Sunday, September 13, 2009

Keith Boss on ISA

Here is the interview with Keith, former board member of ISA.

(Disclaimer: the opinions expressed here as Keith's and not mine or that of ISA.)

Thank you for having this interview with TheStutteringBrain. I want to talk to you about your experiences as an ISA director and about your opinions on the future course of ISA.

Let me first give you the opportunity to introduce you. How did you get you involved?

In 2006, I decided at the age 69 to turn my stammering life around. I told myself to avoid avoidance and I looked on the Internet to seek ways to help me to reduce my stammer and increase my fluency. I learned about the BSA and the ISA. I liked what I saw on the ISA web page, so I emailed them to ask them if I could help. Mark Irwin asked me if I could represent the BSA so I asked the BSA if I could represent them. And they told me that I needed to be a board trustee to represent them with the ISA. So I stood for election to the board of the BSA and was elected as a trustee. Meanwhile, the ISA had asked me if I would raise stammering awareness in India and Pakistan. My initial reaction was: I cannot do this, but then I remember I was going to avoid avoidance so I answered: Yes, I will help you. I became a special friend of the ISA and was included in the majority of the board emails. I stood for election in May 2007 at Cavtat, and I was elected as a director then.

Can you explain us a bit more about how ISA works? It is an umbrella association?

It is an umbrella association of national stuttering associations. And in my opinion, national stuttering associations are the parents of the ISA. The ISA is their brain child. Member associations have responsibilities. ISA has a board of 9 elected directors who have an equal vote, and an advisory board who have a lot of experience world-wide and who are in a position to advise the board of directors. The board of directors makes the policy and use whatever means they are able to carry the policy through. In addition to raising Stammering Awareness around the World, the ISA has an objective to help local people in countries where there is no national association to begin local self-help groups, which when expanded sufficiently to more cities, will form a new national association. The ISA would welcome that new association.

Can I ask about how the election for the board is working?

It is worth mentioning that the members of the ISA are member associations, and there is an annual general meeting of member associations at the three-yearly congress. At Cavtat, in 2007, the member associations present at the annual general meeting elected the new board of directors. A director can stay in office for 9 years, then must step down for 3 years.

And at Cavtat, Benny was elected chairman?

That's right. The board of directors elect the chair and vice-chair, and appoint a secretary and treasurer.

So why did the board elect Benny? Were there other candidates?

Myself and John Steggles (from Australia who subsequently became vice-chair) offered our names as candidates. After there were three names given, the board meeting was suspended for a few hours. The past chair Mark Irwin had a word with me, to tell me that I was unknown to the board and advisory board and he would not want this election to be divided. He asked me to withdraw my name which I did. Benny was a strong recommendation by Mark, and was elected as chair.

Which kind of background did they have? And what kind of background do you think an ISA chair should have?

I only knew Benny through the emails I had received since I was a special friend of ISA. I knew that Benny had been webmaster, but I had no knowledge of his capabilities other than being the person Mark Irwin recommended as chair. And how about John? Again, I did not know much about John, but then I learned he had a lot of experiences in management of his Australian association and leadership.

I heard that he resigned. Is that true?

He resigned as chair of the Australian association, so logically he could not longer represent the Australian association. And the new chair of the Australian association said he did not want John to represent the association anymore. This was discussed around the board and the advisory board some time early last year. It was concluded that the spirit of the constitution implied that John should stay until the new board elections. This year in 2009 Benny and Thomas Krall, the coordinator, decided that John could not remain as a board member and took him off all the emails.

So was this a unilateral decision or a vote by the board?

This happened after I resigned, but I know some Directors and Advisory Board members argued against this action.

Tell me about why you decided to resign your directorship?

I resigned in March, because I had felt for the last 15 months that the directions of the board was in no way helping people who stutter in countries where there was no national association. I was chair of Outreach, and Outreach is specifically leading the help in other countries, I felt I could spend more time helping other countries outside the ISA than spending my time on a lot of administrative non productive type emails. So I resigned to enable me to do more productive work.

Why did you feel that ISA was not effective in reaching out?

The management team of ISA, the chair and vice-chair, needs management skills, leadership skills and motivational skills. They need to draw ideas from the board of directors and advisory board and melt them into plan that the can take forward. The existing Management team of Benny and Thomas was not effective in these areas.

What is your reaction to the recent resignation of Benny as a chair?

Benny's resignation as chair was the best thing he could do for the future of the ISA. Unfortunately, he did not possess the kind of skills needed to chair of an international association, so I am especially thankful to him that he did the best he could for ISA in the current crisis, which started with the blog post by Dave Rowley and the interview by Suzanna. He deserves our thanks.

So the interview and the post really changed the dynamics?

It changed the dynamics completely, because some of the problems which had been bubbling since the end of 2007 became public knowledge, and were no longer private to the ISA board. By this information becoming public, there was a serious risk that member associations who are the lifeblood of the ISA might question their ISA membership, and some are actively doing this.

Let's look at the future! What do you think need to happen now to ensure a stable future for ISA?

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a desperate need throughout the world for an international stuttering association. There are so many countries where there is inadequate or no professional help available, and whilst I was a director we even began discussing how we arrange help even if limited in the shortest possible time. And we also looked to expand the previous ISP-S projects .

What is needed at the moment is a strong management team who can spend the remaining months of this board rebuilding a team spirit and starting and completing one or two small project which will help stutterers around the world. They have to return to closer links with their member associations. The current number of the board is seven, my own personal recommendation is to bring the number of directors back to nine, which can be done by appointing people to fill the two empty slots in line with the constitution. Then and only then elect a new management team.

Thank you for your time.


Anonymous said...

For better or worse, this blog did bring down the downfall of Benny the King of ISA. With power comes responsibility.

Just want to point out that Keith Boss lost to Benny Ravid in 2007. Mark asked Keith to defer to maybe there were some sour grapes, perhaps.

Also, Keith is a quitter.....he was elected in 2007 and quit in 2009. Did not fulfill his promise, people elected him....

And Keith belongs to BSA and Tom has close ties with the BSA in UK.

Tom and Benny are not friends....this is because Benny is in Israel.

Still waiting for the Benny Ravid interview to be posted???

Need to hear all sides of the story.

I feel this blog should not become anymore political. Dave started it.....

Just focus on the Science and arguments, please!

Focus on your strength, right?

Tom Weidig said...

You are twisting reality here.

Several people were not happy. It was not just Suzanna, Dave, and Keith.

And the associations threatening to withdraw from ISA were not associated to them or me at all!

I do not know Benny well enough to be friends or NOT to be friends from where ever he comes.

I was just pointing out the obvious. I did not start this, and surely he did not resign just because of my blog. He has lost the confidence of others for a long time.

And I have not said that Keith or Suzanna should be chair, and I would not support them in an election.

We need a fresh face.


Anonymous said...

I think Keith is a good guy. I've never actually met him, but we've chatted on a stuttering newsgroup. He has very good intentions, and is very passionate about he welfare of stutterers. I can understand why he quit ... I would also have quit such a useless organization.

Anonymous said...

"Useless Organization", who is this ignorant idiot?

Anonymous said...

Well, I happen to agree with the anonymous commenter who referred to it as a useless organization. It is definitely of no use to the ordinary stutterer, and exists only to serve its management. It needs to be cleaned out, and its management should be replaced with people of the calibre of Keith Boss. Not idiots like the last anonymous commenter (I know who you are).

Anonymous said...

So who is your dream team for this job?