CEO Blog

A place for expanded conversation on topics of interest to Friendship Force International clubs and members

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mid-Year Message to the Membership

Dear Friendship Force International,

It is hard to believe I have only been working with you for eight months.  This feeling is partly due to the many exciting projects currently underway that have consumed my time. But although it was my first time traveling to visit Friendship Force clubs around the world, I feel as though I've known you for years. This is something that many of you have experienced many times and it is, simply put, the power of the Friendship Force!

In addition to the  generosity of so many members who financially supported the “I’m In” campaign for a new database and website, you’ve also given hundreds of hours through leading exchanges, served as a club officer and experimented with new ideas and approaches to our mission.  When someone recently asked me what the biggest take-away has been since joining Friendship Force, I immediately pointed to the deep-seated passion of our members, in wanting to see a world transformed through citizen ambassadorship.

A tremendous amount of work is currently underway to promote the mission of Friendship Force, starting with the website, but continuing with a significant re-investment in marketing and communications. Much of this will be shared in greater detail at the World Conference in Morocco this September.  But connected to this work is a strong conviction about where we need to go as an organization.  How do we open our mission up to more people? How else might we realize success in our mission? In a world still full of division, where can Friendship Force do the most good?

Henry Ford once said, “if everyone is moving forward together, then success will take care of itself.”  We have a bright future ahead and much important work to do.  Thank you for serving as citizen ambassadors.  Thank you for making a difference in the world.

In friendship,
Jeremi

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Power of Friendship

“As a member of the Friendship Force, I recognize that I can make a difference. I recognize that I have a mission. That mission is to be a friend to the people of the world. As I embark upon this adventure, I know that others will be watching me. I know that through my example to my fellow citizens and the people of other countries, the cause of friendship and peace can be furthered.”
- The Friendship Force Pledge


Do you recognize this? Sometimes the power of the pledge that Friendship Force members have been reciting for decades gets lost to familiarity. Yet make no mistake - friendship has the power to heal our pasts, bring greater understanding to our present, and positively influence the future of our world.  


You are part of a movement to write a counter-narrative to the fear, prejudice, violence and injustice that the news industry causes us believe is now commonplace. Your stories of friendship and your everyday work of overcoming the barriers that separate us are testaments to that.  Thank you for continuing to stand for the power of friendship.


Jeremi

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stories of Friendship Initiative

My first genuine encounter with the Friendship Force wasn't the mission statement I read on the website, nor was it any one of the elaborate descriptions of upcoming exchanges on the online catalog. It was when one of the Board Members shared a quick story about the people they met in their traveling with the Friendship Force over the years and how their pool of friends, once small, now reached far and wide.  This encounter, reminiscent of those experienced by thousands of Friendship Force members, helps codify for me the nearly palpable power of our mission in action.

Fulbright Scholar and renowned professor of storytelling Robert McKee once said, "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today."  The idea that it is our similarities, not our differences, that bring us together is only validated with the personal stories we tell of our own experiences.

First Story of Friendship Submission
February 2016
Friendship Force has a long and wonderful history of facilitating these kind of experiences for countless individuals around the world.  As we look to the future of Friendship Force and for ways to share the good work of our organization I challenge you to ask yourself, "Is it time for me to share one of my stories?"

Friendship Force International's Stories of Friendship initiative has already brought in dozens of stories, but one story is still missing: yours. So, please - share it with us today.

www.storiesoffriendship.org
Visit www.storiesoffriendship.org



Friday, April 22, 2016

Bigger and Better: World Conferences Go Every Other Year

One of the decisions that came out of the International Board of Directors meeting this past March was the unanimous approval for the World Conference to take place every other year. After the 2017 World Conference in Manchester, England, the next will be held in 2019. This change has been discussed for many years and is already being welcomed as a long-overdue adjustment by several clubs as they look for ways to improve the quality and attendance at their regional conferences.

Background: It has always been a struggle to fill our World Conferences to capacity. Full conferences such as those in Washington, D.C. in 2010, New Orleans in 2013, and Vancouver in 2015 are the exception. Most years we have as many as 100 spaces left available to sell, which amounts to lost revenue for FFI, not just in terms of conference fees, but also the cost involved with planning the conference. These empty seats also mean lost opportunities to share with, educate, and learn from our attendees.

Does having the World Conference every year spread us (and our attendees) too thin financially and dilute the conference’s appeal? At FFI we’ve been asking this question for a few years now, and we’ve toyed with the idea of having it in alternate years. Now, as we approach our 40th anniversary year, the time seems right for this change.

Having the FFI World Conference every other year should allow us to:

  1. build anticipation with a longer break between conferences
  2. provide more calendar room for members to participate in regional conferences and events
  3. plan a bigger and different kind of conference with more to offer
  4. attract more attendees
  5. reduce planning costs
  6. have time to implement changes based on feedback from the previous conference
  7. organize a smaller, different event in non-conference years
The importance of the events planned for 2018 and in subsequent “non-conference” years cannot be understated. These respites from World Conference preparation gives all of Friendship Force an opportunity to plan a slightly smaller, alternative event, such as a friendship festival or development project that aims to enhance our mission and progress in some way.

As we institute this change, we want to hear from you! What would you like to see at future World Conferences? What events might you like to see in the non-conference years?

Feel free to submit your comment below!



Monday, April 18, 2016

Estimados amigos de Perú

En el viaje de regreso a Georgia tuve tiempo suficiente para pensar en mi breve pero memorable primer visita  como Presidente a su hermoso país. Yo no debería estar sorprendido, pero me conmovió el cuidado y la atención que cada uno de ustedes tuvo para lograr el éxito de su convención anual.

Vicenta Molina, wife of founder of Lima Club
Tour of Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores
Lunch with conference participants
Cada club de Friendship Force contribuye de forma única con el poder y la voz de nuestra misión; y Perú no se queda atrás. Quedó claro en la convención de que no sólo hay un deseo sincero sobre el éxito de los clubes en diferentes partes del país, sino también desarrollar actividades más significativas que mantengan a la Familia de Friendship Force más inspirados y llenos de energía al nivel local. Tengan la seguridad de que sus ideas, las cuales compartieron conmigo durante la convención serán compartidas con otros en mis conversaciones.
Laura compartió con ustedes nuestras prioridades: la estabilización de la sede, la  implementación del plan estratégico y mejorar nuestra comunicación. Estas prioridades son muy importantes pero no tan importante, como la construcción de nuevas amistades que amplían nuestra comprensión del mundo; Ustedes hicieron eso conmigo, y es un honor para mi hacer nuevos amigos.
Estaré respondiendo a sus conclusiones en las próximas semanas, y por supuesto me dará mucho gusto verlos a todos en el futuro!


En Amistad.

Jeremi

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Update from Recent Board Meeting

Dear Friendship Force Club Leaders,
Earlier this month, the Friendship Force International Board of Directors met for the 76th time in our history to discuss, among regular business, the current state of the Friendship Force mission worldwide.  There is no doubt that our mission of “promoting global understanding across the barriers that separate people” continues to be an important calling for all of our clubs and members, as evidenced by the hundreds of delegations and thousands of ambassadors forging new friendships through the Friendship Force each year.  We speak for the entirety of the Board when we say we are honored to be working hand-in-hand with you as we continue to seek realization of the full potential of our mission.  Your presence was felt in every conversation and decision made throughout the weekend.
Perhaps more important than any specific decisions made throughout the weekend was the depth of the discussion around each of the topics presented.  Building on the messages about FFI’s financial position shared during the Vancouver Conference in 2015 is a heightened awareness that the decisions we make now may profoundly influence our organization’s success in the future.  To that end, there was an intentional effort to keep the long-term goals of the organization in mind while we wrestled with acute issues mostly related to our currently stable but tenuous financial position.

Bringing clarity to the Board’s role in organizational governance, as well as accountability to how we move forward, was a significant focus of the weekend's activities:

  • The Strategy Committee has been reconstructed and is now called theStrategy and Innovation Steering Committee. In addition to its original purpose of overseeing the progress of the strategic plan and its eight initiatives, this committee will also help organize and assess the impact of several pilot initiatives launched in the past 24 months.  This committee is also charged with vetting new initiatives and ensuring that the mission of Friendship Force isn’t compromised, but enhanced and strengthened by these endeavors. 
  • The Board approved the creation of a Policy Review Committee whose purpose is to work with staff in resolving several current issues related to the wording, contradictions, and general confusion around some parts of the club and exchange policies.  With the thanks to many of you for forwarding your concerns related to club policies to Jeremi, the Committee has already begun in earnest to present clarifications to the Board at their next meeting. 
  • Recognizing the need for a concerted effort to devise a fund-raising philosophy, a fund development plan, and to help align the existing Legacy Fund with the goals set forth in the Strategic Plan, the Board unanimously approved the creation of a Fund Development Committee.
 In addition to a comprehensive update on the database and website project, the Board also spoke extensively about the need to elevate worldwide awareness for the Friendship Force and about how the launch of the revised website is one such opportunity to project a refreshed presence of our organization to the world.  Presentations by FFI staff touched on ways to clean up the Friendship Force brand that will be implemented this year, as well as new communication tools currently in development to help bring the worldwide Friendship Force family a little closer together.

Over the next several months, more details and news about actions being taken by Friendship Force Board and staff will be shared.  In the meantime, and if there was one message received and reciprocated during this most recent Board meeting, we must begin to take action in 2016.

In friendship,
Jeremi Snook, CEO and Bob Duncan, Board Chair

2016 Friendship Force International Board of Directors

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Note of Thanks...

(L-R) Colin Ridge, Heather Ponder,
Jeremi Snook, Debbie Lattey, Ross Stevens
Now fully recovered from traveling, I wanted to send this open letter to all the clubs and members in New Zealand and Australia expressing my sincerest thanks and appreciation for your warm welcome and hospitality. A specific note of gratitude to both the conference organizers and attendees who made their way to New Plymouth and the Blue Mountains.  

Although both New Zealand and Australia national conferences are distinct in their own way, experienced together within a two-week spread provided for me an authentic and unique engagement with what makes Friendship Force so spectacular.  While home hosted throughout my stay in New Zealand, I had the privilege of experiencing just a taste of what hundreds of others have experienced around the world during their inaugural visits down-under - kindhearted-ness, genuineness and a keen interest in connecting and forging new relationships.  Many who met me for the first time in New Zealand know that I also brought with me a cold that took more than a few days to get over. I shook that cold off, however, (thanks to the care from so many on that trip) making room to take back with me fond memories of so many of you. The experience in the Australian Blue Mountains was no different. I will not only take with me a few new square dancing moves, but also the memory of your several stories and spirit - trademarks, I am learning, of Friendship Force members. 

I hope that all those who participated in the conferences took something back with them; I know I did. Impossible as it is to distill the experience to any single thought or nugget of wisdom, I leave you instead with a lasting impression.  After my plane departed Sydney and I looked out the window at the fading coastline, I wrote in my journal that I now fully understood what makes Friendship Force so powerful - each and every one of you!

Thank you both New Plymouth and Blue Mountain clubs for hosting outstanding conferences and for sharing your knowledge, best practices, and inspiration with all of us. 

Until we see each other again, in Friendship, 

Jeremi

Jeremi with FF Mount Barker, the first FF club in Australia