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A message from the President.

Were you in Denver at ACA's national conference? Did you have "a peak experience" in the mile-high city? It was there that many of us came together as a community of peers. It was there that we celebrated our uniqueness as an industry and carved out our destiny as an association.

It was there that we connected with our dreams, wishes, and aspirations; that we rallied our grassroots movement to be recognized as a key player in the arenas of education and human development; that we explored new identity images for ACA, and that we shared the camaraderie that is especially poignant when we link hands from section to section.

Don't get me wrong: I am not judging, if you had to miss this wonderful opportunity; I know we all have to make choices regarding our resources, both personal and financial. Nonetheless, our national conference is morphing into a different and singular experience, If we are to have one voice as an industry, we must regularly convene to affirm our existence and work together to fulfill our mission.

Ethics and spirit, faith and significance--it is here we recognize that we are rooted in soul--our organization's understanding of its deeply held identity, beliefs, and values. At our national conference, we create a frame for our ethical and spiritual core, As leaders, we are models and catalysts for such values as excellence, caring, justice, and faith. We need to stand, shoulder to shoulder, to make these assertions and ensure these outcomes. Issues and options abound.

The National Conference Task Force, convened by President Rodger Popkin in 2000, recently completed its work. Assigned the task of identifying a niche for the national conference while acknowledging the value of regional conventions, the group, led by Art Wannlund, provided the following recommendations:

* National Conference Purpose: To advance ACA's vision, mission, and Ends (what good, for whom, at what cost?)

* Vision for the Conference: to develop a model for the national conference that advances the mission, vision, and Ends of the ACA and inspires and connects our membership

* The national conference, regional conferences, and section conferences will reflect a collaborative education process. ACA's educational climate will advance ongoing, progressive, professional development. The national conference will serve as a pivotal intersection for annual renewal of the association's commitment to the camp community

* To celebrate the 95th anniversary of ACA in 2005 (as well as the 100th anniversary in 2010), the national conference will work with sections to commemorate history in tradition and to recognize the birth of the organized camp experience

Assumptions of the task force include that the national conference must complement and support section and regional conferences by being distinctive in title, message, program, and target audiences, while at the same time being positioned as the leading educational and networking event for camp and related professionals. It is further understood that the content of the national conference explores depth and supports national initiatives demanding strategic thinking and action. Any changes in the financial structure must initially have a cost-neutral impact with an informed, detailed business plan that outlines the positive financial growth over time.

Goals are:

* To serve as a primary venue for facilitated dialogue and input on national issues influencing the camp community

* To secure nationally and internationally recognized speakers who can influence our thinking and decision-making process

* To mobilize collective action within the camp community In addition, strategies must be implemented:

* Market Strategy -- to penetrate primary, secondary, and tertiary markets with customized promotional materials

* Program Strategy -- to launch national initiatives, to identify and advance strategic value based on target market needs, to capitalize on the latest research and best practices, to present themes/topics in-depth, and to utilize facilitated leadership

* Organizational Strategy -- to commission a single, operational conference committee to oversee the design, coordination, and planning of the national conference

* Financial Strategy -- to create a formal business plan, focusing attention to detail between programming and the "business" aspects of a successful, healthy national conference (sponsorships, fee structures, corporate giving, etc.), so that the conference generates net revenue (expectations centered on the current level of 9 percent of the association's total net revenue and increasing to keep pace with the growth of the association)

The national conference already is beginning to take on a new look and new responsibilities for our countrywide organization. So even if you missed the conference last month, you can still be a part of ACA as an industry voice, as future annual conferences occur. You could think of our national conference as the quintessential benefit of "group minds" or "like individuals."

The national conference -- where you can negotiate strategies, respond to challenges, and formulate visions -- is a touchstone of our organization and of our core subsistence. We need, collectively, to provide a durable sense of purpose and direction. In short, we need each other.

See you in February 2004 -- in San Francisco -- when our repositioning roll-out takes place. It will indeed be a time to join hands and to exult in "assuring our future." If our voice is to be heard, we need to speak in unison!

Marla Coleman

ACA National President
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Title Annotation:American Camping Association
Author:Coleman, Marla
Publication:Camping Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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