Approximately 200 IFT members participated in IFT’s first annual Strategic Leadership Forum (SLF) on March 22–24, 2007. They included representatives from Sections and Divisions, members of the Executive Committee and the Task Force on Strategic Development, IFT staff, and other leaders, including past presidents.
The overall purpose of the SLF was to involve a broad cross-section of the membership in a dialog about strategies for the future of our organization. The new governance structure of IFT will include the SLF as a significant annual event for representatives from IFT constituency groups to interact with the elected leaders.
The specific objectives of the SLF were to:
• Cultivate a community of IFT leaders with a focus on the future of IFT.
• Obtain feedback from grassroots members on issues and opportunities facing IFT.
• Provide face-to-face opportunities to gather input on new IFT program development based on input from members.
• Harness the collective talent of the participants by engaging them in IFT’s annual strategy development efforts.
• Provide an environment for interaction of members with outside experts to discuss approaches to stimulating new ideas and thinking about educational programming and peer sharing sessions.
All feedback during the forum indicated that this inaugural event was successful in meeting the stated objectives.
The SLF program included a variety of sessions dealing with insights into the future. Invited speakers provided the participants with thought-provoking ideas on how events external to our organization are likely to affect IFT and the food industry in the future.
The opening sessions were followed by a presentation of preliminary results from an on-going study of the value of membership in IFT. The results of this study of member and nonmember views of IFT will assist us in developing strategies for membership growth.
Another key topic was the IFT strategic plan, with a presentation and discussion of the core purpose, mission, and key goals of IFT being developed by the Task Force on Strategic Development. Forum participants were provided the opportunity to provide "real-time" input to the task force through the use of the latest wireless technology.
The final series of sessions dealt primarily with the development of leadership within our organization. Throughout the two days of the SLF, participants attended breakout sessions to share views and reactions about IFT and the strategies for improving the organization for all members.
A unique part of the SLF was a special meeting of the IFT Council at which the Council voted to approve a revised Constitution & Bylaws and create a new governance structure for IFT with the following elements:
• A Board of Directors, with the governance responsibilities of the current Executive Committee and Council.
• Replacement of the Council by the SLF to encourage increased levels of direct interaction between the Board of Directors and representatives from Sections and Divisions.
• Use of electronic and similar technologies to improve involvement of the grass-roots membership in all aspects of IFT activity.
• Election of all members of the Board of Directors and IFT officers by the entire IFT membership.
• Reduction in the number of standing committees, and a shift in the focus of all committees to specific annual charges.
The new governance structure will establish a new and different relationship between the governing body (the Board of Directors) and the IFT membership. This relationship requires the Board to be open and transparent in all aspects of governance and encourages all members to have increased involvement in establishing the future directions of our organization. The success of the new structure will depend on all members being responsive to all requests for input and on an increased level of participation in election of IFT leaders by all members.
The first SLF was an outstanding event for all participants. It provided a unique opportunity for a representative cross-section of our membership to participate in discussions about the future of our organization. Through interactions with the IFT leadership during this event, these representatives will play an important role in IFT’s annual planning. The successful implementation of the new governance structure for IFT will depend on these types of interactions on an annual basis.
Additional information and resources such as presentations, handouts, and a summary of the event are available at ift.org/governance/slf.