“Governance” is a word that may cause you to knit your brows, shrug your shoulders, wonder if it is related to politics or simply say “who cares.” And I get that. Before I got involved as an ASSP leader, I likely would have asked, “What does this have to do with me?” And the fact is, it can be difficult to understand how ASSP’s governance affects your interactions with the Society.
But taking a deeper look at how ASSP is structured reveals how governance affects us all because it impacts how the organization each of us elects to be a member of does business, shows up in the marketplace, advocates on our behalf, and delivers value to members and other stakeholders. Consider these facts:
During our last governance change in 2015—our first in 20 years—we committed to continuously improve our governance to align with best practices in association management. While those changes were a good start, fewer than 5% of professional associations operate under a structure similar to ours.
In 2018, we changed our name to American Society of Safety Professionals, signaling our desire to be more inclusive of the diverse community of individuals who practice within the OSH profession.
The work this past year by our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force further highlighted the need to change our governance structure to remove barriers to engagement, elevate member voice and increase diversity of thought.
With those facts as a starting point, our Governance Task Force evaluated industry research and trends, and explored a range of governance models. Through several rounds of debate and dialogue, the group confirmed the need for change and identified a best path forward: Transition the House of Delegates to an at-large advisory group.
In addition, this change would enable ASSP to have one governing body that could react swiftly to seize opportunities and avoid threats. Fully aligning authority and responsibility under the Board of Directors would eliminate a significant legal risk for the Society and prevent conflicts of interest that can occur when authority is divided, as it is in our current structure.
Let’s take a closer look at the concept of the at-large advisory group. Participation would be open to all interested members—including current delegates. This structure would give all members and all member communities a greater opportunity to engage year-round to inform and influence Society decisions. The at-large approach would create a more inclusive path for engagement because participation would not be based solely on a member’s role with a chapter, region, practice specialty, common interest group or other constituency. We believe fostering this “representative of” mindset across our volunteer leadership team will help us advance our work and secure a successful and sustainable future for ASSP.
The advisory group would also be able to form smaller, focused task groups to come together on a time-limited basis to address a specific issue (e.g., Society operations, professional issues, emerging trends) that may be critical, short-term or future focused. These microengagement opportunities also better meet our volunteers’ needs and expectations for work/life balance.
Since early June, members of the Governance Task Force and Board of Directors have had some valuable conversations with individual members and various stakeholder groups about these proposed changes. I have truly appreciated listening to member feedback, fielding your questions and understanding your concerns. These interactions have allowed us to develop deeper insight into your needs and expectations.
Change is hard. Letting go of legacy ideas is never easy. But our willingness to think differently and our courage to act differently will help us create a better future for ASSP and our profession.
ASSP’s current governance structure slows business, impedes decision-making and blocks progress. The proposed shift would allow the Society to align with legal guidance, be fiscally responsible and follow nonprofit management best practices.
This shift would enable the organization to deepen member value and bring it to you faster. For example, we have market research—primarily your feedback—that supports repackaging membership in different levels with deeper benefits. However, the leaders you elected to make decisions for ASSP do not have the authority under our current structure to make this change. Such agility is essential in a rapidly shifting market.
By adhering to IRS regulations, state and federal law, we have a strong set of checks and balances that also include annual independent audits.
Member voice will always be vital to ASSP. The proposed advisory group, along with market research, would ensure this voice informs our decisions. As a member, you also retain authority to vote on key issues, including electing officers and changes to the articles of incorporation (e.g., name change).
Please visit our governance webpage to learn more about this proposal and review our extensive FAQs.