Hereís one for the record books. At the March 23-25 annual 4-H conference in Waterloo, delegates got a chance to vote on two resolutions promoting a more transparent and inclusive process involving the governing council.
In our jaded minds here at The AgriNews, thatís kind of like voting for motherhood. Who wouldnít want more accountability from the ruling body, right? WRONG!
At least where 4-H is concerned! Both resolutions were defeated by narrow margins.
The first one received the most discussion. Put forward by Elgin County, it called upon the council to forego making important changes without a vote at the annual meeting. Existing bylaws now permit the council to take action it sees fit without going to the membership.
Elgin president Henry Helder explained the motion pertained directly to a decision by the council to drop the minimum 4-H membership age last year from 10 to 9 years old, placing sudden pressure on regional associations who received little forewarning of the influx of new youngsters.
The current situation, the resolution explained, potentially causes a "sense of alienation" between the council and volunteer leaders.
"If the leaders are unable to participate in decisions that change the overall structure and direction of 4-H, then those volunteers that are currently passionate for the program may lose their sense of ownership and become discouraged, seeking other venues to use their gifts of knowledge."
The second resolution, this one from Renfrew County, was similar. It called on the council to present possible programming changes at the annual conference in order for district representatives to hear "the rationale, discuss and vote on these plans so that any changes are truly understood by all levels of the organization."
"Vital, happy local volunteer 4-H associations are essential to carry out the mandate of the Ontario council and the development of successful programs."
Both motions seemed straightforward and logical. They were basically stating that volunteers devoting time and effort to the 4-H cause should have a say in how the outfit is administered and, particularly, on changes which impact them directly and substantially.
Yet, in two decisions which were almost tied, delegates voted down what would amount to a minor reduction in the councilís power.
Meanwhile, there was lots of talk at the conference about moving forward, and making 4-H more relevant, and broadening the reach into urban areas. However, a successful new deal in this venerable organization should start with a transfer of at least some of the decision-making authority from on high down to the grassroots level.