Viewpoint: Shaping the Future of Toastmasters

Viewpoint: Shaping the Future of Toastmasters

A message from our International President

As many of you know, the Board of Directors has been engaged for the last couple of years in an initiative focusing on the governance structure of our organization at district, regional and international levels.

Why is the Board doing this? Our organization is growing internationally, experiencing rapid growth in emerging markets while also facing challenges in more mature markets. Toastmasters International’s existing governance model has served us well for the last 40 years, but the status quo will not sustain the organization into the future. Generational trends, competing demands for volunteers’ time, exponential growth in technology, demographic shifts in our membership base – these factors all point to the need for a governance structure that is more strategic, more flexible, and more responsive to the needs of members, clubs and districts than our current model.

What is the Board doing? One key feature of the proposed new “shape” of the organization is to extend the region structure worldwide and not just in North America, as is currently the case. This will ensure that all members and clubs enjoy the same privileges and opportunities, no matter which district they are in. Another key feature is the creation of new positions, Regional Advisors, to work closely with their district counterparts, to provide the best possible support in marketing, education and leadership. This will help to strengthen member satisfaction and club performance because support will be better tailored to members’ and clubs’ unique needs.

How will we do this? We’ll do it deliberately, thoughtfully and responsibly. The Board is very mindful of our organization’s tremendous legacy, and of its obligation to honor the past while positioning the organization for a brilliant future. We all know that change is not easy, that it can be threatening, and that it can cause unease. But change also presents opportunities that simply won’t be there if we keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. As General Eric Shinseki, former U.S Army Chief of Staff, put it: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

Toastmasters International needs to be in good shape to ensure its continued relevance in this fast-paced world. I encourage you to study carefully the change ideas that will be featured in numerous communications over the coming year. Read the Board Report on page 22 in this issue and be sure to visit and click on “Announcements” for a detailed summary of the Board’s most recent actions. When proposals are put forward for approval by the voting delegates at the annual business meeting in August 2009, the more you understand the proposed changes, the better able you will be to make or influence an informed decision. After all, it’s the future of our organization we’re talking about, and we all have a stake in that!

Chris K. Ford, DTM
International President