October 12th, 2007 by bebersghost

Recently Anna posted a comment about changing regional traditions. One of her statements struck me as particularly interesting. She said “I also see our regional staff trying to make our very unique region act like all the other regions”.

She’s not the first person that I’ve heard this particular comment from. I suspect she won’t be the last.

BBYO has historically always had a balance: on one hand, BBYO has been a single organization. On the other hand, regions were quite autonomous, often having their own traditions, policies and local administration. These regional differences offered advantages and disadvantages. On the negative side, the standards and quality of BBYO’s program varied considerably. The standards and quality of staff varied as well (I’ve worked with regional directors who were amazing, and others who were… not). On the positive side, regions were allowed to develop traditions that worked well with the local community and develop policies that were influenced by community standards.

Today, the message coming out of the international organization is that of “One BBYO”. Sounds good in principle, but as you’re finding out, it has problems in practice.

What ends up happening is that the people making decisions with large local impact have little or no knowledge of the regions that are being impacted. Regional staff has less discretion and authority than they have had in the past, and less ability to adapt to local needs.

A classic example of this is the rule against gambling style games. This national policy was put into place because there were some regions where members were playing poker at events. Now, gambling has always been against policy (and rightly so), but in these regions it seems that people were playing just for chips, and then exchanging money after the events.

Rather than addressing this at a chapter or regional level, the international staff decided to ban all gambling style games. In addition to justifying the decision based on the problems in these regions, they argued that having such programs might somehow offend the community or reflect poorly on the organization.

The fact that casino night style fundraisers are common in many communities, and that some regions not only did not have a problem with gambling, but had never experienced so much as a complaint on this issue, did not matter. Solving local problems, or imposing local standards on everyone using national policy is the way BBYO now works.

If your regional staff is trying to impose changes on your region, don’t assume that they are the enemy. Try having a friendly chat with them. You might find that they are on your side, but are actually under enormous pressure from international to deliver on membership growth and fundraising goals (their jobs are on the line). A bit of understanding on your part might go a long way towards forging a compromise that will minimize the disruption of your regions traditions and help you keep the good ones while discarding those that need changing.

Of course, if your regional director won’t listen, that’s another story. But if you have a regional director who really won’t listen, they shouldn’t be BBYO staff anyway, so I encourage you to protest. Document your concerns with as many specific examples as possible. Then contact your IBoard and have parents in your region contact your local adult commission (if your community has one) and the international director regarding the conduct of your regional director.

Contrary to what you see in the news, diplomacy – real diplomacy is always the best way to start. Most of the regional directors I’ve met were basically decent people, and even the bad ones were incompetent or negligent rather than evil. But if diplomacy doesn’t work, make no mistake – you have the ability to use “force” if you must.

Without you, there is no BBYO.

7 Responses to “One BBYO”

  1. Brandon Says:

    I agree with a lot of this, but it seems that once International says something or institutes an official policy, it’s written in stone and the now permanent law of the land til they think of something even stricter. They don’t listen to many complaints or logical arguments against deciding everything on an international level.
    A lot of regional directors knew exactly what they were doing, and now are even forced to break some of the (well-meaning, I’m sure) policies just to keep the region running efficiently and have things work, and no director should ever be forced to break rules just to improve something. This shows an inherent flaw in the current system.

  2. bebersghost Says:

    And by creating situations where regional directors and advisors are forced to break these “well meaning” policies, they effectively transfer the risk from BBYO central to the individual directors and advisors in the event that something goes wrong.
    Good for BBYO – not so good for staff.
    Or, to paraphrase the old cliche’, when someone says they’re standing behind you, make sure it’s not in order to kick you in the …
    The Ghost

  3. Brandon Says:

    It can turn into something not so good for either party though, if the director or staff member decides to follow precisely what the policy says. Then not only is the staff member blamed for a bad program, but BBYO as a whole loses money/members/etc. from people who’ve lost interest.

    Just in case it’s not showing fully, I do agree with you though, haha.
    Is there any way this can be improved at all by current members? I’m going to IC 08 this year and want to make a difference, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much I can do to affect policy itself.

    Fraternally submitted with an undying love for BBYO, the great organization collapsing into itself slowly,
    I remain Aleph Brandon Weber.

  4. Anna Says:

    thank you so much for responding! i think this put a lot of stuff into perspective.

    its a little heartbreaking to know that BBYO will never be how it was. and I keep thinking about all those who fought so hard before me that now their work and their fight is in vain. but i really understand where you are coming from with understanding and i really am gonna try to look at where my staff is coming from.

    thanks again

  5. bebersghost Says:

    Not much you can do? Worked and fought in vain? Nonsense! And thank you both for the topic of my next post… Stay tuned….

  6. HerrDirector Says:

    One People, One BBYO, One International Director!

    Sounds a bit like….

  7. bebersghost Says:

    Oh my… I do think that’s more than a little bit extreme (pulling out the ‘H’ card as it were). I question the methods of those in charge more than their motives.
    That said, it’s interesting to note that BBYO’s policies and procedures do not seem to anywhere include an appeals process. Specifically: what can a chapter, advisor or even regional director do if they disagree with a supervisor’s decision? Where are the checks and balances?

    The Ghost

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