From vestigial to invested - Denese Rodgers

In looking at some of the very public turmoil that some organizations are experiencing now, I have to wonder how much is media-hype and how much is evolution.

In the social service arena, we try to structure our organizations to cultivate new participants and new ideas. In my office, one-third of our board members are up for election each year. This concept of a staggered board allows for the influx of "new blood," while continuing the legacy of lessons learned.

This is also the governing concept behind term limits for those in political positions.

But what about elected officials? Quite bluntly, as long as they keep getting elected, why should they change? If their current behaviors are what is keeping them in office, then it is logical to presume that their actions will not change. Why should they?

Here is where media-hype comes into play, because inflammatory rhetoric sells like hotcakes. But could there be another side of the story that's not being told.

My favorite conversations are those that follow the line - "Somebody ought to do something about (fill in the blank)!! Like who? One of my next-door neighbors once said, "If it is worth complaining about, do it yourself."

Running for political office is more terrifying than dental surgery, because you can expect to have any shadows in your past to be blown out of proportion. Once someone has run the gauntlet to attain office, it follows that they would not want to give it up without due consideration. The concept of the greater good depends on who is wearing the rose-colored glasses, the critic or the criticized.

When a group or organization has outlived its usefulness, it has become vestigial. According to Wikipedia, "vestigial structures are often called vestigial organs, although many of them are not actually organs. These are typically in a degenerate, atrophied, or rudimentary condition, and ... structures usually called "vestigial" are largely or entirely functionless." That's rather harsh when applied to well-intentioned groups, but if the shoe fits ...

So, how do you proceed from being vestigial to being invested? It is up to the stakeholders. Who will benefit and who will suffer from change? Do the stakeholders care enough to kick in something more than sound bytes on a television clip?

Talk is cheap. Bickering fuels discontent. Action takes a whole lot more - like time, research, compassion, and compromise. Rather than using the media to create a photo-op, try using them to force an issue to a bargaining table.

Take a page from big industry and the juvenile court system -- use neutral mediators and arbitrators to help rationalize alternatives. The golden rule would be helpful also: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

If you are not putting something in, then why on earth do you expect to get anything out? Oh dear! Where to start? Start by voting - then follow up by periodically checking to see if your investment is paying dividends, or causing a deficit.

Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-service, networking, organization in Henry County.