by: Carey Unger (Nu Omicron, Vanderbilt U), International Vice President
As a new member of the Executive Board, I have been doing my best to study up on the intricacies of the Carver Governance Model. Among other things, I have been oriented to our Ends, the vision statements that the Board sets to guide the organization. There have been two key “a ha” moments that I have had recently that I would like to share with you all, in the hopes that my learnings may help you as an AOII member better understand the Ends and the role they play in our organization.
Before joining the Board, I had some general orientation to the Ends in my Network Director role, but often had this nagging question; how do I reconcile my understanding of what a vision is (a continuous journey) with my understanding of what an “end” is (a destination or final point). How can a vision statement be finite if it is meant to push us to continue reaching towards something more? I could explain what the Ends were, and why they mattered, but was I just reciting the definition I had learned as opposed to really grasping the power of these statements?
During a recent Board meeting, Kaya Miller, our Executive Director, shared with the group that she often would add some semblance of the phrase “By virtue of their AOII membership, a member will…..” to the start of each End in her head when she is interpreting each statement. A HA. That’s it. Yes, these are vision statements that provide direction but more importantly, at the end of the day, they are a demonstration of what our members should expect out of AOII and what their affiliation should look like. The Executive Board develops them, our amazing professional team creates and executes on programming and strategies to meet them, our Foundation Board helps us raise money to fund them, and our Properties Board helps insure we have spaces (houses and otherwise) to experience them in (thanks, Crystal, for this awesome description of how it is all related). So that, my sisters, is my new secret way to remember how to describe the Ends beyond reciting that they are vision statements….to remember it is who we are and what we stand for at the end of the day.
The other A HA moment I had came at the end of our last Board meeting, after we had spent the better part of the day adding to and refining these ends. AOII is a living organization that changes over time and one of the roles of the Board is to iteratively review the Ends to ensure they are still relevant and appropriate. With an average of less than 16 words per End, the Board is committed to making sure that every one of those words is powerful and intentional. We picked words apart and evaluated their tone and whether they would send an unintentional message that may detract from the overall message. We talked about whether verbs were active enough and whether they were in the right order. We took feedback from the last biennium and strengthened the ends that you all shared resonated the most with you (sense of belonging) while editing or adding ones that needed revision or were missing (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion). We challenged ourselves to consider the fact that character and reference to our ritual were so core to who we are that it deserved recognition in the Global End. My A HA moment was how seriously we, as the Executive Board, take every single word in our Ends. Every word matters! We understand that these are, at the end of the day, a definition of who we are, preserving our past while moving us in to the future. While my time on the Board has just begun, I count my role in these conversations as one of my most important contributions thus far. As a Board, we hope these changes resonate positively with you and help you continue to understand not only who you are by virtue of your membership, but also what the next biennium can hold for you.