Monday, June 7, 2004
5:55:00 AM EDT

OMOV

 

The United States Chess Federation (USCF) is a not-for-profit MEMBERSHIP organization devoted to extending the role of chess in American society.

 

One Member One Vote (originally called One Man One Vote) was always the idea that full members of an organization can vote for the national officers that manage the corporationís affairs on their behalf. Under OMOV you as a full dues paying USCF member vote for your leaders individually and directly by their name. Pure and simple, anyone (regardless of age) who buys a full membership may vote. Originally, allowing the membership to vote for their Officers had a few limited goals to help foster more accountability to the membership, more balanced and diverse representation, more difficulty to influence peddle to a small pre-identified group, and more membership participation. To determine if OMOV will be successful one must measure if poor performing Officers are not reelected; if more outsiders, women, and people of color are elected; if elections are less predictable; and if more members vote than had in the past. It is expected other problems also experienced by the old system will continue until they are fixed.

 

Since 1979 the USCF has, for both good and bad, been under the governance of insiders. These insiders primarily consist of the local tournament organizer group or related service providers. They have served on the Board of Delegates and various USCF committees and have well intentions. There has been relatively the same set of insiders for many years. It was viewed that they were well informed but also extremely partisan. As studies show such partisan groups may make informed decisions on issues but definitely not regarding electing leaders. There is no evidence that USCF governance would work better if more voters were like the circa 1980ís-90ís most informed voters. Also this group of USCF insiders has often focused the organization on supporting services and rights for themselves, their friends, as well as the tournament organizer group or related service providers. Listening to or representing the wishes of the membership is the farthest thing from their mind. This can happen in any system but particularly one where your leaders are only accountable to themselves.

 

The so what of this is that the USCF is a not for profit membership corporation - not a union, trade association, aristocracy, or a private club. If this small group of well meaning chess organizers continues to be the only talent pool available to the USCF the capability for future change will be limited.

 

From 1989-1992 was the time of excess for the USCF - excess spending, excess perks, excess over indulgence, excess exclusivity, and excess arrogance. Some view this period as providing the momentum that drove the organization to its high point in 1995, other as the mortal wound which precipitated the organizations decline. From 1996-1999 the dagger was driven home and the organizations hemorrhaging could no longer be contained setting in motion the chain of events for where we are today.

 

As a result, in 2001 the USCF membership was empowered with their asserted right to elect the directors who hire/evaluate the Executive Director. The first membership election of these directors occurred in 2003 and the first full Executive Board elected by the membership will be put in place in late summer of 2005.

 

Under this system it should be viewed that the membership are the equivalent of the owners of the corporation. A director is one of a group of persons entrusted with the overall direction of a corporate enterprise. The members of the Executive Board now serve as officers and trustees for all members. The leadership is accountable to the membership for producing results towards advancing the organizations mission. All board members represent the membership and should be individually and collectively responsible to them for the sound and proper performance of their duties. OMOV has given the membership unprecedented capability to hold its leadership accountable. This is because voting members have the legal power to force corporate directors to fulfill their fiduciary duty and the Executive Board has been vested with the responsibility to manage the affairs of the corporation.

 

Bottom line this means what is good for the mission and all members must come before what is good for the insiders and their friends. The old unaccountable USCF of insiders, by insiders, for insiders will be destroyed. The special interests can no longer control the organization from the shadows and will need to bring their struggle into the open to regain control. Insiders will try to relive and revive the old days when they were in complete control. Those who are voted off the board for their ineffectiveness will call OMOV a mistake and try to place people, once again, on the board they can control. The thought of equal opportunity for the regular membership to vote or run for office is too much for the old guard to bear. Thus, some of the insiders will band together to keep their status quo and try to eviscerate OMOV. A major and ugly battle for organizational control will ensue. Rather than a forum for a common public message, the Internet will be used for smear propaganda against candidates and their associates who threaten the status quo. Regardless, there has already been a fundamental organizational shift from insiderís rights to memberís rights. This will indeed result in a very traumatic cultural change for the organization. Things will get worse then get better as insiders struggle to maintain control. However, change is necessary and starts one step at a time. As things hit bottom change will be forced and new blood will rise from the ashes. Step by step, the USCF is transforming itself into a more accountable organization of the membership, by the membership, and for the membership. It took twenty-five years of abuse to suck the organization dry. It may take up to ten years to retire the ever battling insiders and rebuild. The question facing us is can we survive the transition?