The Council (board of trustees) of the American Association for State and Local History took a big step at its June meeting to lead itself out of its challenges, rather than just trying to manage them. That’s one of the decisions we made in response to the impact of the 2008 economic downturn and the multi-year embezzlement by its chief financial officer. We recognize that our governance needs to expand from merely enacting stronger policies and procedures to also include a clear direction for the future when we get through these pressing challenges.
So on Saturday, June 29, the entire Council and many of the staff members participated in an all-day retreat at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, to identify its strengths and weaknesses, determine what makes AASLH distinctive, clarify our audiences, and construct a vision for the future. The retreat was expertly facilitated by Charlie Bryan, the former president of the Virginia Historical Society and a partner in Bryan and Jordan Consulting. One of the most important results of this retreat was the establishment of three priorities for the next six months:
- A plan for stabilizing finances. Team led by Cinnamon Catlin-Lugetko.
- A clear vision and future direction for AASLH. Team led by Scott Stroh.
- A plan for strengthening membership. Team led by Anne McCudden.
As part of this effort to help the organization function at a higher level, we’ll be developing a skills matrix to identify needs on Council and revising the nomination process to create a Council that more effectively leads the field, rather than just represent it. Some of this work will be completed by the next Council meeting in October 2013 and all of it will be finished and ready for consideration at the Council meeting in February 2014. As a member of Council, I’m delighted we’ve taken the time to reflect on our purpose and priorities, and although it’s still rocky, I feel much more confident about the future. If you’re a member of AASLH, I hope you’ll attend the annual meeting in Alabama to learn more about the progress–after all, the success of AASLH is a benefit to us all.