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2020 Vision

From OUTSPORT TORONTO’s Chair, Shawn Sheridan

My dear friends and colleagues:

I hope you all made it through the coldest February in quite some time, and are looking forward to 2015.  We at OUTSPORT TORONTO have been extremely busy, taking the results of our fifth annual conference late last November, results of conversations we have had and continue to have with our members and our constituents, and our own senses of where our LGBT sport and recreation community is now and where it’s going, and mapping that into a strategic plan for OUTSPORT TORONTO.  That plan should serve as a guide to current and future boards to ensure OUTSPORT TORONTO as best as possible serves its members and its communities, building up our collective strength, sustainability, capability, and capacity.

In mid-January, OUTSPORT TORONTO’s board held a strategic planning workshop, out of which came some concrete goals for the organisation over the next three to five years.  Individual directors took responsibility to flesh out those goals into more detailed plans of action, which we anticipate reviewing and ratifying over the next couple of months.  At that point, we should be able to combine those into a single document that I hope to be able to share with our members and other stakeholders.  Stay tuned for that!

One key element that came out of that planning workshop was the need to increase the size of OUTSPORT TORONTO’s board.  As a volunteer organisation, OUTSPORT TORONTO’s board of directors has two distinct roles. 

  1. Governance:  The board is responsible for governance, which the board does through setting policy, approving financial plans, and monitoring the activities of the organisation to ensure plans and policies are followed, and the organisation’s activities are aligned to its mission, vision, values, and goals.
  2. Execution:  Directors are also the senior leaders / management team accountable for implementation of the organisation’s plans, and so have responsibilities to manage ongoing activities of the organisation, execute projects, and manage a team of volunteers in so doing.

While the current nine-director structure may have the appearance of a size-advantage (smaller, more nimble, etc.) that is desirable for governance, our experience over the past couple of years has shown that in execution mode, the small size means larger sets of accountabilities for various portfolios, with the actual result of making it more difficult to achieve the organisation’s plans, not easier.  The proposed increase in the number of directors is a considered response to the realisation that certain portfolios are too large for a volunteer (which directors are), with too great a demand on those who may be accountable for them, and with too intimidating a set of accountabilities for those who may be considering directorship.  At the January 2015 strategic working session, there was a general consensus that various director roles should be divided into multiple roles and some areas of accountability should be added, with a director leading that area.  That proposed structure can be found here, and I strongly encourage anyone who has an interest in any of the listed portfolios to contact any of the directors.  Nominations will be opening soon!

Finally, on a separate note, I’m long overdue in acknowledging some changes on our board.  At the end of September 2014, we had to sadly accept the resignation of Darlene Homonko as Vice Chair, for personal reasons.  In addition to her role as my backup, Darlene was a significant presence for OUTSPORT TORONTO and all our member organisations with PrideHouseTO, then acting as one of the co-chairs of the leadership team, from which she also resigned.  I’m grateful for Darlene’s contribution, and certainly felt the void upon her departure.  Sadly too, Beth Beattie stepped down in January 2015 as secretary of the organisation after two years of fantastic work with us.  Beth has been a driving force behind our “We Love Sporty Women” campaign at Pride, was one of the PrideHouseTO community hub / pavilion sub-project co-chairs, and a sage counsel to us all on the board.  Thanks go to both Beth and Darlene for their work with OUTSPORT TORONTO and our community.

With the departure of two women from our board, I’d like to personally invite and encourage women to consider joining as directors.  Indeed, one of OUTSPORT TORONTO’s values is inclusivity, and so I personally want strong diversity on our board across many dimensions, not just gender identity.  Those diverse viewpoints enrich all of our experience, and provide for a much more informed view when the board exercises its governance function in setting policy, monitoring activities, and ensuring OUTSPORT TORONTO does indeed serve its constituents well.

Respectfully yours,

Shawn Sheridan