"Shui Zhang Chuan Gao" (a rising tide lifts all boats)
I have been a member of Mensa for over 20 years. During that time I have had, because of my membership, the good fortune among many other things, to get into France without a passport (I'm not French), tour the advanced Physics Lab of Oxford University, sit with the founder of Mensa ( Sir Lancelot Ware ) in the same pub that Lewis Carroll & C S Lewis used to go to after class, watch the sun set into the Mediterranean Sea from the western end of Santorini Island, Greece! Like these and many others things, none of them would not have happened had I not been a member of Mensa. I joined when I was 42 as a result of the encouragement of a wonderful group of Vancouver Mensans that used to get together to read plays once a month. Looking back in hindsight, I wish I had joined long before I did!
Now let's fast forward 20 years and look at today's world. I have just moved back to British Columbia from the "Twin Cities" in Minnesota and of course transferred everything including my membership back here. BUT over the course of my 11 years away and 9 years before that, the world has changed...A LOT! First off, we are all older. Second as someone said in 1921 " the hiker sees the mountain clearest from the distance" (K. Gibran - The Prophet) and observing things from the outside gave me an interesting insight into Canada (more on that some other time) and finally and this is the important part, non-profit professional organizations world-wide are losing membership. This was pointed out to me when I was in the US and I observed it within other associations of which I was either a member or just an outside observer. (Go-Karts, Lyon's Club, I.S.A., Rotary Club, AMA etc) and finally Mensa. Several years ago, as this was starting to become a reality, the President of Mensa US in one of her MC2's (US Mensa's national mag) 'Message from the President' columns, she suggested people in local sections around the country take the time to read a book named Race for Relevance that had been put together by active members of the ASAE, (The Center for Association Leadership) that is based in Washington, D.C. and lobbies politicians on behalf of non-profit associations. I took the time to read the book because the Minnesota branch of the I.S.A., a professional organization of which I am a member, (ISA - International Society of Automation) was trying to rebuild itself after a number or years in remission. The lessons described in the book made sense and we applied many of them in re-building the Twin Cities ISA. Moew recently, I just finished reading a book called The End of Membership as We Know It. This book, also centered on association membership, provided a little more focus on the issues and presents a number of real life examples.
So, what's the point?, and here's where I get to use my passion for sesquipedalian, 'anyday' words. Most people (~90%+) are, to different degrees, 'mumpsimus' (stodgily conservative continuing to do & say things the 'old' way despite all evidence and proof of new, improved and better ways). As a result, in today's world, many non-profits continue to operate on a mumpsimus agenda similar to the way they were 20, 30 or 50 years ago when set up by the baby-boomers. In today's world they are becoming irrelevant!
Now why am I saying all this? I think associations are critical. My experiences in Mensa will be with me forever in my heart. I also believe, in hindsight that being a member of Mensa gives the so called 'smart people' outcasts a social group to which they can be included in. I think now is an opportune time for Mensa to reach out to the X & Y generations! As a brief side note, I recently walked partway around the Vancouver Seawall wearing my Mensa sweat-shirt picking up cigarette butts (I got over 100 of them). During the course of my trek, I encountered a group of 8 to 12 year olds ("little adsorbent knowledge sponges" as Melinda Gates calls them) sitting on the grass reading and learning. They saw me and what I was doing and started clapping and cheering. Which brings me to my final point, each and every one of us has a responsibility to set an example for others. Be it our children, other young people, colleagues or employees. An organization like Mensa is something that can help. Let's keep it going because as they say in Mandarin, "Shui Zhang Chuan Gao" <a rising tide lifts all boats>
Race for Relevance by Harrison Coerver & Mary Byers
The End of Membership as We Know It by Sarah Sladek
Peter Baker - (Contact Info): Pbaker1953@hotmail.com