Following on the heels of the NAI National Workshop in Reno, it’s no surprise that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the future of NAI, our Region, and our profession as a whole. It seems like never before have there been so many opportunities and—simultaneously—challenges. Change is happening incredibly fast in our society at a rate that seems to increase each year. It’s survival of the fittest, and the players include our national/state/local parks, our museums and historic sites, our zoos and aquariums. Some of our cultural institutions adapt and thrive, while others fail. Some simply exist, neither growing nor noticeably changing, but often doing so at the risk of slowly sliding toward obsolescence. Where do we as interpreters fall into this mix? What role do we play in this process? What about NAI? How is our profession (and association by extension) adapting and improving so that we can be better champions for our special places and things.
This year marked the 25th Anniversary for NAI, a momentous occasion that is worth savoring and pondering. We have come so far, and achieved so many great things. As a comparative newcomer to NAI, I cannot take credit for those achievements, but I still feel a sense of pride, connection, and even a degree of ownership. A common sentiment heard from NAI members is that one of the things they love most about our association is that it makes them feel welcome, like part of a family, and I can wholeheartedly relate. That says a lot about the culture of our organization. It’s special, and—dare I even say it—possibly unique among professional organizations.
While we should take time to celebrate our accomplishments, it’s also important not to be complacent lest we end up in the aforementioned ‘obsolete’ category. If we want NAI to be around another 25 years, it will require that we adapt and change to suit the times. The trickle-down effect of budget cutbacks and reduced resources has already had an impact on our membership and their ability to participate, and we can assume that’s not going to be reversed. This is particularly the case among our traditional “core” audiences, such as federal and state-funded agencies. Staying connected with those groups may require adjusting not just what products and services we provide, but how we provide them. Simultaneously, we must scan the wider landscape in an effort to engage other potential audiences.
To meet the challenge of charting our course for the future, NAI’s Board of Directors has created a Strategic Planning Committee, lead by Chairperson Jane Beattie. The task force hosted a booth at the National Workshop in Reno for the purposes of getting member feedback and thoughts about a range of topics. An outcome of this planning effort is that we can expect modifications to our approach, and the way we operate, will be required across the association from the national level down to Regions, Sections and local chapters. There’s that old saying that change is never easy and rarely welcome, but in this case I’m both hopeful and excited. I look forward to participating in this process, seeking improvements to the way we do things at the regional level, developing our own long-range plans in support of the expanded version, and implementing key recommendations of the planning team.
This is where YOU come in. Keep a lookout in the future for additional news on this front, including ongoing requests from the planning committee seeking wider membership participation in this process. If you don’t want to wait for an invitation, feel free to send your opinions now. Your participation and engagement is critical. So, stay tuned and stay involved. This is your organization!
Region 7 Director