The program I'm in is supposed to help people take a leadership role in the organization. I've been disappointed with the central activity of the program, which I believe is misguided. Whenever, I create an activity for students, I try to compromise on aspects that are less important and preserve the authenticity of aspects that are central to the experience. The central activity of the emerging leaders program is to conduct a campaign in support of a candidate for office, but the only factors that have been preserved are the surface features: the need to create flyers and try to get people to vote for you. The ideas that might underlie a campaign, a careful match between ends and means, are entirely absent. It's about trying to get people to vote for someone based on, well, nothing. One of the worst effects has been that, instantly, there was a strong sense of competitiveness among the teams trying to get "their" candidate elected (the candidates being selected more-or-less randomly and the teams assigned to candidates more-or-less randomly). This competitiveness undermines any potential collaboration that might have otherwise existed among teams -- this was brought out immediately when the leaders tried to get teams to share ideas about how they might accomplish some task and there was no-one -- NO-ONE -- willing to speak. Pathetic, but absolutely predictable.
I've thought for a couple of days about how I might have organized things differently in order to preserve collaboration across teams. I decided that I would set the task of the committee to develop and publicize a resolution with the goal of getting the maximum number of people at the conference to sign-on. Many of the tasks end up being the same, but it would be a great experience to try to get the emerging leaders to reach concensus about a resolution and then to get the rest of the attendees to sign it. And everyone would be able to work together. Moreover, at the end of the conference, there would be a statement or two, signed by a large number of members, that crystalized the current thinking of the organization -- it would be *real*.
I decided to be a trouble-maker this morning. I knew the MTA president was going to preside over a mock meeting for our workshop, so I got a copy of a motion that was made at the last MTA meeting about the public relations and organizing committee and made the motion during the mock meeting. It produced a big reaction and a lot of excitement at the meeting. It can't have any direct effect, of course, but it did keep the pressure on, at some level, and continues to inform the newcomers about one of the important contentious issues in the organization.