It has been about one month since the end of our Landa Kongreso, and the addition of several new members to our Board. Between the end of our Landa Kongreso, the Universala Kongreso in Turin, and an unexpected financial windfall, it’s been an action-packed and exciting month!
This is my first report as President of the Board - I will try to summarize the Board’s activity over the past month, to keep everybody as informed as possible.
An informal meeting of the board members who were in Raleigh gave a great start to the new year. We took this opportunity to get to know each other and share our priorities for the year to come. I shared a copy of Robert’s Rules in Brief with each board member who was there to make sure we are on the same page about meeting procedure, and what to expect from different roles. (This short booklet is packed full of useful and easy-to-read suggestions!)
We also named the Nominations Committee for the coming year, composed of Amanda Schmidt (chair), Vince Allison, Mara Rockliff, Rachel Helps, and Carter Williams. I’m very excited about this mix of people: they have different levels of experience in the movement, some have been on this committee in the past while others have not, they are diverse with regard to gender and age, and all of them bring important qualities which will contribute towards a very strong Nominations Committee this year. This is particularly important this year as Bill Harris, our General Director, has let us know that after many years of service, he would like to be able to retire soon and to make sure we have time to find a good replacement. This year’s committee already has a good plan to assist with searching for interested candidates for a new director, and to ultimately make a recommendation to the board.
There were a lot of young people present in Raleigh. We encouraged them to meet together and discuss what they could do with the help of Esperanto-USA. They’ve already put together a Discord for younger American Esperantists. Some of them even went to the Internacia Junulara Kongreso in Italy!
First Board Meeting
We held our first official board meeting approximately one week after the end of the Landa Kongreso in Raleigh. As there were a lot of upcoming things related to the Universala Kongreso (which just took place in Turin, Italy), it was a packed meeting. We decided on many things which I’ll report in more detail about below.
We had a good number of Americans in attendance at the Universala Kongreso which just finished in Turin (about twenty), including two board members. We wanted to make sure that our participation there was noticeable and impressive to the international movement. We also wanted to share exciting updates for those who were not able to attend.
We arranged a booth at the Movada Foiro, and then made sure it was well staffed and stocked. Carter Williams and Rafa Nogueras took charge of it, and we had a variety of materials showing the output of American Esperantists: books donated by Myrtis Smith and Aaron Fingtam (as well as some sent by the Central Office), stickers for Usone Persone, fliers for the Usona Bona Film-Festivalo, and a poster designed by Carrie Jones with QR codes for all of these, as well as the YouTube and Twitch pages for Alex Miller, Catie Neilson, and Alena Adler. Thanks to Carter, Rafa, Myrtis, Aaron, and Carrie!
We also created a telegram group for Americans who were going to the Universala Kongreso to make sure they were able to be in touch with each other and coordinate while there, which got a lot of use. We’ve encouraged them to collaborate on writing up a report for the Bulletin.
The Board also wanted to have some more American Esperantists present at the UEA committee meetings, to make sure that the board and the organization have more exposure to these. Quintyn Bobb, one of the new Board members elected in Raleigh, sat in on some of these meetings.
Two literary festivals announced their results in Turin, and American Esperantists were well represented. Rafa Nogueras won first place in both the Interkultura Novelo-Konkurso as well as the prose category of the Belartaj Konkursoj. The Belartaj Konkursoj awarded four prizes in total to three American participants, which appears to be a record for us! (The other winners were Debra Hamel, 2nd place in Mikronovelo, and myself, honorable mention in Eseo; Rafa also picked up an honorable mention in Prozo.) We made sure that we had announcements to celebrate this, in our bulletin, Facebook feed, and Instagram (about which more below).
August 19 is Paralela Universo, a day when Esperanto groups around the world are encouraged to plan in-person events. The Board decided that this year we would give additional encouragement to local groups in the US to plan an event, by offering to reimburse them for up to $50 for their event.
At the time of writing (August 11), ten events have been announced in the US. For comparison, only four other events have been announced so far in the rest of the world. Hopefully we’ll see even more in the next few days!
At our meeting in July, the Board decided to form three new committees this year: Projects, Communication, and Diversity.
The Board agreed that in order to start these committees off strong, that I should pick chairs for each of these committees and then work with those chairs to pick the rest of the committee members. I’m happy to announce that Projects (chaired by Logan Hall) and Communications (chaired by Quintyn) have already been approved by the board. We’ll be working on forming the Diversity Committee over the coming month.
Slack and Google for Nonprofits
The Board has been using the free version of Slack for its communications since 2017. Approximately two years ago Slack began limiting free Slack instances to only see the most recent 90 days of messages. The Board discussed applying for a free Slack for Nonprofits account to upgrade this, and with the increased activity on our Slack now was a good to do the upgrade. We applied and were approved, so we have now unlocked our full Slack archives as well as other premium features.
We also noticed that we should be eligible for Google for Nonprofits, which would give us access to Google Workspaces, premium Youtube features, and grants for advertising. We have applied for this and are waiting to hear back.
Media and engagement
The Board has been starting to experiment with areas of social media where we have not ventured until now. Enrique Haro Marquez, another one of the new Board members, has started an Instagram account for us. Our first post was an announcement about the four awards won by three Americans in the Belartaj Konkursoj, which has had a lot of engagement already.
Additionally, Hoss Firooznia, our new Vice President, has started a Telegram channel through which we can share announcements, and which has a discussion group tied to it. This gives us another channel for engagement with members and supporters.
Lastly, at the end of July, the Washington Post published an article about Esperanto literature in English translation. This article quoted Hoss extensively, mentioning the online translation course he gave through NASK earlier this year, as well as the Fenikso project which he has been leading, through which Esperanto-USA aims to republish Esperanto classics and make them once again available.
This might be where most people’s eyes usually glaze over, but this month has some very exciting developments. In addition to two generous donations from members, and some matching that will happen from the Esperantic Studies Foundation’s Esperanto in the USA program, we received notice that Esperanto-USA will be receiving a generous bequest from the estate of a long-time member, Robert Swenson and his late wife Ann.
David Beck, our treasurer, was at the Universala Kongreso when the Board received this information, but has still been able to make sure that we are on the ball here. We will be having a meeting of our Financial Committee as soon as possible to discuss the best way to receive these funds and what to do with them after they are received. We will likely also bring in an outside financial advisor to make sure that we have a solid foundation, and to give advice going forward.
It has been an exciting month for the Board, and we have gotten a lot done! We also got a lot of “foundational” work done this month, which puts in a very good position to continue doing great things in the coming months.
We hope that the next report will be as exciting as this one!