risky to do so, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I challenge everyone in ACB to mentor someone and help them be successful in ACB and life. My simple definition of mentorship is taking an active interest in someone else and assisting them to be successful. One plus one equals three. The mentor and mentee both have much to gain and can learn much from each other. For those entering the organization, go out and actively seek a mentor.

The fact that I am free to express these opinions and believe that others will listen to them is what makes me proud to be a member of ACB.

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