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American Mensa Region 10

RVC Columns: 2016

December 2016

October was Mensa Membership Month, and Region 10 continues to track ahead of the national average. While American Mensa shows an increase of 0.7% over last year's membership as of October 31, Region 10 increased 1.9% over the same period, with 70 more members than last year. Our September to October increase also exceeded the national rate by 0.2%, gaining 73 members over the course of the month. Thanks to all the proctors who made test sessions available to our new members over the past month.

In November the second annual Local Group Leader survey was conducted, with every local group officer on the national roster invited to provide their input on a variety of topics. I sent reminders to all officers shortly before the survey closed and hope that our participation increases over last year. Results will be presented at the upcoming AMC meeting.

The agenda for the December 11 American Mensa Committee (AMC) in New Orleans has been posted to the newly revamped American Mensa website. As of this writing (November 11), I do not know the method for accessing the agenda, given that the migration to the new Association management System (AMS) is in progress over the coming week, but it can be accessed directly by going to http://us.mensa.org/AML/assets/File/MeetingReports/2016-12-10/Agenda/2016-12-10Agenda.pdf .

In summary, aside from presentations on the Foundation and the results of the Local Group Leader survey mentioned above, some of the motions to be presented include

  • Local Group Social Media rules including establishment of Local Group Social Media officers

  • Expansion of the AML Calendar to allow inclusion of Local Group activities,

  • Digital Media expansion, plus a suggestion for each local group to have a Programs Officer to update the national website for their events,

  • Dues increase to $79 per year effective July 1, 2017,

  • Tie all motions to the AMC's Strategic Plan (http://www.us.mensa.org/lead/planning/strategicplan/),

  • Establish Official National Calendar to be published on January 1 of each year

Details explaining these motions are in the agenda at the link mentioned above. Let me know if you have any questions or input.

I had the pleasure of joining members of the Annual Gathering Committee (AG2017) at the Diplomat Resort & Spa in November to discuss plans with their convention services manager. The hotel is currently undergoing renovations which will be completed before spring, in plenty of time for a spectacular experience at the AG. Most of the rooms overlook either the ocean or the intracoastal waterway, providing great views either way. And the room discounts are phenomenal for a hotel of this quality, as long as you have a reservation for the Annual Gathering.

We still don't have details regarding next year's AMC election yet, but I'll be posting those to social media as soon as they become available. (I'm sure most of you are burned out on elections for the time being.)

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas
Twitter: @FardleBear

November 2016

At the September 17 American Mensa Committee (AMC) in Arlington, Texas, site of the American Mensa home office, we received updates on the implementation of the new Association Management System (AMS) which is ahead of schedule. Soon there will be a new set of tools available for local group leaders, and I'm looking forward to it. There will also be the inevitable growing pains as the old system is decommissioned and the new one takes its place, with occasional problems with connecting to the website, but these will be brief, and the results should be worth the slight temporary inconvenience.

A couple of motions were passed regarding topics that had raised a great deal of discussion in the online groups. One was to establish a Hearings and Dispute Resolution Process Review ad hoc committee to go over our existing AML processes. This committee is tasked to reorganize and condense the current process, and make recommendations for any changes, if necessary. There were also a couple of motions regarding Social Media policies, but the wording of the motions were still being updated among concerns that it appeared Local Groups would be required to appoint Social Media Coordinators, so the motions were postponed until the December meeting so they could have more review. While I encourage Social Media for our organization, and recommend that our Local Groups appoint coordinators in the same manner that they appoint Editors and Webmasters, I don't want to burden any groups who already have difficulty finding volunteers with a requirement for yet another one.

For anyone interested, a 4 hour video recording of this meeting has been posted on the National website, and can be viewed by visiting http://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ and selecting 2016-09-17 -- Arlington, TX from the dropdown. Mini-minutes are also available at this link; full detailed minutes will be posted after they have been approved at the December meeting.

Speaking of Social Media, 11 of the 12 groups in Region 10 now have Facebook groups (with some more active than others), so I encourage you to sign up for your local group's site in order to get the most up-to-date information about activities in your area, since sometimes the items in your printed calendars can change at the last minute for unexpected reasons (venues closing, inconvenient Hurricanes, and other such complications).

Election season is almost over, and I'm sure most of you are glad to see an end to it. On the other hand, a new election season (this one for American Mensa) will be starting very soon, and our Election Committee is finalizing the 2017 Election Code, which will be published in the Mensa Bulletin and on the website. I'll also be posting updates on the Region 10 Facebook page. All those interested in running for office must be members in good standing as of December 1, 2016. Petition details will be available when the Election Code is finished later in the fall.

In the meantime, to join the Region 10 Facebook group visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/ to request access and join the conversation.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

September 2016

At the June 30 American Mensa Committee (AMC) in San Diego, most of the meeting consisted of reports and presentations, including a report on a testing voucher pilot based on a highly successful recruitment program in Mensa Germany, a presentation on a Leadership in Training Program currently under development, and results of the Lapsed Member survey run in mid-May. Several motions were also voted on. We passed updates to the AMC Questions to Candidates that are published with the ballots for AMC elections, which increased some word limits and added a question on why the candidate wants a leadership role in American Mensa. The AMC approved a statement from the Name and Logo Usage Review Committee clarifying AML's policy on the use of the Mensa Name and Logo at public events. The Avenues of Redress were amended to include the Regional Ombudsman throughout the process. We accepted the selections of Kansas City, MO and Houston, TX as the sites of the Annual Gatherings in 2020 and 2021 respectively. And finally, we approved four of five proposed Bylaws referenda for the 2017 ballot, which split the "Omnibus" amendment from the previous election into distinct parts so they could be considered on their separate merits, as well as a process for reconciling conflicting referenda should multiple referenda pass. For anyone interested, a 5 hour video recording of this meeting has been posted on the National website, and can be viewed by visiting http://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ and selecting 2016-06-30 -- San Diego, CA from the dropdown. You will also be able to find full detailed minutes at this link once they have been approved.

A teleconference of the AMC will be held on August 23 with a brief agenda. There are only a couple of motions: to approve the minutes of the June meeting and to appoint the Election Committee Chair for 2017. Beyond that are three discussions: Review of AML insurance programs, preliminary discussion about forming an Awards Review Task Force, and preliminary discussion about potential changes to the Disciplinary process. Although the teleconference meeting does not allow for real-time observers, the recording will be posted after the meeting for anyone interested, and comments are invited from members prior to any formal motions to be made at the September 17 AMC meeting. This agenda can be found at the link above, by selecting 2016-08-23 -- Teleconference.

In Region 10 news, several awards were presented to our members and groups at the San Diego AG. The National Service Award was presented to Brian Reeves and Elissa Rudolph, both from Palm Beach Area Mensa. Central Florida Mensa's "Tragic Kingdom" team won first place in CultureQuest for the third year in a row. Ruby Awards for local activities and accomplishments were presented to Tallahassee Area Mensa, Northwest Florida Mensa, and Tampa Bay Mensa. And Tallahassee Mensa won the Innovative Owl Award for their amazing 97% member retention rate!

The Mensa Region 10 Facebook group is growing steadily, and we now have over 150 members from all 12 Local Groups taking part and sharing ideas. I've been able to get news out more quickly through this online group than I can via newsletters, though I recognize the continued need for the printed information for those without computer access or who prefer not to participate in social media. I'm investigating additional avenues for getting information out between columns, and hope to have something more to announce in next month's column. In the meantime, to join the Region 10 Facebook group visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/ to request access and join the conversation.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

July 2016

A teleconference of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) was held on May 18. One of the items to be discussed was a set of questions to be posed to potential candidates for national office. Several changes were proposed to the questions that had been printed in the agenda. There was some concern that changes might be interpreted as vetting the candidates, opposition to which was one of the reasons the Nominating Committee was eliminated from the national Bylaws in the previous election. In order to ensure that sufficient thought was put into these questions, the motion was withdrawn and a subcommittee was formed to work on changes to the motion, and it will be presented at the next AMC meeting on June 30 in San Diego at the Annual Gathering.

A side effect of the elimination of the Nominating Committee is that we have to trust that candidates will come forward on their own to fill positions on the AMC, without being approached by a sanctioned committee. While a search committee had been proposed at the March AMC meeting, it was rejected as looking like it might be trying to reinstitute the nominating committee which had just been rejected -- even though, unlike the nominating committee, a search committee would have had no authority to place anyone on the ballot. All candidates will still have to gather their own petition signatures.

For that reason, I suggest that anyone who would be interested in running for an office, be it regionally or nationally elected, should begin to think about it now. The election chair was appointed at the March AMC meeting, and I expect that she will have some changes to the procedures that take into account the bylaws changes made in 2015. If you are considering running, I will be happy to answer any questions you might have about the AMC positions.

In other news, I spoke at Tampa Bay Mensa's "Margarita Bay" Regional Gathering about a new local group program that was introduced this year. While the RVCs have an annual discretionary fund available to them, this has not even been sufficient to cover travel expenses for getting to local groups around the region, much less provide support for local groups that may be having difficulties. For this reason, an additional $1,000 annual fund per region has been earmarked for local group assistance only, not to be used for direct RVC expenses. The purpose of this is to provide seed money to benefit local groups in measurable ways, but not to cover regular operational expenses. I will be discussing this in more detail with the Local Secretaries in the region over the next month.

I'm happy to note that the Mensa Region 10 Facebook group had a member increase of nearly 20% since my column last month, and we've started to have some conversations about various Mensa matters such as volunteering and member participation preferences. I'll be posting the agenda for the AMC meeting to that group once it is released, and I hope there will be discussion about that as well. The invitation to join the group remains open -- go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/ to request access and join the conversation.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

June 2016

By the time this appears in the June newsletters, the AMC (American Mensa Committee) will have had a teleconference (held on Wednesday, May 18) to handle a number of housekeeping items including approving the minutes of the March AMC Meeting, appointing an assistant SIGHT Coordinator, clarifying the role of the Parliamentarian at AMC meetings, and other minor matters, plus a couple of larger items involving Annual Gatherings (funding of AG Chairs and setting discounted registrations for members). There was also a discussion scheduled to go over questions to be posed to National Candidates, and a proposed referendum for the 2017 ballot to amend the election schedule. Unfortunately, the deadline for this column happens before the meeting so I can't give you any details on what occurred.

Also, by the time this appears in the June newsletters, Tampa Bay Mensa will have held its Margarita Bay Regional Gathering, held as usual over Memorial Day weekend -- this time in Tampa itself, near Raymond James Stadium. I expect that it was a lot of fun; I expect to attend, though the earliest I would be able to report on it would be in the July newsletters, over a month after the event has passed.

In both of these instances, the frustration of dealing with drawn-out deadlines comes to the fore. One of the organizational aspects I hold most important is communication, but the pace of communication in American Mensa has lagged behind most of the rest of the world. We still have rules which state that official business should be provided in local group newsletters, but not only does this get information to you after you could make any use of it, in some chapters it lags even longer, as they move (or have already moved) to bi-monthly or even quarterly publication.

The most practical way around this, although it runs the risk of disenfranchising some of our longest-term members, is to rely on social media to get information out in a more timely manner. Our Region has a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/) which as of this writing has 125 members, though I think part of that is because most people don't know it's there. There is also a Regional email list (to subscribe visit http://lists.us.mensa.org/mailman/listinfo/region10), though email is being used much less frequently due to the immediacy of other social networking structures.

I will still provide reports via this column, but I strongly recommend that anyone interested in keeping up with the most recent news and events around the Region use one of the two resources mentioned above. This will help to facilitate interactive discussion, which is in many ways preferable to the one-way communication that happens through this monthly report, and I'm always interested in your feedback, which you can easily provide via those fora.

In keeping with this, I'm adding my Facebook contact information below my signature, so you can reach me there as well if you have questions or comments you would rather share privately.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

May 2016

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) met on the weekend of March 19 in San Antonio, Texas, and besides several presentations that were offered, there were only a handful of motions passed: A change in the new member subsidy from $5 to $1 per member (to be replaced by a new Local Group support proposal) , approval of the 2016-2017 budget, approval of an amendment to the National Publication Guidelines to move responsibility for handbooks and guides from the Communication Committee to the Leadership Development Committee, and creation of a recognition program for community service at both the national and local level. There was also a motion to create a search committee for candidates for the AMC, but after numerous amendments were proposed, the motion was tabled until the need was demonstrated and/or clarified. I hope and expect that Election Committee Chair Megan Edwards will have some input on that. A video of the meeting may be viewed by visiting www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/, selecting 2016-03-19 -- San Antonio, and clicking Video Recording. (Warning: the video is 7 hours long, and it's not as fun as binge-watching Netflix...) There will be a teleconference on May 18 where the minutes will be put to a vote, and they will probably be posted shortly after that.

As usual, the most interesting presentation was on the results of the latest Membership Survey (which starts at 4:43 in the aforementioned video). The results are too long to outline here, but there some interesting points that jump out. One, our Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased since the last survey. (The NPS ties to the question "How likely is it that you would recommend Mensa to a friend?") Bulletins and Local Group Newsletters are still identified as the two most important and satisfying benefits. Our new members are 65% Millennials and Homeland (Gifted Youth), while our leaders are 78% Boomer and GenX. The top reasons new members join is for intellectual stimulation, to meet intelligent people, and for intellectual validation, and 45% of new members are very or extremely satisfied, while only 20% are slightly or not at all satisfied. Recommended actions from the survey are to diversify events to meet the expectations of new members, while welcoming and engaging new members as they join.

Finally, I should explain why I've been absent for the past few months. Last May, my mother passed away unexpectedly, and I had been working with my brothers on dealing with her estate. In order to stay connected with my other responsibilities, I detached somewhat and didn't really process the loss. Then in October, my second youngest brother was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer, and he passed away in November on the day he was released from the hospital. Two days prior to his passing, my youngest brother was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. After undergoing chemo and radiation he seemed to be doing much better -- until the beginning of March when he suddenly passed away as well.

I don't bring this up to seek sympathy or advice -- to be honest, I don't respond to either one very well. But detachment stopped working; grief is a selfish emotion that doesn't serve anyone, but it will demand its due, and over the past year I wound up in a tailspin that affected my work, health, and all other aspects of my life. But by this point I've resolved most of the health issues, and my remaining brother is quite healthy. So I'm ready to get back to work, and expect to be visiting the local groups again soon.

One last personal note, and I hope you'll take it in the spirit it's offered: If you smoke, please quit. That's all. Thank you.

Thomas George Thomas--Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org

 


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