March 2001

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Branches Are Our Grassroots


Last month I wrote about the great and varied contributions the 40 or so staff of APEGGA make to our professions. This time, I'd like to praise the women and men who form the grassroots of APEGGA: the executives of our nine branches and the many members who support them.

APEGGA has, as I'm sure you're well aware, more than 34,000 members. That number rolls off the tongue so easily that its significance is sometimes lost. APEGGA represents a huge cross-section of well-educated and dedicated Albertans, whose work is directly linked to the improvement and maintenance of the province's excellent standard of living. More than five per cent of the total provincial labour force, in fact, are member professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists, making APEGGA the biggest association of its kind in Alberta.

Our size gives us numerous advantages. We have significant and ever-improving connections with our government. We have substantial purchasing power for our membership services. The APEGGA membership itself is a huge resource to draw on to continue formulating a Better Alberta. As a non-profit organization, we have far lower membership fees than other professional associations. We have the numbers to do a thorough and complete job of regulating ourselves, a job the public and the government entrust in us and which requires our constant vigilance.

But size, without proper organization, could easily be our Achilles Heel. Great governments, institutions and businesses fail when they lose touch with the people they represent. The branch system is one way we ensure that our organization remains at the forefront of helping our professions, protecting the public and contributing to our communities.

It has been my real pleasure to visit the various APEGGA branches during February and March. APEGGA has branches in Calgary, Fort McMurray, Lakeland, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Central Alberta, Vermilion River and Yellowhead, as well as a district in Edmonton. The branches have their own executives and a specific -- but important -- range of roles, spelled out in their terms of reference.

Why are branches important? It's a simple question with a lot of answers. Firstly, they have the opportunity to tailor their programs -- in professional development, member and public relations, and in-school activities, for example -- to the needs and desires of the people they serve. The needs of our professionals in Fort McMurray are often different than their needs in, say, Medicine Hat, so the branches help keep APEGGA "geographically relevant."

Secondly, the branches provide easy access to APEGGA. The rural branches are small enough that it's relatively easy for members to become involved, but I also appreciate the effort and the distance that members travel to attend and support their local branch. Branches are influential conduits to Council. Branch chairs attend APEGGA Council meetings in an advisory role and are often called upon to add their perspectives to the deliberations.

Thirdly, by the nature of their compact sizes, our branches bridge the generations, disciplines, roles and responsibilities of members. Branches put young members in touch with older members, management in touch with technical and all benefit from these cross-generation, cross-discipline professional relationships.

Fourthly, the communities of Alberta benefit from branch activities. Getting science and technology into Alberta schools, getting members involved in charity events (Calgary's Luge for Liver team comes to mind) and giving APEGGA the face of a kind neighbour -- these are all things the branches do.

And finally, the branches build member interest in APEGGA. If you think you want to do more for your association, one way to start is by playing an active role in your branch.
A big organization is no better than the sum of its parts. Fortunately for us all, APEGGA's parts are successful, innovative and effective. And that adds up to one great organization, which I've had the pleasure to lead for the past year. To the branches and their supporters, I say thank you.

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