RAC Ontario South Director Candidates

Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) like all non-profit associations is actually run by a board of directors who appoint paid and volunteer staff to form an executive which carries out the directions of the board following consultation with the members (which doesn’t happen enough IMHO but that’s a blog for another day).

RAC is our national organization and for better or worse is the best association we’ve got right now. But that’s not to say it’s good enough. I love RAC but hate the way it’s run (just in case I haven’t been clear enough in the past).

After failing to impress the importance of change and leadership upon the current executive (many of whom have left in frustration over the years) our only resources as members is to elect the best people we possibly can to our national board of directors.

The two candidates Phil McBride, VA3QR (bottom photo) from Acton and Igor Slakva, VE3ZF (top photo) from Stoney Creek have both put their names forward and election ballots have been sent out my mail.igor-ve3zf-after-cq-ww-as-a-vc2x-zone-2_1-desktop-resolution QSLProof

I know and respect Igor and I trust Phil is equally up to the task. Either man would make a good director but it’s important that you express your preference.

If you’re a RAC member with your permanent address in the Southern RAC region it’s essential you vote.

Key People Keep Leaving RAC

At this morning’s 6:30 am weekly breakfast meeting of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club, Rod Hardman, VE3RHF, announced his decision to withdraw from his position of Ontario South Director for Radio Amateurs of Canada.

I won’t share here what Rod and I discussed but to say it sounds like Rod’s experience was very similar to my own which prompted my leaving the post of VP of Public Relations some years ago.

I took over from John Bartlett, who is now HK3C, who has become a great friend over the years despite the physical distance between us (which of course evaporates to nothing when we’re talking on 20 meter SSB).

John is the creator of CQ Canada which is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of Amateur Radio in Canada.

I also believe that new PR guy for RAC who was out of Quebec has resigned before I really got to know him. I can’t think of his name right now (I think it was Sheldon Werner, VA2SH/VA6SH) (I did get the wrong guy. It was Vincent Charron.) and he was turning around RAC’s social media efforts. (The RAC Facebook page is filled with great content which I believe was Sheldon’s work.)

The ancient, broken and ugly old RAC website was being migrated over to a new WordPress based-site what at least looked modern but alas I fear all this will fall to the wayside again. It’s back to the spark days for RAC.

So now what for RAC?

Since it appears that the few remaining directors aren’t going to do anything of substance to correct the ongoing issues (starting with acknowledging that there are fatal issues that need addressing by them) and there being no wholesale effort by the shrinking general membership to impeach anyone within our national organization, I think it’s over.

Rumour has it that RAC is going to drop the national ARES program like a hot potato as internecine squabbling within ARES is so bad that most of the good people have quit leaving nobody of substance and authority in charge.

Maybe it’s time to revisit the idea of something like The Radio Society of Ontario? RSO was formed in April 1962 with amalgamation of the Ontario Amateur Radio Association and the Ontario Amateur Radio Federation.

We could vote in a new board of directors and install a new president and executive team from right here in Ontario. Negotiations with our national organization might follow if the Ontario membership saw any advantage in doing so.

If this happened, I’d volunteer to be its social media maven.

How To Get RAC’s Mojo Back

Amateur Radio isn’t one hobby, it’s scores of hobbies (building, testing, antennas, station design, contesting, casual operating, QRP, satellites, DX, SWL, QSLs, CW, SSB, digital, SDR, propagation, mobile, pedestrian HF mobile, D-Star, ARES and the list goes on and on).

It attracts a certain demographic and peculiar philosophical outlook on life. Our members include movie stars, country and western singers, members of government, astronauts, rocket scientists, admirals (one was on the US joint chiefs of staff), cab drivers, students, the unemployed, the unemployable, retirees and the list goes on and on.

There’s more than enough fun for everyone regardless of who they are.

So what should RAC do to get its mojo back?

Wouldn’t the simplest thing be to attract more Canadians to join our ranks and then to join our national association?

Shouldn’t that be job one?

Of course this would take some vision (Damn there’s that pesky word again.) and some planning but it would give our members a purpose for being a member because together we’re stronger.

Yes defence of our bands and privileges is a noble cause and should continue as should our representation with government (which currently is virtually non-existent) and international agencies (International Amateur Radio Union) which is mystery to most and may well be an expense we can’t afford.

What we don’t need is more of what we’ve been getting. (See previous posts for details.)

I’m not sure RAC can survive the current situation.

To quote Proverbs 28:18: “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

What we need is visionary leadership. What we’ve got is ineffective management.

Is it any wonder RAC is not growing and instead is becoming less and less relevant and effective?

 

RAC – Problems Greater Than You Thought!

You’ve heard from me and others that RAC is broken but honestly folks until this weekend at RAC Day (which took place at the ever growing and wonderful RadioWorld located in the GTA) where I heard a bunch of speakers and talked to a lot of the guys I had no idea how bad things actually are for RAC and our ARES groups.RACDAY-1-40

So how bad is it?

In listening to Ian Snow, VA3QT, section manager for Ontario South*, I found out that the legitimacy of ARES itself in Canada (let alone in Ontario) is questionable at best.

Here’s why:

  1. There is no reporting structure in place from the level of the section manager to anyone else higher up in RAC (which is the sponsoring body for ARES in Canada);
  2. We don’t have a vp of field services right now and all ARES stuff ends up with the president of RAC. (I’ve been waiting for three months now to hear if I passed the Certified Emergency Coordinators Program. I can’t help but speculate why this is taking so long and none of my speculation is good.)
  3. There is no legitimacy in the way ARES groups are formed. Here’s the RAC’s FAQ page about forming an ARES group. Here in Oakville we’ve been waiting months now for approval of our application. I wonder what’s holding up the process? It shouldn’t be politics or who knows who? And you don’t even need to be a RAC member to join ARES (but you should) so I don’t don’t know what’s holding up our application.
  4. In the future we are going to have to require all ARES members in Ontario to get police checks! When members of church choirs need police checks as do boy scout leaders who interact with youth, police checks for ARES members is coming.
  5. It’s quite possible that the era of the little guy with his hand-held helping out at community events is over. (See my comment’s about Ian’s vision of the future below.)
  6. ARES maybe so encumbered by bureaucratic, political and legal issues that it will be come unable to function. (I am starting to think we’re half there now based on what I heard last weekend and the Oakville ARES experience.)

So none of this bodes well for the future of ARES but what about RAC itself?

Well I am left wondering who is paying for president Geoff Bawden’s junkets across Canada? At Radio Day last weekend he talked to a group of 30 old and ageing Amateur Radio ops. I bet half of them couldn’t hear Geoff over the sound of traffic a few feet away. I wonder what this cost based on a per head basis?RACDAY-1-46

Ontario South Director Rod Hardman, VE3RHF, was there and did a great job (ok Rod’s a friend) speaking to the small group. (That’s him in the photo blessing the crowd.)

I worry that in these times of economic restraint (Geoff likes to take credit for bring RAC back from bankruptcy. Easy to do if you stop spending money we don’t have.) that we should be focusing on membership and mentoring new hams which brings in money.

And worse when it comes to spending, is RAC not already paying one guy in Quebec for his work which should be done by a volunteer? Is this going to be the trend of the future?

I’d hate to see somebody thinking they could retire while drawing a salary from RAC as they worked part or even full time for the organization. Is this what’s coming? I hope not.

If you’re concerned about your national organization as I am (I showed up at RAC Day wearing my RAC golf shirt!), then you might want to ask your regional director for some answers.

 

*I have newly found and enormous respect for Ian Snow.

Surprised? Well you shouldn’t RACDAY-1-5be. First Ian has written a series of very detailed training manuals for anyone who wants to learn everything there is to learn about emergency communications and ham radio and he should be acknowledged for his work. A little over the top for the average guy IMHO but great stuff for the organizers.

Ian has also seen the future of ARES and Amateur Radio participation in the community and he is working towards making it a reality. (In photo BTW is Ian and his very impressive mobile MESH setup. I’ve got to get me one of these 🙂

Now having said that I don’t agree with Ian’s vision of the future (one where Amateur Radio provides infra structure support for community emergency services during times of need. Think MESH networks as opposed to the guy on the street with his hand held radio.) but it’s quite conceivable that Ian’s vision is correct and mine is not. 

Also Ian seems to see (and these are my words and not his) what’s wrong with the ARES / RAC reporting structure (which is broken). And then there’s my opinion that the actual legitimacy of the existence of ARES is in jeopardy if RAC continues to decline into a position of irrelevancy.

Pretty grim stuff if I do say so myself.

RAC Day at RadioWorld

Radio Amateurs of Canada had their own day on Saturday at RadioWorld under bright blue skies and warm weather.RACDAY-1-56

After the really brutally cold winter this was one of the first decent days to sit outside and meet and greet.

RAC president Geoff Bawden was there (third left) as was Ontario South director Rod Hardman (second left) and several senior ARES coordinators. In the photo Geoff and Rod are joined by RadioWorld’s Angelo Meiffe on left and Jack Summers on right.)

I’ll have more to say about RAC and especially ARES in a future post but for now a BIG thank you to RadioWorld for their hospitality in supplying hot dogs, coffee and water as well as setting up a training room for the forums which went all day.

Here’s a link to my own online photo gallery of images from the day.

If We Get The Environment Right…

You all know my friend, John, HK3C, who was my predecessor on the executive of Radio Amateurs of Canada.

Both of us left the executive in frustration but we never gave up on the organization which is supposed to protect and grow our wonderful hobby of Amateur Radio.

So what was wrong with RAC and what could we do about it?

John sent me this link. It’s a TED Talk about leadership. It’s about trusting your leaders.

It’s worth your time to watch it. And remember we get the leadership we deserve.

 

RAC at Dayton

I was a participant in a recent meeting to discuss some future ham radio issues which I hope to be able to report here later this week when I was asked if I wasn’t anti Radio Amateurs of Canada.

I was a bit stunned by the well-meaning question but it suggested that the person asking me if I was anti-RAC obviously hadn’t read anything I’ve posted (and yes I’ve posted a lot about RAC) over the last few years.

I AM 100 PER CENT PRO RADIO AMATEURS OF CANADA.

I’ve been a RAC member for years. In fact I am so pro RAC that if it wouldn’t have caused major conniptions among the great mucky mucks who run RAC I’d cheerfully volunteer to staff the RAC booth at Dayton this year.

What I object to and I do so strongly is the manner in which we’ve treated each other over the years at the executive and board levels. We’ve turfed out good executives and even staff without due process in my opinion (and I do not stand alone here) and my personal experience working on the national executive was awful to put it succinctly. Innovation was criticized and discouraged. Cooperation was non-existent and there was no vision of where we were going as a national society. Everybody had their own patriarchal interests and cooperation was rare to invisible.

You’ve all heard this before and I’ll not go on (sigh) because there’s good news.

Aside from the fact I’m afraid we’re not seeing sufficient rotation of leadership and I am concerned that some may be settling into their positions for the long term, I am seeing some progress.

Our new RAC Facebook page is terrific! There are currently 3,020 members listed on the site. This has got to be a majority of the overall RAC membership. The RAC Facebook page is a major success for the organization.

We’re getting really interesting email notices from RAC these days. They’re filled with the latest RAC and Amateur Radio news from near and far.

It appears that somebody at RAC actually understands social media and is being allowed to create really interesting content. I tried to do this when I was VP of PR but I failed and I am sorry about that.

Now if somebody at RAC would just figure out why the organization exists (to grow Amateur Radio in Canada and not just serve the few who are members) maybe we’d see some really positive growth in our numbers.

So to that point, if you’re going to Dayton drop by the Radio Amateurs of Canada booth (it’s near the ARRL mega booth) and if you’re not a member sign up!

Tell them that Peter VE3HG sent you 🙂

 

Oakville ARES

ares_cl6The Oakville Amateur Radio Club is reorganizing its ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service)  group and we’re looking to adding digital D-Star communications and MESH networks. (See my post on the Oakville Amateur Radio Club Blog VE3HB for more on MESH.)

These are very exciting times for the Oakville club as new initiatives and a stronger emphasis on working together has taken place. So when it comes to ARES, where are we?

According to the ARRL (where ARES started) website, ARES consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.

Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in the ARRL (the same applies to membership in RAC) or any local or national organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES.

In Canada (and this from the RAC website) emergency service activities in each RAC Section are under the direction of the Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC), who is appointed by the Section Manager (SM).

The radio amateurs in each community within the Section register their facilities with the local Emergency Coordinator (EC), who is also appointed by the SM or SEC. In order to provide better support in areas where there is a large number of EC appointments, the position of District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) is appointed by the SM. Being RAC officers, these appointments must be RAC members.

Again from the RAC site any amateur radio club can start an ARES unit in an area where one does not currently exist. No proposal for a new ARES unit can be acted upon when it conflicts with an existing recognized RAC ARES group.

This is a good thing of course as it avoids issues with just who is in charge of the emergency. (Watch this 1950’s Tony Hancock comedy sketch. It’s hilarious and as poignant today as it was when it first aired.)

Here in Oakville we’ve got ARES groups all around us. Just about every club has one including Burlington,  Mississauga, the Halton ARC, Hamilton ARC and many more.

Regrettably in the past there has been some issues with ARES management as the organization falls under the notoriously poorly managed Radio Amateurs of Canada and as such some Ontario hams went off and started a new group called ECOA (Emergency Communications Ontario).

This situation is really unfortunate but no surprise when one talks to hams who are ECOA members and left the RAC-run ARES association in frustration.

We’ll see how Oakville ARC does and which way it goes.

 

RAC Relevant?

Adult Content Warning: I am actually going to say something nice about RAC!

What? Yes it’s true. I think RAC might be working at becoming vaguely relevant.

And we can thank our new (paid) director (unelected) of communications and fund raising Vincent (Vince) Charron, VA3GX/VE2HHH for the new energy around Facebook and Twitter and now Paul Burggraaf, VO1PRB, chief information and technology officer, who sent all members an electronic link to the electronic version of The Canadian Amateur which actually worked and looks terrific on screen.

Seems eTCS comes in a Flipbook version (which requires Adobe Flash Player) and if your computer can’t handle Flash a full colour Adobe PDF download will pop up.

TCA is a very good publication. Period. I was a group national magazine editor with a bunch of other editors who reported to me. I know magazines and TCA, especially when considering who publishes it (RAC) is hitting way beyond its class. I’d makes some major member-friendly changes but all-in-all it’s still pretty good as is and the colour eTCA version is way better than the old paper edition.

For the last four or five years I’ve produced more online copy about Radio Amateurs of Canada than RAC has posted. Why? Most of the old Sparkies at RAC don’t have a clue about social media, public relations and don’t even mention membership engagement.

Now we’ve got two guys who are coming out of the shadows and are posting stuff online and not just posting some crappy version of an old fashion newsletter which is printed in TCA. Ugh.

RAC still sucks but now we’ve got a couple of guys who are actually doing something new and I for one will get behind these initiatives.

Now if brain-trust at RAC (and I am being ironic) would figure out that no one becomes a RAC member just to get TCA and offer the electronic version for FREE to everyone, everywhere and then drop the awful and boring RAC-reports and write some compelling stories about RAC successes and reasons why readers should join RAC the membership would grow month after month.

BTW membership is still a disaster stuck at around 4,000 members. According to a published report by one of the RAC directors hundreds and hundreds of former members have not renewed.

So we have our membership voting with their feet and they’re voting to go elsewhere (ARRL?) where they perceive more value.

Plus, and even worse, RAC is doing little to nothing to grow the hobby. We have no national program or overall plan to bring more people into Amateur Radio. And don’t mention the word vision!

So Vincent and Paul you have your work cut out for you.

Same with you guys who are directors. It’s time to step up. Start talking to your existing members and start offering services to the overall Canadian Amateur Radio community.

What RAC has been doing for the last five years hasn’t worked.

Let’s get with the program and actually do some membership involvement projects.