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Strategic Vision – Board Approved July 3, 2017

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STRATEGIC
VISION
BOARD APPROVED
July 3, 2017

 

 

 

HOW WE GOT HERE, WHERE WE ARE, AND WHERE WE’RE HEADED

 

Back in 1938, the founders of our Society stumbled onto something quite profound: The joy and transformation that comes with four voices singing together.

(In fact, this powerful kind of music had first presented itself many decades earlier when the first traces of barbershop singing took root in African-American communities and barbershops.)

O.C. Cash and Rupert Hall grew up with those early sounds, and they found in them something profound: This mysterious alchemy of singing together changed men for the better. Maybe it was because they were cooperating and blending with each other. Maybe it flowed from the tender emotions of the songs themselves. Perhaps it was the transcendental overtones of their well-tuned chords. Or maybe it simply came from being part of a community of support, camaraderie and fellowship with other congenial men of good character.

Cash and Hall saw the power of this thing called barbershop and wanted to preserve and propagate its growth. They brought 26 men together on a rooftop, and thus was borne S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.

They were onto something. So potent was four-part harmony as a force in men’s lives that explosive growth followed. Finding themselves suddenly at the head of a nascent movement, our founders and early leaders took wise steps. They established a set of guiding purposes that have largely endured. They made some key decisions, appropriate for the times, about structures, processes and systems: Membership would be the point of entry into the world of barbershop. Gang singing, and eventually chorus singing would be at least as important as quartet singing, to make it accessible to the greatest possible number of people. Chapters would become the focal point for organizing and training singers. A district structure would emerge as the means to deliver support and service for chapters. Singing contests would take form as the way to celebrate and promote the very best of barbershop singing.

Other decisions would be made as well. We would be a male singing organization, even while being friendly and supportive to the emergence of women’s barbershop organizations. We would be a white organization, a decision that would be formally reversed some time later but would live on culturally for decades to come. We would focus primarily on North America. We would be governed by working boards drawn from men who came up through the ranks of chapter and district leadership.

These were decisions that befitted the times, but they don’t necessarily serve us today.

An intoxicating period of growth continued for several decades until … it didn’t. A great deal has been analyzed, theorized and written about the why of it. Suffice it to say that, starting in the late 1900s and into the early 2000s, a great disconnect took place between the original organizing assumptions of our Society and the direction that “society” as a whole was turning. We built manual infrastructure that needed to be supported. Membership stalled, so finances stalled, so programs stalled, and so on. Most importantly, we became sheepish about our old-fashioned art form in a modern day, and lost our confidence and inspiration.

In choosing a new CEO in 2012 from outside of traditional ranks, the Board made a bold statement. Even if it didn’t know quite how we needed to change, it knew we needed to change.

We have spent much of the last several years fixing what could be easily fixed: We’ve regained energy and enthusiasm, built basic systems and processes, and re-established our financial health. We’ve built strong programs for youth outreach, education and music publishing, learned how to harvest the generosity of our members, and positioned ourselves nicely within the choral field. Most important of all, we’ve regained our pride and confidence. Having picked that low-hanging fruit, we have now turned our attention to our long-term strategic vision and plan. We’ve done intense research to understand both our members and the world around us. A few key realizations now drive us forward:

  • Our members fully embrace and understand the mysterious alchemy of singing together, and want to share it.
  • They enjoy how they currently barbershop, but have an appetite for change as well.
  • Their full generosity of time, treasure and talent is still largely untapped.
  • The methods and structures for organizing that brought success for our founders aren’t the methods that will work best in the future.
  • We’re a bigger deal in the world of choral singing than we realize. The choral world looks to us as the one organization that is actually poised and capable not just of keeping people singing, but of getting the whole world singing.

Along the way, something else has dawned on us. This gift of harmony that our founders stumbled into, this gift that we have been entrusted with preserving and encouraging, this gift of the alchemy and joy of singing together, is too wonderful for us to keep to ourselves. It is a gift that we are not only compelled to share, but one that we now have the capability, resources and unity of purpose to share with everyone.

We need to share it with young and old, with people of every color and every strata, with city people and country people and everyone in between, because the world needs what we have. We live in times of strife and anger and conflict and exclusion. Barbershop is the antidote to all of that, and can do even more. Imagine its power as a balm for wounded warriors, as an intervention for at-risk youth, as an end-of-life transition, as a strategy for reducing recidivism.

Harmony compels us to blend, to cooperate, to create beauty. Indeed, to love each other. That’s the key, and though they might not have been able to articulate it, that kind of impact is what our founders were onto. It’s time to think of the gift of harmony not just as a treasure for our own enjoyment, but as a tool for direct social impact. And that is the focus of our strategic plan:

Everyone in harmony.

We will use what we’ve learned about getting men singing together, to get everyone singing together, across all cultures and generations. For our own enjoyment, yes, but more importantly, to change the world.

 

PURPOSES

While the formal purposes of the Barbershop Harmony Society remain very relevant today, we now see that we can serve these purposes in ways our founders could never have imagined:

  • To perpetuate the old American institution, the Barbershop quartet, and to promote and encourage vocal harmony and good fellowship among its members throughout the world by the formation of local chapters and districts composed of members interested in [our purposes];
  • To hold annual, local, district, state, national and international contests in quartet and chorus singing;
  • To encourage and promote the education of its members and the public in music appreciation;
  • To promote public appreciation of Barbershop quartet and chorus singing by publication and dissemination thereof;
  • To initiate, promote and participate in charitable projects;
  • To establish and maintain music scholarships and charitable foundations;
  • To initiate and maintain a broad program of musical education, particularly in the field of vocal harmony and the allied arts.

But how do we live into these purposes today? Let us begin by outlining four foundational concepts.

 

1. PRESERVATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT THROUGH PARTICIPATION AND ENGAGEMENT
WHAT WE’RE THINKING:

Once upon a time, the best way we knew to preserve and encourage barbershop singing was to sign men up to become members of the Society.

This model made perfect sense in a day and age when people displayed their affinity — whether for social, professional, religious, fraternal, political or hobbyist interests — by joining organizations. When our membership numbers went up, we called it success. When they went down, we were disheartened.

We no longer live in a world of joiners. Today, individuals are technologically enabled to sample, experience and take part in movements, activities or communities in ways our founders never dreamed of. With that ability comes the power and choice for individuals to partake of the things that interest them on their terms, rather than ours.

So our vision is fixed on the myriad ways that myriad people can participate and engage with barbershop singing, no matter what forms that may take.

HOW WE’LL PUT THIS INTO ACTION:

We’ll welcome all People Interested in Barbershop (given our love of acronyms, we’ll call them “PIBs” for now), not just those with the time, money and inclination to become “members.” Whether you are a YouTube enthusiast, a middle-school educator, a tagmeister, Joe Barbershopper, a gold medalist, or anyone in between, you will have a place in our big tent of participation and engagement.

  • You’ll have access to a set of offerings that let you customize your barbershop experience to fit your interests, needs and capacity at any given moment in your life, no matter what kind of PIB you are. Think apps, think tag zones, think online communities, and more, in addition to stronger local structures than ever.
  • We will earn our keep. We’ll answer the age-old question of “what do I get for my time and money?” by offering you a clear exchange of value in every interaction. In turn, we’ll offer more capability than ever for you to support barbershopping as a fan and volunteer.
  • You’ll pay for the level of participation and engagement that suits you. We’ll offer a variety of packages, subscriptions and plans that suit you and your barbershop interests.
  • All of this participation and engagement will be made possible by a fierce focus on the power of technology and digital marketing as a means of promoting barbershop and enabling customized barbershop experiences.

 

2. BUILDING COMMUNITIES OF ARTISTS
WHAT WE’RE THINKING:

Barbershopping is not a hobby or art form that is usually enjoyed in solitude. By definition, it is carried out when one artist joins together with anywhere from three to hundreds of others. While quartets and gang singing predominated in our early days, for most of our history, we have viewed BHS chapters as the predominant way to bring barbershoppers together.

Consistent with the times, we created a strict set of one-size-fits-all rules for how these chapters should be designed, and then organized the chapters themselves into hierarchical district structures. Over time, both the services we provided them, and their appreciation of those services, deteriorated. With travel, technology and communications shrinking the world, the geographically-driven chapter and district structure of old may no longer serve us.

We are animated by a vision of innumerable vibrant networks of barbershoppers, everywhere, all the time, in as many configurations as the imagination can allow, using our resources to help them create compelling barbershop experiences and communities.

HOW WE’LL PUT THIS INTO ACTION:
  • We’ll build a revitalized suite of products and services that catalyze the health and vitality of quartets, choruses and chapters through artistic support, basic infrastructure, administrative tools and business services, technology, education and leadership development — all with an eye towards helping your chapter grow and thrive.
  • We’ll promote new models for organizing communities of PIBs. The one-size-fits-all chapter structure will yield to experimental new models such as freestanding barbershop and tag clubs; local communities operating under a franchise or licensee model; regionally-clustered communities; multi-ensemble chapters/communities; intentionally-seeded/sponsored new communities of artists in high density areas; and more.
  • We will balance our efforts to build strong chapters with big investments in revitalizing quartet singing, the often-neglected building block of barbershop singing.
  • Just as we’ll provide clear value to you as an individual, we’ll provide a clear value proposition to your local barbershop community as well.
  • We’ll unearth the hidden potential of our Districts, to better capitalize on the hugely valuable arsenal of skill and commitment represented by volunteer district leaders.

 

3. DRIVING IMPACT THROUGH PROGRAMS
WHAT WE’RE THINKING:

We currently operate scores of initiatives, both “legacy” programs from years past, and new ones recently launched. While we have displayed great energy and creativity for starting these endeavors, we have lacked discipline for evaluating and refining them.

We have come to believe that there six key criteria by which any program should be justified:

  • Does it produce a pipeline of engagement and participation in lifelong singing?
  • Does it increase our delivery of more music to singers and audiences?
  • Does it improve artistic and leadership skills of barbershop singers and leaders?
  • Does it celebrate and raise the profile of barbershop singing?
  • Does it create positive external social impact through the power of singing?
  • Does it produce substantial net revenue to fund our mission?

As stewards of trust and resources, we are driven to refine the current array of BHS program activities to a more focused and disciplined set of programs that answer our calling to use singing to create a profoundly better world.

HOW WE’LL PUT THIS INTO ACTION:
  1. We will be rigorous and intellectually ruthless about culling our current array of programs in order to more profoundly meet these six key criteria. We will double down on programs that perform strongly, and sharpen how we deliver them so that they perform even more strongly. Other programs have outlived their useful life. We’ll let go of them in order to free resources and capacity for the more effective ones.
  2. Still other programs that could outperform the current array have not yet even been developed or conceptualized. We will develop a program development and innovation model that will produce new “killer” programs that are capable of making quantum gains towards the delivery of the program criteria.
  3. We will learn how to better evaluate program impact and outcomes and make investment decisions based on data.
  4. We will put particular priority on new programs that:
    1. Create positive external social impact through the power of singing. For example, outreach programs in new settings that can benefit from barbershop harmony, such as prisons, military families, at-risk youth, underserved communities, hospitals, workplaces; efforts that capitalize on the power of barbershopping for character and emotional IQ, character-building; and
    2. Produce substantial net revenue to fund our mission.

 

4. SUPPORTING A WHOLE WORLD OF SINGING
WHAT WE’RE THINKING:

Somewhere along the way, we became very good at adjudicating contests, providing services for communities of singers, producing high-level events and education programs, operating effective outreach activities, developing individual philanthropy, and managing a high-functioning membership and chapter infrastructure.

In fact, we have learned from other organizations within the barbershop world and the choral ecosystem, that our skills, resources and capacities are envied and sought after.

Having built our capabilities, we now want to share them with others whose purposes are similar to ours. We see an opportunity to leverage our skills and infrastructure to serve a bigger universe of singers and singing organizations on a scale larger than perhaps we have ever imagined. We believe we can:

  • Grow the impact of barbershop singing, in all of its forms, on singers, audiences, communities, and the world;
  • Preserve the unique opportunity for men to sing together;
  • Advance our own purposes and impact by creating a sustainable, scalable financial model.
HOW WE’LL PUT THIS INTO ACTION:

We will expand our sights to become an organization that supports all forms of barbershop singing. We will support at least three entities, including our current men’s barbershop organization, a women’s barbershop organization, and a mixed barbershop organization.

We will provide infrastructure and essential services to these three entities, and potentially many other choral organizations. This will improve the impact and effectiveness of the entities and generate earned income in support of our own original purposes (which, by the way, are not gender-based).

This new structure will be formed around the principles of local control and self-destination. We fervently believe that any man or woman should be able to choose the way they want to sing barbershop, whether that is with all men, all women, or in a mixed group. With our expanded structure, all forms of barbershop singing will thrive, and harmony will explode.

In time, it is entirely possible that we may even be able to expand our service offerings to other choral organizations beyond the barbershop and a cappella world, creating further earned income streams and elevating all choral music.

With this strategy, we’ll be taking a huge step forward in adding more barbershop to a world that sorely needs it, without subtracting a thing from the experience already enjoyed by so many.

 

MAKING POSSIBILITIES POSSIBLE

Our founders, and eight decades’ worth of committed leaders, figured out how to preserve and encourage barbershop singing, and advance our purposes, as they understood them. We stand up on their shoulders as we now embark on an expansive vision to place the Society at the service of a better society. To do this, we must take even bigger steps to make it all possible.

So far, we have discussed four key strategies that will enable our vision:

  • Preservation And Encouragement Through Participation And Engagement
  • Building Communities Of Artists
  • Driving Impact Through Programs
  • Supporting A Whole World Of Singing

These are high-level concepts that the world at large will see and experience. But frankly, they will be impotent without a more important shift. Back in the age of big decisions, we made critical determinations not just about what the Society would become, but also about who barbershop wouldn’t be for.

Today, the barbershop art form has proven its appeal and is flourishing in various phases of adoption across 30 cultures worldwide. Yet right here in North America, while the decision about race was formally reversed in 1963, the cultural implication as an overwhelmingly white male organization has lived on until today. If today we proclaim that our vision is one of EVERYONE In Harmony, one more big step must occur, and it needs to be a step of action, not words.

First and foremost, we must unequivocally turn away from any cultural vestiges of exclusion. We must become radically inclusive and diverse, across cultural, ethnic, racial, gender, sexual orientation, social, economic and generational lines. We hereby declare our commitment to this transformation.

With this commitment, we can proceed with confidence on the four key strategies. And then, we simply have to back them up with a high performing organization and structure capable of delivering on their potential. Behind the scenes, we have been developing seven more strategies that form the practical backbone of our strategic vision:

5. With our Building Revenue, Brand and Unity strategy, we will create and fund an integrated marketing approach that is keenly focused on driving revenue opportunities at all points of participation and engagement, while building a consistent, presumptive, unified global barbershop brand.

6. With our Modernizing Our Governance strategy, we will redesign our governing structures, from top to bottom, to unleash the impact of legions of engaged volunteers.

7. With our Measuring Impacts and Outcomes strategy, we will develop an evaluation and assessment capacity and orientation that will allow us to measure the true impacts and outcomes of what we do.

8. With our Capitalizing on Culture strategy, we will build a culture that is committed to impact, capable of operational excellence and empowered to innovate.

9. With our Taking a Global View strategy, we will begin to explore a careful, diplomatic transition of our global role from a relatively passive and supportive role to a more intentional catalyst for the global barbershop movement.

10. We’re working on a Technology Platform that can support new ways of interacting with people and communities interested in barbershop.

11: And finally, a Financial Model that can support significant investments in the vision and big changes in how we exchange and monetize value.

 

 

Jump to a question:

 

When does this all become a reality?

It’s exciting that everyone is discussing the Strategic Vision, and eager to get moving!

AND… this is the work of several years of research, discussion, listening, and sketching. The announcement of a Vision is NOT an implementation plan. Some parts will take months… some years… and some parts decades.

Shortly after returning from the launch of the Strategic Vision in Las Vegas, we activated two implementation teams to start building out the first steps. One team is working on developing new options for participating and engaging with barbershop beyond the standard “membership” model, as well as new ways to build communities of singers beyond the one-size-fits-all chapter experience. The other team is figuring out the new structures for the Society itself that will make it possible for us to support other barbershop organizations.

Harmony Hall produces an annual business plan and budget each year, and then works with the Society Board for approval at the November meeting. Once that’s done, you can expect to see announcements regarding the work of these implementation teams early in 2018.

In the meantime, unsatisfying though it may be be, the answer to many questions will be, “Not quite yet.”

BUT KEEP ASKING!

 

How was the Strategic Vision developed?

The Strategic Planning process has been underway for 18 months, and has included feedback from more than 6,000 members and associates. Along the way, we’ve researched the external choral world, researched trends in member associations, and consulted with our partner organizations. Our Society Board made deep time investments, holding four separate retreats to develop the broadest, highest vision of our future. Guided by this, nine staff teams undertook extensive internal analysis of the business models, technology model, and financial model to bring this to reality.

The result is this Strategic Vision — a powerful collective statement that Everyone in Harmony is achievable via four major strategies.

 

What comes next?

The Strategic Vision is not a step-by-step list of tasks, nor an implementation plan. Developing the next steps — prioritizing, budgeting, integrating into existing processes and developing new ones — is the work of the next year. The listening, researching, and testing will continue, as we draw on the willpower and brainpower of thousands of devoted Barbershoppers.

Bringing new opportunities, new products, and new customers to the barbershop experience will only be accomplished with powerful communications, and we are devoted to listening and sharing in equal measure. You can expect a variety of “Road Show” meetings throughout the Fall convention season, plus direct communications in The Harmonizer and on the web, and milestone statements at our upcoming Midwinter and International conventions.

Be involved. Attend your House of Delegates. Read the full Board-Approved Strategic Vision document. Talk with your chapter. Talk with your district officers. Email ideas to strategy@barbershop.org. Your feedback is a key element in this process.

Even as these plans are being developed, your chapter can be positioning itself for continuing growth. Self-assessment — who you are and what you aspire be — will help you take advantage of new opportunities ahead. The Healthy Chapter Initiative draws together training resources, certified facilitators and other tools to support you. Consider what it means to be inclusive — purposefully, intentionally, radically inclusive — and how your chapter environment is welcoming.

 

How will this affect my Barbershop experience? Do I get to keep doing what I love?

First and most important: your barbershop experience will always be yours to choose. Your chapter life is what you choose it to be. Your participation — as a chorus singer, quartetter, leader, musician, fan — is what you choose to make of it.

The last decade has seen the emergence of new ways to participate beyond “membership,” from Harmony Platoons to online communities of multi-trackers, and that barely scratches the surface of possibilities. The aim always is to expand opportunities, expand relationships, expand ways to have fun singing together that may or may not involve a membership card. You will always choose your best experience, and want to go back for more.

Along the way, as we expand our impact, we expect to gain financial resources to provide you and your community of artists with more resources than ever.

 

What’s going to be different and what will stay the same?

Our Mission and our guiding purposes endure — in fact, this Strategic Vision is about aggressively seeking to fulfill them all more than ever. The Society continues to sing, compete, meet, publish, teach, learn, serve, and support harmony in our communities.

Over time, as we offer new ways to participate and new modes of belonging for more people, you might add options that most closely align with your interests and wishes. For some people, that may mean no changes at all.

As the Vision is fulfilled, we will actively seek out more ways to serve more people. That will mean intentionally trying to reach audiences we haven’t reached before, and becoming the most welcoming singing Society possible.

 

What will be the role of women in the Barbershop Harmony Society?

For decades, women have been deeply engaged in the Barbershop Harmony Society as directors, coaches, and as students and faculty at Harmony University. Women have directed choruses onstage in contests since 1994. In 2009, the Society began offering Associate status as a means for women to become more deeply a part of the Society, while maintaining a male-only membership model. With our Strategic Vision focused on Everyone in Harmony, we can support many kinds of barbershop activities — men’s, women’s, mixed — in many different ways.

 

Can chapters start accepting women on the risers?

Chapters and choruses may make their own decisions regarding membership. The principle of local control is central to our Strategic Vision of Everyone In Harmony. Every barbershop unit — chapter, quartet, and any other communities of artists we support — must be free to pursue its own self-defined mission and place in its community. Each chapter has the option to define its membership and support men’s, women’s, or mixed ensembles — or operate as a combination of these. We anticipate the Society will create standard Chapter By-Laws that a chapter can adopt based upon its self-defined mission.

 

Aren’t we already supporting women’s and mixed organizations?

Yes, we are! The Mixed Barbershop Harmony Quartet Association has been a recognized affiliate since 2016, and we have showcased it at several recent conventions. We’ve been working in mutually supportive roles with Harmony, Inc. and Sweet Adelines International in lots of different ways for a long time. For example, we share marketing resources at events with Sweet Adelines; Harmony, Inc. uses the BHS contest judging system and has a program for making Harmony University accessible to its directors, and so forth. With our Strategic Vision, we are saying that rather than being informally committed to this kind of cooperation and support, we’re making it an intentional, focused part of our work.

 

Will the Society be producing more music for men, women, and mixed groups?

Our publishing process in recent years has been to obtain clearance and finished arrangements in all three voicings, for maximum accessibility and market choice. High school music programs are eating it up as a path into barbershop for men and women alike. More young people singing barbershop means a stronger future!

 

How will this affect my dues?

Society dues have remained steady for the past four years, even as programs have grown. Part of this has been due to increased interest by non-members in our services; a broader customer base helps diversify our revenue sources.

One particular aim in the Strategic Vision is to change the relationship between traditional dues and overall value. Over time, expect a range of flexible business models and pricing options that fit personal barbershop needs as we move away from a model of “one size fits all.”

 

How will we pay for this?

Attracting a larger universe of people to barbershopping will produce a stronger financial engine for all our programs. New participation models at different price points can attract different kinds of customers. Of course, more Barbershoppers mean more sheet music sold and more people attending more events, directly boosting the financial results for existing activities.

As we expand and the brighter we shine, the more attractive we become to future customer-members. The larger our impact in the world, the more fellow travellers will wish to support our philanthropic and outreach efforts or include us as partners in their own projects.

 

How will we evaluate and prioritize existing programs?

We will systematically analyze all Society programs rigorously and regularly. We will retire programs that deliver little benefit in order to strengthen new or existing programs that can deliver maximum benefit. Programs will be evaluated according to at least six criteria, and likely a few more. Does the program:

  • produce a pipeline to engagement and participation in lifelong singing?
  • increase our delivery of more music to singers and audiences?
  • improve artistic and leadership skills of barbershop singers and leaders?
  • celebrate and raise the profile of barbershop singing?
  • create positive external social impact through the power of singing?
  • produce substantial net revenue to fund our mission?

 

Does this affect the Barbershop sound and style?

The Strategic Vision does not address this issue. Barbershop, like most musical art forms, has evolved over the years. Questions of style have historically been driven by the musical choices of ensembles, the types of performances rewarded by audiences, and the ways in which the style is encoded and reinforced in our Contest & Judging system.

 

How will this affect the convention experience?

Conventions have been evolving for a long time, especially in recent years. Most changes have given competitors and non-competitors alike more ways to participate. Relatively recent innovations include a larger chorus field, Youth and Senior choruses, higher community engagement, a greatly expanded Harmony University presence, All-Chapter Choruses, Harmony Brigades and Platoons, and many schedule and format changes. As the ways that people interact evolve, we can expect to further evolve the convention experience. Innovations will likely come from leaders and members at all levels of the BHS structure.

 

How will this affect future contests?

No significant near-term changes to our contests are anticipated. The traditions we enjoy today — all-male quartets and choruses competing against each other — will always be a core activity. Looking toward the medium- and long-term, contest decisions will be driven by the Contest & Judging community and leaders at all levels. As always, ideas and innovations are likely to come from many sources and over an extended period. We need and seek your input.

 

How will this affect district structure and operations?

This discussion has only just begun. For today’s associations and membership organizations, the role of regional leadership is changing because of the role technology now plays in shrinking the globe and in strengthening the grassroots. As we expand the options for participating in barbershop, we want to be organized in ways that better serve not only our current chapters and quartets, but also our other barbershop singing communities — current and future. Both district and chapter leaders will play key roles in determining future organizational structures. Our charge is to determine how to better capitalize on the potential of our districts and better utilize the talents and commitment of our member volunteers.

 

When there are differing opinions, how can we engage more members of a chapter in this Vision?

The most important thing to realize about the Vision is that it is aimed to add to, not subtract from, anyone’s current experience. And it’s built on the principle of local self-destiny. What your chapter wants to be or become is up to your chapter.

We think the Strategic Vision is a powerful way to preserve and encourage our beloved art form long into the future. Moving towards it is not intended to be an overnight transformation of every single unit. In five years, some groups will be exactly as they are today, and thriving. Some will change and thrive. Some will stay the same and wither, and some will change and wither. It all depends on listening, being honest in your intentions, and smart in your choices.

Keep the conversation going, cheerfully, positively, focusing on what you’re doing well and continue to do well.

 

Although the Society is addressing its history regarding race in constructive ways, what can we do to reach out to communities outside our traditional demographics?

We wish we could provide more specific guidance at this time. Fact is, we have a lot of learning to do at EVERY level, starting with our Board and staff and all the way through our district and chapter structures. We’re building plans for how to do the necessary reflection and education and will keep you posted as they develop.

We’re also excited about the work of the Alexandria Harmonizers around their year-long diversity project, which has included concerts, lectures and joint meetings with gospel choirs, churches, and community groups. See the story about the Ambassadors of Harmony IN UNISON in Ferguson, Missouri. Change is gonna come… one singer at a time.

 

Does “welcome all people who are interested in barbershopping” mean that anyone can just walk into a chapter and continue participating without paying dues? What does it mean to “welcome”?

“Welcome” means just that — welcome people into the barbershop world and help them find ways to participate that are meaningful to them. The main idea in the new Vision is that the old model of a one-size-fits-all membership will not be our structure. We’ll be offering many new options that allow the individual to choose how best to participate.

In the meantime, while traditional “membership” is still the primary mode of participation, consider:

  • Men unable to commit to regular weekly chapter membership are welcome to become Society members, enjoying member pricing on merchandise, events, etc.
  • Women are welcome to become members and Associates with similar benefits.
  • Every person who expresses interest in barbershop should be directed to other barbershop units nearby, to find the best fit.

 

What can my chapter/group start doing now?

First and most importantly, talk about what is happening. Understand your own chapter experience. What makes it strong? What limits your effectiveness and reach? What of the many possibilities suggested in the Strategic Vision resonate most strongly with you?

Success in the future is grounded in success today. Continue growing and improving all aspects of your chapter life, so as you expand your range, you offer a better experience.

Second, take a role in the phases to come. Attend listening sessions at your district convention. Speak your mind, and encourage all people to find their voice in the expanded vision. Participate in online discussions around gender, race, inclusion, style. We want to hear from you!

 

 

 

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