Christmas carols are playing in the stores, staff parties are in full swing, and skiers and boarders are looking at the perpetual winter clouds that settle in over the various ski hills throughout the country this time of year. As our industry gears up for our most active season, so too do the volunteers and staff of the various geotechnical societies ramp up in preparation for their winter season events and functions.
One such activity is the annual joint CSEG/CSPG/CWLS Convention. GeoConvention 2012: Vision will pave the way for economic, environmental and energy recovery in Western Canada. Over 100 exhibiting companies and 4,000 conference attendees will convene at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre May 14 – 18, 2012 to view new technologies, explore new business opportunities and learn from industry experts.
Joint Annual Convention (JAC) in transition. While our society has conducted technical conventions for as long as I can remember, we are currently facing a period of transition regarding how JAC operates. What has become a $2 million convention business is now going through growing pains. Please bear with me as I explain the recent managerial issues that have arisen that impact our society.
Brief recent JAC summary: In March, 2008, Doug Bogstie and Lisa Griffith, then-presidents of the CSEG and CSPG, laboured tirelessly to create and sign an all-encompassing JAC Agreement that defines the relationship between our societies pertaining to our annual joint conference. In this agreement, the Joint Annual Convention Committee (JACC) was created. JACC is comprised of three appointed representatives from the CSEG and the CSPG and one of either society to Chair the committee, who was elected from within JACC. Their mandate is to look into the future and select joint convention Chairs for conventions well in advance in order to ensure continuity and timely planning. JACC was to create an Organizing Committee to hire the staff and create the subcommittees to basically run the convention and report back to the Executive of both societies.
JAC Agreement termination notice. In April of 2010, the CSPG gave Notice of Termination of the JAC Agreement to the CSEG to allow for a joint CSPG / AAPG convention in 2015. Under the terms of the JAC Agreement, a party had to provide 5 year’s advance notice or pay a significant withdrawal penalty. The clock is now ticking down to May 1, 2015 – the day when our societies no longer have an operating agreement with which to conduct the joint convention.
JAC Operator defined by MOU. In May of 2010, the CSEG and CSPG signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provided for the operations of JAC to be carried out by each Society on a year-to-year basis. While still honouring the 2008 JAC Agreement, the concept of an operatorship arrangement means that in a single year, either the CSEG or the CSPG operates the convention while providing the other party with operational and financial information in regular intervals. The 2011 Recovery GeoConvention was operated by the CSPG. The upcoming GeoConvention 2012: Vision is operated by the CSEG. Under the terms of the MOU, each year the non-operator may elect to assume operatorship for the next convention by the end of May for the following year’s JAC.
While this arrangement works in principle, the discontinuity of staffing and planning structure from year to year has practical issues which are currently being dealt with.
Convention brainstorming. On October 29 of this year, senior representatives of all three societies, past and present convention chairs, staff and JACC members met behind closed doors to brainstorm. As President of the CSEG, I chaired the meeting while Paul McKay of the CSPG moderated. While lively and somewhat prosaic as times, Paul managed to “herd cats” in the same general direction to arrive at a Vision Statement and five guiding principles (ref. any principles that guide an organization throughout its life in all circumstances irrespective of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or to the top management) for future discussions around a new joint convention agreement:
Vision: To be the pre-eminent annual geoscience convention in the world. While this sounds like a pretentious vision, we recognize that Canada is situated at the forefront of many of the current and future resource developments in the world. As such, our societies have a role to play and should be prepared to lead the world with technical expertise.
Guiding Principle #1: Provide value to society membership and other stakeholders by building on past successes, striving for future improvement, providing continuity of management and appropriate governance. This will be accomplished by communicating to member societies, effective marketing and branding, gathering and analyzing relevant statistics, and by administering efficiently while providing accountability, initiative, and thorough record keeping.
Guiding Principle #2: Maintain and promote flexibility to include other entities in future conventions, while complying to each society’s mandates and bylaws guided by responsibilities to sponsoring societies.
Guiding Principle #3: Ensure that the operating entity has sufficient authority to achieve (vision) goals responsibly and with accountability.
Guiding Principle #4: Ensure prudent financial management; develop metrics for equitable profit / loss distribution; provide proactive financial risk management and conflict of interest avoidance.
Guiding Principle #5: Ensure HSEC practices are consistent with sponsoring Societies’ best practices.
These guiding principles still require each society – CSEG, CSPG and the CWLS – to ratify and agree to them before they can become the fundamental basis for future JAC discussions. I will keep you updated as these important concepts are discussed and reviewed by our respective societies.
The joint convention is a fundamental cooperative event amongst our sister societies that must be fostered and allowed to continue to grow into a world class institution. Your executive will continue to work hard to make sure this comes to fruition and that the growing pains we are currently experiencing do not hinder this vision from becoming a reality.