What I have learned about the launch of volunteer associations

I’m preparing for a presentation at a conference in Estonia related to volunteer work I’ve been involved with over the past 30 years.

Among the things I will discuss are key things I have learned as a volunteer involved with the setting up of volunteer associations around the world.

My current list of things learned is now listed as three items. Originally I had a list of 10, for an early talk about these topics. Then it went down to seven and now it’s down to three:

What have I learned?

1) Many of our projects are too big for one or two people to do on their own. In a group that works well in the long run, each member has a strong sense of ownership of the group.

2) It’s good to plan ahead, so that a group will continue to grow long after the founder has moved on to other things. It’s great to see renewal and growth of any kind.

3) You and I will agree about some things, and disagree about others. An impartial forum for sharing of information (while not providing a platform of “instant cures” and other scams) is a good way to go. Independence from speech professionals helps to ensure the forum is indeed impartial.

By way of background

The volunteer work I refer to entails work that I have done with particular intensity until about 15 years ago. That is, over the past 30 years, I focused for 15 years on the launch of national and international associations serving people who stutter. In the next 15 years I’ve focused more on another realm entirely, namely local history.

Here’s an overview of my involvement in the early years of the stuttering self-help movement:

  • 1988 founded Stuttering Association of Toronto
  • 1990 delivered lectures in Estonia, which subsequently led to the founding of the Estonian Association for People Who Stutter
  • 1991 assisted in founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association (CSA): that is, I’m a co-founder of CSA
  • Served for some time as chair of International Fluency Association Support Groups and Consumer Affairs Committee, at an early stage of development of the IFA
  • 1995 assisted in founding of the International Stuttering Association (ISA) and for some years served in an informal capacity as a consultant on matters related to the interpretation of the ISA Constitution
  • Was active for some time with ISA Outreach Working Group, involved with assisting in setting up of national stuttering associations in parts of the world, where such associations had not yet been established

90-second YouTube video

By way of establishing a quick overview of my involvement with the self-help movement, in  this case in particular in Canada, a useful reference is the following video:

Media relations: Stuttering 101

Part of my volunteer work, during the 15-year period referred to above, involved media relations (radio, television, and print messaging) on behalf of the Canadian Stuttering Association. A Dec. 9, 2010 Globe and Mail article by Jane Taber, entitled “Stuttering 101,” outlines key messages that we have focused upon.

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