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When I was at TESOL a couple of weeks ago, a couple of the affiliate workshops had to do with stimulating interest. It was all about different contexts: outreach to organizations, to volunteers, to members. But it was all the same kind of message: find the right bait to catch the fish.

In my affiliate group, NNETESOL, we have specific jobs on the board, and sometimes, those can be hard to fill. For example, we have only one Vermont state rep. We can’t find other Vermonters willing to step forward.

Have we tried really hard? I don’t know. I’ve not been recruiting, and I’m a Vermonter on the board.

Boards tend to get trapped in their own trappings. The same people are recycled through, just in different jobs. I see it at the TESOL leadership level; they stick with the people they know, bringing in “new blood” every once in a while to be local chairs, but generally, the same people show up, get recognized and get new jobs.

I think that’s how a lot of groups work, as well as corporate America. It’s why we have mostly male CEOs on Wall Street. It’s why there are not many matriarchal societies in the world.

So anyway, the message that came out of that meeting was that maybe instead of looking for the warm body to fill the chair, we should be asking people how they want to contribute and making room for them at the table.

It’s a much more inviting way to look at things.

I was invited this week to another organization that is asking me to join. The average age in the room must have been past retirement age. I think to become a leader in that group, all I would have to do is show up, breathe, and politely ask if I can help.

We want our organizations, the groups to which we belong and try to thrive, to be diverse and dynamic. It’s essential for the group to grow and to do something beyond the same ol’-same ol’.

So maybe that’s the direction we should go.

What can you contribute?

How can we welcome you to the table?

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