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.