Thursday, September 1, 2016

Societies Day at #FGS2016

 Jenn Baldwin (@ancestryjourney) photograph of Curt Witcher at FGS Focus on Societies Day, 2016
Credit: Jen Baldwin, @ancestryjourney

Wednesday was Focus on Societies Day at the 2016 Conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. The theme of the plenary session was “To Survive and Thrive: Successfully Embracing Change.” Curt B. Witcher, Teri E. Flack, and Ed Donakey shared the podium.

Curt B. Witcher talked about being a successful change agent. Curt is the manager of The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library.

Curt quoted the third phrase of the serenity prayer: “Courage to change the things I can.” The qualities of a change agent are a bias toward action, accountability, and the ability to prioritize and deliver. Remember your foci. Societies are businesses with customers and products. Society members must have fun, enjoyment, and success. Utilize technology to be everywhere and to have “high touch.” Collaborate. FamilySearch is an excellent collaborator. They don’t count widgets, carefully measuring that they get their fair share from a collaboration. When they collaborate, they are “all in” with their partners.

Teri E. Flack talked about “Leading Change in a Multi-Generational World.” Teri is an FGS director and a genealogical and historical researcher, consultant, and lecturer.

Societies have been the backbone of genealogy for 50 years. Things have changed during those 50 years. In the 80s we had a technology revolution that allows us to do genealogy in ways we could only dream of. Bill Gates and Steve Job drove this revolution. “Our generation drove change, so don’t tell me we can’t change. We just don’t want to be told to change.” There are generational differences among Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and Matures. It helps to understand these generational groups so that we can embrace them in our societies. One example is the desire of Millennials to give back to their communities. As a group, Millennials volunteer more than other generations. They want to give back. They want to serve their communities. That’s what societies have been doing for decades.

Ed Donakey talked about “Who Moved My Society?” Ed is FGS vice president of development and a FamilySearch deputy chief genealogical officer.

Ed hates it when people said, “We’ve always done it that way.” Several years ago one of his employees shared a book with him about adapting to change. It is titled Who Moved My Cheese? We should ask ourselves, “Who moved my society?” Has your society changed? The key to responding to change is to look at the richness we have in our societies and embrace it. A society can be seen as a business. If you want your society to be successful, you have to ask questions. You have to have a business plan, a mission, and a purpose. You have to make decisions. There are a number of societies Ed would like to be part of, but the number of ways to be involved is limited. Ask yourself if you could benefit by using innovations such as text messaging or webinars.

Changes in the genealogy community are putting pressures on genealogical societies. Curt, Teri, and Ed got attendees thinking about how not to just survive, but thrive.

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