This FLI Update comes from one not at the FLI. All of my conclusions therefore, as with most things, must be viewed with suspicion like the fact that the Event (as it is now being characterized) has been totally scripted and tightly controlled.
The FLI began not with a bang but a whimper. With 180 leaders present mainly from east of the Kansas border, representing about 60 federations, the event began in a room at PGA National with tables adorned with white tablecloths and candles. ("Votive?" I asked, but then realizing the group, I surmised otherwise -- "Yahrtzeit?") On each table were also sets of little treacly aphorisms culled, apparently, from corporate meetings or Chinese fortune cookies, to bind the gathered together more closely. Clothespins ("we don't air our dirty laundry in public"), sugar cubes, similar stuff.
Kanfer gave the desultory Opening, defensive, somber and accusatory. In a statement reminiscent of another Joe -- "I have in my hand a list of 250 members of the Communist Party..." -- this Joe, our Chair, immediately went on the defensive -- "5 persons are causing havoc to the system...leaking damaging information to the JTA..." I'm thinking I know who those five people are "wreaking havoc" -- Joe, Howard, Kathy, et al....and it's mighty hard for others to leak when the Board and federations have no information. After his speech there was a genuine concern with Joe's well-being. I surmised that Joe had just been advised in private by federation leaders that his FLI Recommendations would not f.l.y. and that that advice may have made him physically ill. Doesn't handle script changes well. I could be wrong.
On to the expected highlight of the Institute -- a presentation of the Branding and Marketing Initiative Report. Oooops, after a $2 million investment, no Report, a power point, not from the Consultant or the Task Force Chair, from the UJC Marketing Director. Conclusions, no back up. No materials. No Study. Just not ready I guess. An Initiative begun in 2007, with a budget approved at only $865,000, increased without any governance approval to $2 million. Still not ready in February 2009.
Introducing the "Event" and the Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations, Kathy Manning first reminded the gathered that everything is open to discussion. She focused on the "elephants in the room" emphasizing her point by the distribution of stuffed elephants throughout the room. (I am recommending this approach to my Federation and the ABA for future meetings.) Now, I know that "the elephant in the room" references obvious topics which all are aware of, but which aren't discussed as such discussion is considered to be uncomfortable. As you will read, the elephant is still in the room.
Example: UJC's Budget. As I predicted in my pre-FLI Post, leadership's response to the demand that the UJC Budget be discussed and significantly reduced was met with the response that "a reduced budget will be ready by the end of February. That's right, "no need to discuss, so let's move on, we couldn't have it ready for the FLI because...uh, because...why exactly? Let's move on."
Kathy also returned to the night's apparent theme -- "leaks to the Jewish press and an evil Blog." As I understand it, all would be just peachy for UJC if there were no "leaks' (of what, exactly?) and no Blog. I decided, upon hearing this, to visit with my leadership to see if we should modify our Posts. I met with myself. (Now, I know that seems like too few people to meet with but this is a one person production and, what the heck, it's only 3 or 4 people less than UJC's leadership group which makes or dictates all outcomes.) I decided I would continue until this "leadership" is succeeded by others committed to the goals, Vision and Mission of UJC framed 10 years ago and unanimously approved by the federations, UIA and JDC.
Then the evening closed with table discussions the consensus from each to be compiled into some form of environmental scan of federation concerns. The facilitation topics were set in advance, lay and professional leaders were seated according to UJC's pre-set determination. The facilitators and UJC professionals tried in many instances to influence table outcomes. I was told by one involved in the facilitation process that at least some summary statements have already been prepared for the Chair of the Executive. So much for listening.
Now, we will await the aftermath. See you then.