There’s an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times”.
It’s a curious saying. The problem with living in “interesting times” is that the interest comes from change. Sometimes the change is for the better – for example: changes in technology over the past decades have certainly been interesting (that cool IPhone you just got could not have been built even a few ago). But if you’ve studied history you know that what historians find most “interesting” (those things that will show up on the exam) usually represent times of crisis and turmoil. It is becoming increasingly apparent that we are entering some interesting times.
Now you might think this is nothing new – after all, there’s the threat of terrorism, a war in Iraq, and every few years a hurricane seems to wipe another city off our gulf coast. But the truth is, unless you live in one of those cities, or have family in Iraq, chances are the most interesting development in your life recently has been that new IPhone.
But in the past month, things have changed.
If you have already lost your home, or live in a neighborhood where for-sale signs and boarded up homes are everywhere, or your parents have already lost their jobs, you know this. But for most of you, the economic crisis is probably still distant – something a teacher might talk about briefly as filler that you can tune out because it won’t be on the test.
This is about to change.
I hope I’m wrong. Maybe the next president will pull off a miracle. But nobody really believes that.
If you haven’t already, take some time and watch the news. Watch Paulson and Bernanke and the others who are trying to “manage” our economy. It won’t take you long to realize the truth – they’re scared. Really, really scared.
Read the news. Historically mergers between companies take place over the course of months after shareholder approvals and government antitrust reviews. Over the past few weeks huge corporate mergers have been taking place in days and hours – over weekends even (and bankers hate to work on weekends). If that isn’t a sign of panic, I don’t know what is.
And while most economists are quick to explain why what we face is nowhere near as serious as the Great Depression, they’ve finally conceded that the recession coming our way is going to be a long one, and it will be global.
AZA was founded in 1923. The Great Depression started in 1929. So BBYO has survived one depression. And I have every confidence that it will survive this one (whether they call it one or not). But that survival is likely to require a change in the way everyone thinks about BBYO, from the local level to the International level. It won’t happen overnight – but here are my predictions of some of the changes that you will see over the next year.
The chapter is more important than ever in tough times. Your chapter will have more families under stress. You’ll want to find ways to help members without embarrassing them. Watch event costs and when you go out to eat, be sure there are low cost options. Additional fundraising for scholarships to conventions and even chapter programs will be helpful. When the economy is tough, rates of domestic violence, alcoholism and abuse increase. Stressed parents sometimes take that stress out on their kids. Strive to create a chapter environment where members support each other. Regular good & welfares will help.
Conventions have gotten more expensive. Expect convention turnouts to drop significantly. You may need to reduce the number of conventions. Look for creative ways to cut convention costs (sleep on gym floors instead of in hotels or camps). Low cost and free programs will do best. Work on fundraising for scholarships.
I’m quite sure the folks at the international level are already looking ahead at an abyss. Donations will be harder to come by. Attendance at summer programs will likely be impacted. Maintaining staffing levels will be a challenge.
Now’s the time to invest in B-Linked. Though travel is costly, the Internet will remain inexpensive. Look for creative ways to incorporate web 3.0 technologies (online meetings, conferences, events of all kinds).
Look for policy changes that can save money. It’s time to drop any rules requiring BBYO to provide transportation to and from conventions – switching from busses to carpools will reduce convention costs.
Adapt or Die
I really hope that a year from now readers of this site will read this article and laugh at it as being completely off the mark. Nothing would make me happier. I really hope I’m wrong.
But if I’m right (and at the moment there isn’t an economist around who would disagree with me), I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of the maelstrom that’s coming our way. It’s not time to panic (panicking doesn’t do any good anyway), but it is time to start thinking about ways to adjust. Because in these tough times, BBYO and your chapter is more important than ever.