Monday, June 22, 2009

Fixing the Lack of Accountability & taking on Responsibility: The Eritrean Sports Federation in North America.

One of the major challenges facing the Eritrean Sports federation today is to ensure accountability with its policies, procedures and philosophy. Over the years, I have seen numerous instances where there are rules, standards, expectations and policies that are continuously ignored, sabotaged, and/or broken for any number of reasons by some members of this organization (ERSFNA).

While I believe that the executive board of ERSFNA are tasked with so much work throughout the year getting ready for an event that always has high expectations may be it is time to restructure the way business is conducted, ensuring that what you expect is actually happening on a consistent and routine basis is often a difficult, yet necessary, essential and effective task if you want to ensure that your organization operates with integrity and effectiveness. It's time to transition to those who will carry on the torch and hold on to the responsibility that their previous brothers and sisters fathers and mothers started in the mid 80's in the beautiful city of Atlanta. It is time to make sure that the legacy of the founding fathers of the organization will remain intact while the growth of the sports federation changes.

Some points where there is lack of accountability are:

-The Selection process of the board. While it may be the best possible avenue to gather teams on Saturday night each year before the tournament begins, I think it may be better if the selection process for new executive members was done during the day that the event takes off for a break. In most cases the Wednesday of the week of the tournament. This will allow all teams to participate in the selection process. I also must stress as I have done in the past, WOMEN must be allowed to be voted in and the door should be open to all Eritrean women that have an interest in the well being of the Sports federation. I also believe one new executive Board member that will focus on the transition to the Youth should be chosen to make sure that the younger generation has a place and a voice on the ERSFNA executive board.

- The Eritrean Sports Federation in North America must follow in the foot steps of all Eritrean organizations in making sure that it is first and foremost an ERITREAN organization that believes and stands in the principle of the Eritrean Flag, Nation and those who sacrificed their lives so that we can have a Nation called Eritrea. No outsiders should dictated or have any influence in the running of the organization. I also would like to emphasize that the rules and regulations of our adopted and host country of the United States should apply here. As a 501 C organization and like many other immigrant communities Eritreans should have their rights so long as they don't break the laws of the land. - The Executive board and especially the current President lacked good relations with teams & the Public. While I believe the current President in my opinion is one of the most organized people I have worked with, I find him to be very cold in his behavior towards new ideas and also his people skills have hurt the image of the federation to some extent. As a public relations officer for the past 5 years, I have found myself always covering for the federations mishaps and problems which can easily be avoided if information is made easily available to the public. Most if not all decisions were made by the President and sometimes it was difficult to respond to the public. However as a public relations officer I did the best that I could even though I was not perfect. -inconsistent Financial Report to the public. The Sports federation before each tournament must give details of financial report to the participating teams as well as to the public. Teams need to know how the financial well being of the Sports federation is after each tournament. More sponsorships are also needed and the federations financial health must improve each year. It is time that the Sports federation get a FUND RAISING committee even if it is outsourced. -expecting behavior without taking the time or effort to inspect that the behavior is actually happening. -inconsistent decision making by the President. Examples

1. In Seattle in 2006 the President made a decision to have a Sunday night event to help boost financial gain but the way business was conducted needs some answers and the Sports federation did not gain much despite the success of the event.

2. In Dallas in 2008, if the host team the Dallas Stars sponsored by Dalol Eritrean Restaurant had not intervened the President was almost in the process of making a deal with an Ethiopian restaurant even though the President claims the owners are Eritrean. The issue here is not to tarnish the good reputation of the President but why would anyone entertain the idea of allowing an Ethiopian named restaurant in an Eritrean sports festival? After all the Ethiopians do have their own sports event. While I strongly believe that sports have no barriers and that one day with respect to each other's organizations & communities the Eritrean and Ethiopian brotherly people should have a medium to be able to compete with one another just like Somalians, Sudanese, as well as other horn of Africa and entire African communities.

I am not here to bash but set the record straight and by mentioning the faults of the President it does not mean that I don't consider him a hard working person. This is not about individual issues but about the federation. There are numerous others things that are not mentioned here but as is expected to happen when you are running a huge event each year for one week things are likley to happen. The reason I write this information is to see that I have shared my responsibility to an organization I worked so hard for over the years.

Now, Why not ask ourselves - Is there any area in our organization or department where there is inconsistent accountability? If we don't then we will never be able to improve. I am a strong believer and have been a person dedicated to the sports federation in my Public relations capacity. While I have been accused of many unnecessary things dealing with politics, I have always made sure that when working with the sports federation I followed the guidelines and principles of the organization while maintaining the integrity of the ERITREAN I REPEAT ERITREAN sports federation. In my opinion, you can’t manage your organization, department or group by alienating yourself from your people. You must circulate, be visible and get to know your people. I am a strong believer of communications with people. This takes commitment and time, but I have always believed that it will pay positive dividends in the long run and for me it has given me the opportunity to make so many great friends and share my love of sports with the Eritrean American communities throughout North America. Some perceptions have some times become reality in the minds of people and sports followers. It doesn’t matter if what they believe is true or not. If they believe it in their minds, it is true. One of the best ways to determine the prevailing perceptions and attitudes throughout your organization is to conduct a public perception audit. To be truly accurate and effective, I recommend that the the participating teams along with some members of their communities get involved through out the whole year by attending mandatory conference call meetings, especially the host teams.

In my opinion, there are four premises that I would like to highlight for consideration when it comes to accountability.

One, expecting different results from repeated behavior is a mild form of insanity.

Two, you get the behavior you reward in your organization. If you want to change behavior, you must change the reward system that is in place. This includes Teams and members of executive committee.

Three, all culture flows down-top. You can’t change an organization from the up-bottom in this case by giving all power to executive board members. You must engage teams and the public in order to make it a participatory organization.

Four, when there is inconsistent accountability there will be inconsistent performance.

I believe that the ERSFNA organization lacks accountability at times and I hope Change will take place soon. Meanwhile I wish everyone a happy gathering in San Diego, California starting next Sunday June 28th,2009. As a member of the organizing committee for the past 5 years, it sure was my pleasure to serve my people. I am proud to be an Eritrean and I plan to continue to engage everyone with sports happenings through my blog which has come in handy for me to be able to express my thoughts. I will also stop my boycott of informing and consulting the sports federation after I sort out the issues with the other members of organization.

About the author: I have been a participant of the Eritrean Sports Federation by playing on several teams throughout the past 16 years mostly in the D.C area. I was selected to join the Executive Board after volunteering my services for over 10 years in 2004. On December 24Th, 2008 I received a letter written in Tigrinia from the President that after a decision made by some board members I was not doing my job of public relations and will therefor not be needed any longer and that I will be replaced by another person. The job of public relations which consisted of organizing musicians and making deals that required the President's authority and was strictly micro-managed by the president may not have been my strongest point, however as a Public relations officer, I strongly feel that I did the best that I could for the organization and I will have my say during this year's event taking place in San Diego. Since my responsibilities started as a public relations officer here are some of the changes and relations with the media and public that I was responsible for,

A) Several ERI-TV coverage.

B) Voice Of America and Voice of Eritrea as well as radio coverage in different cities. Minnesota, Dallas and others.

C) Internet Coverage as well as News papers and Television.

D) Writing of many News letter articles as well as magazines.

E) Represented the Sports federation in many ways.

F) Worked with youth outreach programs that took place during the week of the event.

G) Mobilizing the youth (Young Kids) in the D.C metro area to participate at the annual event starting in Dallas.

These are just a few to mention but I can honestly say there are many other things that I worked on while also away from the event throughout the year. As you all know it is not good to talk about what you have done in our culture but I feel obligated to so at this time so that people can judge for themselves if I did my job or not.

Meanwhile friends,brothers and sisters I urge you all to be very careful and keep an eye as to where this organization is headed to. We must continue to use it as a way to unite our people and follow the principles in which the founders of the event wanted it to go. This is an Eritrean organization and Eritreans must own it and never compromise it's Eritrean authenticity. Say no! to all divisive issues that can create more problems for our future generations, be it religious, regionalism or any other form of division must not be allowed and the ERITREAN FLAG must be respected while the Eritrean Embassy must continue to be invited each year to be a part of the event.

This blog/article is by no means a pay back to the ERSFNA organization and targeted towards the President for removing me from my duties. As you all know I was a volunteer for many years and I did what I did because of my passion for sports and my lovely Eritrean people. I have a tremendous amount of respect to all who have contributed their time and effort and I wish all of the board a great year in San Diego 2009. After all it was in San Diego 10 years ago that the public spoke loud and clear that the profits from the event go directly to the defense of the motherland. In the end the Eritrean people are the ultimate decision makers of the sports federation and they will judge the well being in a fair and timely manner.

Thanks to all board members and the public for allowing me to speak up.

Mike Seium

Eri-International Sports blog.