By Ross Hutchings, CAE, Executive Director, CSDA
Can you believe it has already been a year since being appointed as your Executive Director? Seems like yesterday when I attended my first Board and Membership Meeting in July 2016. I’m sure I drove those who sat next to me nuts as I kept asking what various things meant as they were being discussed. A year later I have a much better idea of some of what is done by LCSAs, however, I have a long way to go to learn all your acronyms!
What a year it has been. One of the goals I mentioned in the interview process, and was supported by the Board, was to visit all the directors in their own LCSA offices. To date I have visited 47 out of the 49 LCSAs. The two missing are due to medical issues and a change in directors—both who will be visited by August. These visits gave me an opportunity to see firsthand each office/working environment, learn about each county, understand the demographics and challenges, and most of all visit one-on-one with the directors. But the benefits went way beyond what I expected. I was able to ask a series of questions that we now can compare regarding child support issues, county challenges, and perceptions regarding CSDA. From this, we have a number of overriding themes that the Board will use as we develop positions and programs to address these. Thank you all for taking the time to meet with me. It helped me to get to know you better and I hope helped build our relationship quicker. The benefit has been so universal that I plan to continue to visit at least one-third of the LCSAs each year. We need to stay in touch, and the best way is for that to be face-to face.
I had the good fortune to help lead you through our strategic planning process last November in Riverside. From that, we built our Business Plan which included three platforms. These three items are driving our organization. For the Advocacy Platform, a new Advocacy Committee was formed and has collected a list of 35 items of importance to you. They are working on the top three items you identified. White papers listing the pros and cons will be distributed, and a discussion will be held at our July Membership Meeting. If two-thirds agree, we will develop our official position on these items. This helps lead us to the second platform, One Voice. Our goal is to continue to provide a trusted environment where everyone can share their opinions, hold discussions, and if possible, come to a consensus with positions and promote those both internally and externally. Our third platform is Training where we are continuing with our outstanding ongoing training: Leadership Institute and Legal College. Our Policy Symposium was one of the best yet with an outstanding program and an increase in non IVD attendees. Our Annual Conference was outstanding with the second best attendance, eclipsed only by the first one in 2005, and high satisfaction (results from the surveys). And we are looking at possible development of a certification program and offering additional regional or online training.
But I think the biggest change I have seen since being here is the attitude toward the organization, toward each other. Although we have maybe not yet “arrived,” I think there is a feeling that we are on the right track. I have always felt that a professional organization is a community, sorority, or fraternity—it is a place where we come together with common interests and feel that it is a safe environment to share our opinions, listen to varying points of view, and learn from one another. The addition of ONE VOICE newsletter has helped facilitate this by including in-depth articles on a variety of different subjects, sharing ideas from LCSAs, keeping membership informed of Board and leadership activities, promoting CSDA events, recognizing staff accomplishments and sharing insights into our Directors. CSDA is the place where we can share best practices, get new ideas, learn from each other’s mistakes, and create common shared interests.
Although it is important to recognize our successes, we must not rest on our laurels. We all know that the only constant in life is change. In today’s fast-paced society, it is not good enough to be prepared for what comes next; we must anticipate it. Forecasting or strategic thinking is what we need to engage in to anticipate these changes. Your Board has begun that process (see President Natalie’s article in this issue). We want to share and practice this with the entire membership to help us develop collectively. It takes practice to be strategic and forward-thinking. We are also working on implementing various tools to help us better communicate and share with one another so we can become a nimble, dynamic organization with the ability to adapt quickly to take advantage of these changes.
Thank you all for your support of CSDA and of this industry. You have encouraged and supported me in my role. You are a dedicated group of people who really care about improving the profession. I am excited about the potential and growth and look forward to working with you in the future.