I was happy to be the keynote speaker for the 2015 class of community leaders last Friday night. My remarks followed Paul Jerome’s address. Paul was elected by his classmates to speak for the class. His remarks dovetailed beautifully into my speech below. He said, “I knew I would learn a lot, and I did, but the connections to my classmates and listening to different perspectives really were valuable.”
Here are my prepared remarks, which vary slightly because after writing it I just started in and spoke:
Congratulations to each and every one of you. But, more than congratulations; thank you. Thank you for your leadership in your community. Your leadership, your contributions are vital to building resilient, locally owned communities. It’s a big responsibility, and, very challenging. Thank goodness you are not alone!
I’m guessing, your appreciation for the power of togetherness with peers has never been stronger than it is now at the conclusion of the Leadership Program.
I’m also guessing you might not see just how many peers you actually have.
Let’s look at it with a wide angle lens:
On a grand scale, in terms of housing, there are more than 75 million owned housing units in the U.S. And get this, fully 1/3rd of those homes – that’s 25 million owned homes, yours included – is in some type of association owned or managed properties. Condos, HOAs, PUDs and indeed co-ops!
What do they all have in common? They are all locally owned and locally controlled! The people who live there – the people most affected by what happens there – have the most control over what happens! That makes basic sense. Local owners, local members know best what their local needs are.
But, there’s a challenge.
While the “what” is well-informed by local member owners – what needs to be repaired after a hard winter, what is the agenda for next month’s meeting, what are our priorities for 2016 – it’s the “how” questions that really build community because “how” questions really build the organization, the association or the co-op in your case.
“How do we engage the community in setting priorities? How do we build a strong reputation in our region?”
A lot of what you did in the Leadership Program was getting into the “how”. And, you did it as a group because, “How do we, how do I” questions really benefit from diversity of experience and lots of new ideas! “How” questions are always, always best informed by being in touch with peers and others.
Through this Leadership Program you now have new friends, new peers with now a common experience. Now you have fresh ideas at your finger tips and you can continue to harvest them year after year!
But, it’s not just your Leadership Program peers within your reach!
There are the 166 ROCs in 14 states that are each structured just like your community. Each one is a low share cost resident corporation (in NH a co-op) that owns a manufactured home community. 166 communities owned by the almost 10,000 homeowners who live in those communities! 112 of them are in NH, and for the last 7 years, ROC USA has been expanding resident ownership from coast to coast!
So, you now have peers from coast to coast; you are networked with those ROC members and leaders across the country! But, how you might ask!
There are several face-to-face opportunities for you in NH. You can:
- make direct connections with ROC leaders b/c there’s a ROC in every region of the state, and lots of them!
- attend a regional gathering sponsored by ROC-NH
- attend the always excellent bi-annual statewide conference, and
- apply to the national Community Leadership Institute, which this year will be in Louisville, KY! There’s no cost to you for attending – and it is the opportunity of a lifetime, really.
Leaving the face to face, we then get online. How many of you go online, surf the web?
Going online gives you tremendous opportunities to connect with peers in an online community center called myROCUSA.org.
On myROCUSA.org, you can
- post questions or respond to questions in chat rooms we call ROC Talk
- learn about the Community Leadership Institute and Community Grants,
- read news and blogs,
- watch training videos,
- access the Management Guide.
It’s a new resource and it’s in its infancy really but it has the potential to be that peer group that can help spread ideas. There are over 350 ROC leaders there already.
Now, there’s also a very early part of the site that is called ROC Mall. If you want to install solar street lamps (and test one for free for 30 days), you can connect with Gama Sonic and get a discount. If you want to buy commercial grade outdoor furniture or bulletin boards, a company called Park n Pool is there.
Now going back to those 25 million homes in association properties. What’s behind ROC Mall is a co-op that we helped found that already has 350,000 homeowners in association properities linked together. We are looking down the road when there will 2.5 million or more represented and to many more discounts that is yet another “better together” element of the work we’re all doing. Your co-op is on the ground floor of a national buying club.
So, there you have it. We want to support you making connections with other ROC leaders and I want you to know we’re looking down the road and working on things that are important to you. Our tagline – Better Together – is sincere, we are working to prove it every day. Thank you, and congratulations, again.