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20 Ways to Improve Communication

by on June 21, 2010


Dear Marnie,

Below is a summary of suggestions we have received, from hundreds of Guiders across Ontario over the past several months, on ways to improve communication in Ontario Girl Guides:

1.  Use a variety of media, not just e-mail.

Most organizations, from banks to unions to school boards, do this.  Different people have different styles of absorbing information.  Some need to hear it at a meeting; others need it filtered, consolidated, and personalized; still others need the entire story.  Some do not have high-speed internet access.  They should not be made to feel that they are second class citizens because of this.  To foster inclusiveness and be effective, offer choices.  Members could check off their preferred method of communication at the time of registration.  Choices might include e-mail, website, mailed newsletters, or community meetings.  Parents and girls could be offered the same service.

2.  Put UA’s in charge of mailing the ONL and other communications to those requesting it. This does not need to be a glossy magazine as we have had in the past.  Double-sided ordinary paper would suffice.

3.  Include Link, Trefoil Guild, Community Guiders, Resource Guiders, Trainers, Camp Committees, and other Specialty Community members in all communications.

These people are vital resources and need to be kept informed.

4.  Permit “mail-in” applications for events that currently accept only on-line registrations. Also, provide event information that Guiders can easily print, copy and distribute as needed.  If there are few registrations for an event, it is usually because no local person has “talked it up” with their girls.

5.  Re-establish local monthly or bimonthly meetings at the Community level for those who wish to participate.

This is essentially re-creating an infrastructure to support the formation of those “Specialty Communities” that were originally proposed but haven’t happened.

6.  Create “Community Councils” with support persons (“advisors”) linked to the Provincial Departments – program, camping, international, membership, operations, etc. These volunteers would become “experts” on their subject, and help communicate provincial policy to Guiders, and Guiders’ concerns back to Provincial Council.  They would work with Trainers to promote trainings in their subject areas.

7.  Subdivide Communities into smaller groupings (“Families”, “Districts”, or whatever you want to call them) to promote sisterhood and bridging activities on a local level.

We understand that there are already plans for this in the works.

8.  Allow each Community a degree of local autonomy in planning and running local events:

a)  a ledger in the banking system for collecting fees and expenses for local events

b)  approval for local events made by the local Community Council

c)  local events advertised by the UA in a regular Community Newsletter

d)  local event registration handled by the local event planners, to eliminate the   “middleman” and costly time delays.

e)  encourage local websites and/or facebook pages so that local members can easily     communicate with each other.

These procedures would foster girls’ participation in their home community (part of GGC’s Vision and Strategic Priority 1), as well as taking a huge load off staff at the Provincial level, creating savings (fewer staff needed) as well as allowing those at Province to concentrate of matters of Provincial interest.

9.  Allow members access to the established e-mail and phone lists so that they can communicate across the province with each other without each message requiring “approval” from some higher authority.

A “Guidelines for use of Community Directories” would establish rules regarding use, to respect personal privacy and limit (through trust) communications to “Guiding business.”  This is common business practice.

10.  Post all meeting minutes and draft proposals on MemberZone for individual members to peruse.

This would be the “modern equivalent” of the way documents were passed down the chain under the “old” system.  It will foster interest in the Vision and Mission of GGC, allowing members to understand and participate in the larger issues.

11.  Do not rely on surveys as your sole source of information.

While surveys can give a general sense of opinion, they are often unreliable due to:

a)  poor wording, leading questions, not asking the right questions, or not giving             appropriate choices

b)  poor sampling techniques – relying on responders choosing to respond

c)  geographical variations – blanket statements like “60% of participants thought…” do             not take into account that perhaps 90% of participants in a particular geographical area          thought otherwise.

Surveys give only a single “snapshot in time”, while opinions continue to evolve.
12.  Give ACL’s a vote on Provincial Council.

Without a vote, a voice means nothing, and leads to a feeling of not being heard or considered, i.e. zero communication.

13.  Use Canada’s parliamentary system as a model for Council.

Ideas to think about include:  elected representatives, a “cabinet” for operational purposes, opportunity for non-confidence votes, paid staff (equivalent to the civil service) not to be involved in the decision-making process.

14.  Involve local members in decisions that affect them.

“Involve” means not only an opportunity to give input, but a guarantee that their concerns will be addressed to their satisfaction.

15.  Remember that Council is there to serve the girls, by serving the Unit Guiders, not the other way round.

Train the paid staff to understand that they are hired to serve the membership.

16.  Be respectful in all communications:  threatening to remove a member from their voluntary position does little towards fostering collaboration and member retention.

17.  For Provincial or regional events, seek committee member volunteers from each community, rather than having a small committee plan and run the event through the Provincial Office.

The idea here is to avoid the event becoming impersonal in nature.  Girls are more likely to participate when they know the leaders involved.

18.  Create a position of “Ombudsman” on Provincial and National Councils – someone who would listen to concerns from Guiders in the field, and act on their behalf to represent their concerns to Council.

19.  Review the definition of “Engagement” as presented at the AGM workshop and implement a strategy for “Guider Engagement”.

“Interactive, advocacy, cooperation, peace-building, fun, action, selfless, partnership, leadership building, resourceful, collaboration, experiential learning, connections, relationship building, social/civic awareness, reflection, courage, confidence”:  why limit these qualities to girl engagement?  The adults need them too!

20.  Concerning Camps:

a)  Realize that camp properties fall into two categories:  local and provincial.

The clientele for these two categories is drastically different.  Many girls, for many reasons, will not travel far from home.  Without local camps, they will not camp at all.  Others seek the challenge of a longer, larger camp.  Both types of campers should be accommodated.

Decisions regarding local camps should be made by the members of the Guiding community serviced by the camp.  This is only fair and logical.  If there are not enough local members interested, only then should decision-making be referred to the Provincial level.

Decisions regarding provincial camps should be made by members of Provincial Council, with input from representatives across the province.

b)  The responsibility of the Provincial Property Committee should be to communicate to the local camp committees the legal requirements for camp operations.

Their job should not be to run the camps, or to make decisions on how the camps are run, or to place demands on the local committees, but to provide the necessary information for the camp committees to make their own informed decisions.

c)  Allow all members to view and understand the status of all camps by posting meeting minutes, financial statements, surveys and other research on MemberZone.

This is what is meant by “transparency.”  Remember, “knowledge is power.”  If you wish to empower girls and Guiders, you must provide them with the information needed to develop informed opinions.  A general posting also allows each camp to see what great ideas the others have – in other words, better communication!

d)  Allow camps to promote their facilities through their own websites and facebook pages.

This is a great way for camps to communicate with their clientele – girls, parents, and the general public.  Great advertising at no expense to Province!  By involving local Guiders you provide role models for girls and opportunity for community involvement.  You foster sisterhood, and that is what Guiding is all about.

Perhaps some of these suggestions already exist.  If so, they have not been satisfactorily communicated to the majority of Guiders; otherwise, why would so many be feeling disillusioned?  It is not really the change in structure that is at the root of this feeling of lack of communication, it is the way it has been implemented.

Marnie, you have the power to effect positive change in Ontario Guiding, all you need is the courage.  If you truly wish to restore trust and good will, to improve the image of Ontario Council in the eyes of members, parents, girls, and the general public, to build a better Ontario Guiding, then announce at the June 19 Provincial Meeting that you will implement a thorough review of how the Transformation process has rolled out over the past three years.  Re-open the camp properties decision, hold public meetings with all concerned Guiding members in their local communities, listen to their proposals, provide them with the facts – financial statements, research, and Council’s concerns – and allow them to make an informed decision on the future of that which, by rights, is theirs.  For camps with strong community support, give them a chance to continue what they have always done – provide camping opportunities to their girls.  If you support them, they will support you in “growing Guiding”, in filling those empty spots with new and excited girls.  You only have to ask.

Remember, “people need to know you care, before they care how much you know.”

Yours respectfully,

On My Honour members

Shirley Osterman, Denise Calvert, Sylvia Dufresne, Thelma Blackburn,

Lori Hubbert, Heather Green, Mary Beth van Trigt, Luella Nash

  1. Betty Sewell permalink

    I believe communication is still a major concern. Our U.A. does mail out ON Line to Guiders without computer access in our Community. The problem is that many of the articles refer to websites for further information. This puts these individuals right back at the beginning because they know that these resources are available but have no way of accessing the information or registering for an event or training without a computer. Computer access is an excellent form of communication but it should not be the only form of communication in Guiding. We try to foster independence in the girls in our units while our Guiders are being put in a position where they must become more dependent on computers.

  2. Sharon Patrois permalink

    Way to Go!!! This letter is exactly what we, the members of ON MY HONOUR are trying to get Provincial and National Councils to hear. Marnie, you could still open the doors for the rest of Members of Guiding-girls and Leaders, by following these suggestions and still “save face” and regain the respect and support of the movement you are supposed to be leading. You can be a good leader when you chose to be!!! WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?

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