On February 27, 2011 Saturna Island Property Owners Association (SIPOA) turned five years old. Anniversaries are always a good time to take stock of the past, take a look at how to improve, and think about the future. Organizations are very similar to people in this regard, and in preparation for its Annual General Meeting the SIPOA board is asking itself and SIPOA members to consider the past and the future - particularly about how we want to grow and improve.
From an initial 50 members, there are now over 200 members with more joining each year.
Over the same period, our group mail system has become a fact of life here on Saturna and has many dimensions – comments from members, minutes and letters from the board, announcements from government agencies and officials, individuals and groups who make announcements and information from other organizations.
The benefit is that property owners have greater access to information and more opportunities to engage in public dialogue and consequently, effect change. New media tools like the SIPOA email list may also be problematic. In recent months members have raised concerns about "too many emails". Others have made suggestions, including:
Recognize the diversity of opinion within the association
Facilitate input from members on specific issues.
Structure communications from the board in a positive manner
Re-structure use of the SIPOA e-mail list to avoid personal issues
Consider ways to stream dialogue on specific interests
Improve electronic access to SIPOA policies and practices.
A small but vocal group of non-members also have offered their views, arguing that SIPOA does as much harm as it does good. Comments have been made about the tone of discussion and suggest that the discussion be moderated. They have said:
- Property ownership as the membership criteria isn't representative or fair
- False information is spread through the SIPOA email group
A more promising way to think about SIPOA and the media tools we use is that they strengthen public debate. Access to information is important but participatory democracy also depends on the public's ability to discuss the issues openly. Groups which allow for dissent while respecting diversity of opinion are messy and make mistakes at times but tend to be healthy change agents because they create a shared awareness of ideas and issues. And, advocacy gets things done.
This is not to say that SIPOA should not improve how we converse. Steps are being taken on this path.
The first step is a new SIPOA website. Stay tuned because www.sipoa.ca is being developed.
While all SIPOA documents are currently online, they can be difficult to find on email@example.com . Having a more comprehensive website will invite anyone interested – member or not – to find out more about SIPOA, community announcements; government contacts, documents and news releases; and to access the archive of association minutes, policies and letters.
Notwithstanding a website, the group mail forum will continue. SIPOA's online presence continues to encourage sharing of information and opinions among Saturna property owners and islanders. The Yahoo group has been a great tool for open discussions, and has played a role in giving a lot of people a voice on island issues.
However, over the next several months SIPOA will be working on its Yahoo group Email program. We are looking at ways to better solicit your views on issues to guide the board's actions.
And, there are a variety of internet survey tools available. We plan to try one for the Annual Member's Poll in April. Plus we intend to have an agenda item about findings from our Annual Poll on the Agenda at the Annual General Meeting, May 28, 2011 at the Rec Centre. MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
In closing, on behalf of all the board, we want to thank you for your continuing support of SIPOA.
We will be in touch.
Murray Rankin, Ron Monk, Ellen Bourassa, Ron Hall, Bryan Dixon, Susan Jamieson-McLarnon, Bill Schermbrucker, Susie Washington-Smyth and Bernie Ziegler