By Susan Lichtenfels
As I began to consider what I should include in my first President’s Message, I thought about what profound remarks I could make as your leader. Frankly, I didn’t get too far in waxing philosophical because; A. That’s just not me and B. I’ve been too busy to do so. I feel I should be reporting on my first two months on the job. Here are some highlights.
In January I spent time preparing PCB’s public comment to Pennsylvania’s proposed plan for implementing the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Under this new workforce development plan, the state prepared a joint, multiyear plan that includes the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and its Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS). PCB provided comment on the following areas affecting people with a visual impairment:
• Making sure the assistive technology available for use in the one-stop career centers is kept up-to-date and offers some consumer choice in software
• Encouraging BBVS to establish and make use of more Citizen Advisory Councils across the commonwealth
• Focusing OVR’s attention on the personnel vacancies within BBVS and the importance of developing strategies for on-going recruitment of these specialized professionals
• Developing minimum qualifications for contractors hired as assistive technology instructors within BBVS
• Streamlining the hiring process for OVR staff so positions can be filled quicker and waiting lists reduced
The full text of our comments is posted at: pcb1.org/pcb-public-comment-on-state-wioa-plan/.
If you will recall, as we transitioned into my Presidency, PCB sought feedback from members, chapters, and leaders about the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In February, the PCB Board of Directors met for three sessions to review the feedback and determine what areas of priority leadership need to focus on for the future success of the organization. The three broad areas of focus identified included membership, external fund development, and administrative operations. Specifically with regard to membership, PCB needs to address several issues: possible redefinition of the concept of membership, recruitment of new members and retention of current members, developing better ways to engage our members to actively participate in the organization, and determining how PCB can best meet the needs of current and future members. In the area of fund development, our goals are to develop external strategies for raising funds through the development of a product or service, finding assistance with grant writing, and working toward more corporate sponsorship of events and projects. Administratively PCB needs to get a better handle on office work flow and volume, optimize equipment and software, and establish methods for data centralization and back-up. Strategies for addressing each of these issues are being developed and implemented by several leadership work groups.
PCB’s twelve Leadership Teams are off to a productive start. As has always been the case, there is much work to do in furtherance of our mission to promote independence and opportunities for people who have a visual impairment. A unique feature of the team concept is that work is accomplished on a project by project basis with tasks, deadlines, and conclusions. The team structure allows volunteers to pick which projects they want to work on without having responsibility for the entire team’s workload. Once a project is complete let’s say in 6-8 weeks, then the volunteer may skip the next project or two in order to recharge or focus on something else. This also means that volunteers who might not want to be part of a monthly team meeting can also get involved in individual projects of interest. So for example, if you did not want to be “on a team,” as a monthly obligation, you could still assist on a work project. Here are some current projects in which you might want to become involved: planning the PCB Live Auction, developing a new accessible board game, marketing a service to create accessible documents, researching and writing grants, developing partnerships with corporate sponsors, writing and editing for The PCB Advocate, creating scripts for Talking Advocacy podcasts, recording interviews for TheReImage, writing policies/procedures/handbooks, updating the PCB1.org website, assisting with social media outreach, representing PCB at senior and health fairs, compiling a database of vision loss resources, scheduling presenters for the monthly at-large meeting, making phone calls to state officials, etc. Clearly there are many opportunities for individuals of all skill levels who want to make a difference through PCB’s work. I invite you to reach out to me for a one-on-one conversation where we can explore your interests and availability.
Over the last few weeks I have been working with organizers from PCB’s at-large membership to develop a virtual chapter. On average, 10 to 12 members have been meeting via telephone conference for more than eighteen months. Chapter formation will give this group a collective voice at the convention and solidify this virtual community. Our organizing work has included the creation of bylaws and development of chapter processes. Membership in this new chapter is open to any PCB member at-large. In the next few weeks, copies of the proposed bylaws, chapter processes, and a schedule of future meeting dates will be distributed to all members at-large. Should you wish to participate in this virtual chapter, review the materials and join the group for its monthly call.
At the end of February, I traveled to Alexandria, Virginia to participate in the ACB President’s Meeting and Legislative Seminar. Please read my article “Seminar Success & Next Steps,” later in this issue.
As we look toward the last Saturday in April and into May, plans for four PCB regional meetings are in progress. While traditionally the PCB president has traveled to each regional site, this year we will use the power of technology for my participation. I will work with the planners of each regional for a remote presentation.
In closing, I ask you to consider the Dictionary.com definition of Communication. “The exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior.” To me, the word “exchange” is the key attribute of successful communication. Ideally, messages, thoughts, and ideas are shared, received and interpreted, and then in some way responded to in a way that lets the original message sharer know the information was processed. Too often the communication process stalls at the point of message receipt when we fail to process the exchange. When we are not active about receiving and exchanging the messages, the original information seems to fall into a black hole and communication breaks down.
As I move forward in my presidency, I ask for your assistance to insure we have effective communication within PCB. Please make sure you are taking advantage of PCB’s many communication channels: The PCB Advocate, the pcb-l and pcb-leadership listservs, the pcb1.org website, the Facebook page, and the @pcb_advocate twitter feed. Don’t just passively sit back and take it all in. Find ways to let PCB leadership know that you’re out there, you’re paying attention to what’s going on within the organization and you’re providing some type of feedback. This is your organization; own it. I can be reached directly at 412-429-1727 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.