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A Response to AOA BOD Candidate Statements

I read the 2018 AOA Board of Director Candidate Statements, and I applaud each of you, as well as past and present AOA Directors, for donating your time and energy to our national organization.  And I appreciate the opportunity to express my interest and thoughts regarding our organization.

The Candidate Statements sparked a few thought-provoking notions for contemplation and musing, and hopefully, they will promote discussion for all. I challenge the AOA members, 2018 AOA Board of Directors Candidates and current Directors to consider these thoughts as we move forward with our elections.  Below are my ponderings in response to the AOA BOD Candidate Statement questions.

1.  “In your opinion, what are the challenges AOA will face over the next three years?”

AOA has several challenges, but I believe the greatest need is in determining AOA’s role in the alpaca industry.

AOA does two things very well.  First, it maintains a registry database and EPD program.  Second, it keeps a show system.  What I mean by this is that AOA has an excellent system in place that initiates, monitors, and maintains these two aspects of our industry.  That does not assume that the particulars of these two categories are without room for improvement and expansion, but rather that the system works for it’s planned intention.  

I would like to see AOA expand and refine these two objectives.  First I recommend AOA institute an Alpaca and Owner Census Data Base that is entirely free and separate from the registration.  Second, I would like to see AOA refine the show system so that it aligns with other livestock models.

But we have many more concerns that need attention within our alpaca industry, many of which are basic needs for any livestock industry.  I have suspicions that AOA cannot be the sole provider of all things to our owners and industry.  AOA is a volunteer Board of Directors and Committee members, and their workload is already operating at full capacity.  The AOA Director position and AOA staff are not positioned to assist the Board of Directors.  Our alpaca industry needs strategic direction for education, research, marketing, data collection, government liaison, branding, business planning, etc.  AOA needs to define, at least globally, it’s role in such endeavors.  AOA cannot be expected to do all things, and do them well, in its current structure.  But AOA can identify and define the organization’s role in these concepts.  As an example, alpaca textiles are in dire need of a Branding & Marketing Campaign.  AOA’s role in such a project might be better suited to hiring and overseeing a firm to advise and implement such a plan. 

There are seven AOA Committees.  Three are show committees (Show Rules Committee, Judges Advisory Committee, and Judge Training and Certification Committee).  I would venture to guess that those three committees are also the most productive.  Only one AOA Committee posts minutes (Fiber and Fiber Products Committee).  Two of the remaining committees (Alternative Products Committee and Government and Industry Relations Committee) infrequently have reports in the AOA BOD minutes.  The seventh committee (Membership Committee) has reported at the AOA BOD Meetings.  This is not meant as a criticism of the AOA Committees, but rather to emphasize the limits we can put on our member volunteers.  Perhaps we need to look at our AOA Committees and prioritize their worth, merits, limitations and impact on our national organization, members, and alpaca industry and decide how these committees could be best served within our AOA Strategic Plan.  

2. “What are your thoughts on the current AOA strategic plan/direction? If you agree, how will you help AOA achieve its goals? If you disagree, what goals would you like to see AOA develop?”

I believe the AOA Strategic Plan (2015-2018) is a “task list” rather than a strategic plan.  A strategic plan has a vision for a broad and global concept that then becomes a focused timeframe. The challenges that I have specified in response to question one defines the framework for a strategic plan.  AOA’s Strategic Plan should be to determine its role in the many conceptual needs of the alpaca industry and some of these roles will need to be supportive rather than as the primary provider.   Potential examples include alpaca research or alpaca product branding and marketing, where AOA might play a financial or communicative role.   

Of the six (6) Target Goals in the AOA Strategic Plan (2015-2018), Target Goal Four is the best attempt at being a concept rather than a task list.  Target Goal Four states “Increase demand for alpaca fleece and fleece products throughout North America.”

I believe AOA needs to play either a primary or supportive role in branding alpaca textiles and aligning with other natural fibers and opposing synthetic fibers.  And I think this Target Goal is not only vital to our survival and growth within our industry, but it is our top priority in moving forward our US Alpaca Textile and Livestock Industry.

As to the other five Target Goals, I believe these are tasks and that they need to be either included in a conceptual framework or eliminated from the Strategic Plan as major goals.  Target Goal 2 (Increase Participation at AOA certified shows), Target Goal 3 (Increase the registration of all eligible alpacas), and Target Goal 5 (Increase AOA paid memberships) are goals that are better suited for committee work.  Target Goal 1 (Work to enhance the alpaca industry image across North America with the specific goal of attracting more people to the industry) is an admirable goal.  However there are too many other goals that need to be implemented prior to a campaign to increase farmers and ranchers involvement in the industry.  The same can be said of Target Goal 6 (Identify the options for alternative products for the benefit of AOA members who wish to consider non-traditional revenue sources from their alpacas) in that other topics need to be addressed prior to implementing it as a major goal for AOA.

If you look at AOA’s Financial Statements, AOA’s budget is comprised of two major categories—registration for income and the national show and salaries for expenses.  AOA has already defined its primary involvement in our alpaca industry.   We need to determine our realistic expectations of AOA for the future.

Please VOTE!