One CIH: a difficult nut to crack

As a CIH East Midlands board member, I recently had the pleasure of attending One CIH, a two day conference for national and regional CIH boards to get together with senior CIH staff, the CIH President and Vice President.

I was really excited to attend as I missed out last year due to a conflicting Rising Stars task. I enjoy being a member of the East Midlands board, particularly the opportunity to add value to CIH membership in the East Midlands through our programme of events. However, some aspects of CIH still remain a mystery to me so I was keen to fill some gaps in my knowledge and understand where the regional board cog fits into the CIH machine.

Before this conference, I hadn’t quite appreciated the extent of change that CIH has been going through, not only is there a new CEO and President, but we were introduced to five new senior members of staff and I know there have been many others join the organisation in recent months. We heard from new CEO, Terrie Alafat how one of her first priorities is to get back to basics, such as financial systems and policies, and get the CIH house in order. It’s no secret that CIH’s financial performance isn’t looking too great (not awful though either) but again this conference made me realise the extent of some of the challenges that CIH is facing at the minute.

I would say CIH’s biggest challenge is, and probably always will be, increasing the membership. The CIH membership has dwindled year after year for some time now and it’s something that the East Midlands board struggles with at each meeting: what else do members want from CIH, how can we add value, how can we attract and retain members, why do members leave, etc? It’s a difficult nut to crack and it seems like everyone at CIH is struggling with it. Given it’s importance, I was disappointed that more time wasn’t spent on this issue, rather than, say, the CIH’s role in influence Government policy.

But, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and there’s no shortage of will and great ideas from my regional board colleagues. During the unconference part of the day, colleagues pitched topics which were then informally discussed in small groups. I really enjoyed this part of day as it involved a conversation between everyone rather than just one person talking at everyone else. The conversation did get quite challenging at times though as many difficult questions were posed to the senior CIH team, but it’s great that we are given this opportunity.

The conference included the annual Sarah Webb lecture, delivered this year by Lord Richard Best and this was followed by a gala dinner. Myself and South East regional board colleague Elly Hoult somehow ended up on the top table with most of the CIH Governing Board, the Chair of this board and Lord Best himself! It was great to have the chance to speak to these colleagues in a more informal setting and discuss a whole range of issues. I also got to meet lots of other regional board members and share thoughts and ideas (and a couple of drinks :) ) with them.

It was a really enjoyable experience and I certainly came away from it with a better understanding of CIH’s priorities and the role of the regional boards (and a few new friends too). The challenge now of course is to crack that membership nut.