In his welcome, NSO President Brad Darjean opened the 2017 Winter Advocacy Retreat by asking participants, “Are you ready to build the future? If so, you’ve come to the right place!” Borrowing from the event’s theme of “Building for the Future: Are You Ready?” Darjean reminded the audience that this signature NSO event gives members a chance to get together as peers to “meet, learn, and share ideas.
The Retreat offered familiar sessions on topics like bargaining, grievances and arbitrations, budgets, and organizing. But in many cases, the content was tweaked to address the challenges NSO members face today and in the future. Just like the Retreat’s theme indicates.
This year, participants also had 22 new training sessions to choose from. Many of those new sessions were designed specifically to address the needs of new members who represent the changing face of NSO. Almost one third of Retreat registrants were first-time attendees like Micelle Raphael from Nebraska who has only been on the job for two years.
She said, “I’m interested in the session on generational diversity. We’re facing many changes in Nebraska. We have an aging staff and lost almost half of them to retirement. We also have new board members. I want to learn more about how to deal with all the different perspectives.”
“The Union in a New Age: Bringing Sexy Back” was a session that clearly focused on the Retreat’s theme. It offered new ways of thinking about how to adapt to the changing face of unions. Presenter Tim Cross from Colorado showed participants how to engage new members on various levels. He emphasized the importance of using technology to grab the attention of the new generation.
He said, “Millennial research tells us that many of our new members lack face-to-face social skills because of virtual accessibility through technology. We still have to teach them how things are, but we have to package it differently. We have to make it sexy.”
Another new session was “NSO Sparks” designed to introduce new members to staff work and NSO. Content –similar to NEA Sparks—reflected participants’ choices on a survey they took prior to the Retreat.
Matt Kruse, one of the trainers from Arizona, said, “Sparks’ goal is to provide meaningful participation opportunities that lead to a sense of involvement that generates a feeling of influence that results in commitment. We show the group how to create a structure to do that for their members back home.”
This Retreat had something for everyone to take back home and use to build the future for affiliates and NSO.