Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Creating a New Professional Association

Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Creating a New Professional Association

Article excerpt

Continual focus on improving member services is a hallmark of CRLA and NADE. These two associations, along with three others in 2004, conducted a joint strategic review of their organizations and the fields they serve. National leaders were selected by their respective associations to serve on a Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC, 2006) and create a report based on their findings. The final section of the report focused on potential actions to improve service to their members and deal with the evolving postsecondary education environment.

Rather than recommending a single future path, the BRC report identified a multifaceted path including three aspects: coordination, collaboration, and creation. The first path would lead CRLA, NADE, and other organizations to better coordinate their activities in order to avoid duplication of services. The second course, collaboration, sought to find projects of mutual interest and savings that the current organizations could jointly offer to their members. The third path was creating a new professional association with expanded vision, mission, and resources to serve a wider group of professionals within postsecondary education.

As the BRC Report was disseminated within the postsecondary education community, discussion and excitement was generated about the possibility of creating a new professional association. In spring 2007, the national executive boards of CRLA and NADE selected a group of past and current national leaders to serve as a working group charged with investigating the creation of a new professional association (CRLA/ NADE Taskforce, 2007).

We believe that the most compelling reasons for change within our profession are to increase the quality and quantity of professional development offerings for members, to broaden our impact in the profession, and to increase influence within society.

CRLA and NADE host excellent chapter and national conferences. However, a careful review of other postsecondary professional associations reveals they offer a wider spectrum of services for their members through knowledge-laden Web sites, multiple publications, on-line conferences, webinars, and research that identifies best practices for their members.

Based on a variety of national studies of developmental education, Boylan (1995) estimated more than 107,000 personnel work in the field served by CRLA and NADE. However, only approximately 5% of them are members of these two associations. A new association would be more attractive to nonmembers if they could access a wider variety of services along with conferences. This Working Group also identifies that there are groups outside the current profile of CRLA and NADE association members within postsecondary education that could find affiliation with a new organization desirable. A new association with an expanded mission, vision, and more inclusive language could encourage active membership by these groups.

We completed the first draft of the full report in June 2007 (http://www.crla.net/WorkingGroupReport091007.doc). Although we concluded unanimously that a new professional association would be beneficial; we also concluded that the change process would be difficult and significant. We recognize that the easiest course is to make incremental changes within the current structures. However, we believe that dramatic reinvention and transformation is needed to meet the quickly changing needs of the profession and the environment in which it operates. A term used to describe such change is "leapfrogging" (Harbison & Pekar, 1998; Nonaka & Nishiguchi, 2001). Instead of "fixing" an old process, it is "leapfrogged," and a new process is introduced. The often-cited classic example is how emerging countries are designating cell phones as the primary communication channel and skipping the wiring of the countryside with traditional telephone wires. The cost of the new technology and ease of implementation is much less than following all steps through the older technology. …

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