What has prompted this? Three people have resigned. In a 750 member organization, that isn't very many at all.
Some have pointed to ADF's retention rate of first year members. It sits at about 50%. It has been at that rate for about 20 years, as far as I know. What's really interesting is that we still make up that 50% every year in new members, and we still grow.
Three people have left the organization, though, in the past month. Usually, no one would care. No one would look twice. But these are big people, right? They're people who we respect and find interesting. They're people who have traded joking emails with us, people who have approved our Dedicant Programs, and people who have reminded us of ADF's vision when we temporarily forgot about it. These people have held leadership positions almost since joining. Let us not forget: these people also posted to public forums nice vocal reasons, and that is really why we notice.
Has a leadership vacuum been created? No. ADF has more leaders than followers; it always has. ADF will fill those positions with people just as competent as those who have left. To say that ADF lacks people of such competence is to insult the membership of ADF, which I believe is full of huge potential and many untapped skills.
Can we still get publications out on time? Yes. In fact, this year's second issue of Oak Leaves is nearly done. With 30 submissions in the last week, it seems like we're ready and able to go to press with not one but even as many as three issues and put ourselves back on track. The Grove Organizer's Handbook is nearly done after a long delay, as well.
Do these resignations point to real problems in the leadership of ADF? I'm not sure, but I'm inclined to say "no". What they reflect is an inability of ADF's leaders to always solve everyone's problems, something we've always been up front about. Another thing they reflect is a serious issue with interpersonal relationships that has sprung up very recently. Not everyone will get along with everyone in a given organization, and occasionally the relationships blow up. In this case, we've had several do this. What it comes down to here is not whether ADF has met a person's spiritual needs, but rather whether a person has been able to fulfill their spiritual needs when their personal relationships started getting in their way.
How do we respond?
Now that's a tough one. I, however, am eternally optimistic, and I see an opportunity in everything. ADF had sometimes been called an "old boys' club," where new members might not be able to get their point across, or where new members have felt that their influence was negligible because there were big names that everyone listened to far more than they. Perhaps the organization is stuck in a rut caused by our reliance on these people. We should see this as an opportunity for new members to step in, to take responsibility and to mold the vision of ADF to their own and take it in a new, yet similar direction. Several key positions in ADF have been vacated after being held for a very long time by the members who have recently resigned, and so perhaps this is a sign that we should move in a new direction.
Change is not always bad, and if you deal with it correctly, it can certainly be a very good thing.