Report from the Chair, Board of Directors,
Even the most cursory examination of the minutes of last year's annual
general meeting would convince the reader that here stood an organization
in some peril. Volunteer and staff turnover, financial uncertainty, even
some doubts about whether a community based and controlled internet
provider could or should survive in our increasingly crowded and complex
technological world. Perhaps most painful of all, Chebucto faced the
necessity of dealing with a perceived separation from some of those who
had been its original pioneers -- though not from the mission they saw, to
provide a service "for the community, by the community."
Chebucto Community Net Society
Annual General Meeting
April 23, 2002
But change was not only on the doorstep, it was hammering at the door
itself and it seemed clear that Chebucto would either have to find some
way of managing change to its advantage or be overwhelmed by it.
The Board which assumed responsibility for directing Chebucto's affairs
beginning last April did so knowing full well how difficult it would be to
do what we were attempting. We knew there was a degree of skepticism about
our ability to move things ahead in a productive way.
It was for these reasons that at the very beginning of our mandate, we
made a decision which I think was a very important one. We agreed that in
addition to discussing the future, item by itme, in our regular board
meetings, we would hold three special meetings. At first they were known
as the "revitalization and renewal" meetings but very quickly they became
known as the "visioning" sessions. Each one was devoted to a single aspect
of Chebucto's future: our internal structures and mechanisms; our
technical services; our relationships with our external communities.
These deliberations moved us toward considering change in a positive way.
The committee reports presented at this meeting will deal with specific
means either implemented or under consideration for dealing with the
issues that came out of those visioning sessions. I want to refer briefly
to only a few which I find particularly interesting.
Our membership situation is changing dramatically. Our text accounts are
in a steady and steep decline and will likely continue to be. We are still
fully committed to serving our text users but we cannot really regard this
as an area which even our best efforts could turn into one of potential
growth. But last year our graphical access service achieved eight
successive months of record Chebucto Plus signups. Neighbourhood accounts
have more than doubled. Small business accounts were non-existent in 2000,
rose to 5 in 2001 and are standing at 4 now with most of the year still
ahead of us.
In the area of finance, we have made significant progress in tightening
our controls and improving. We've continued to run a bare-bones
operation--we really don't have much choice about that--and our balance
sheet speaks to our success. But it's important to note that while doing
these things, we have managed to finance much needed technical upgrades
out of operating revenue (with more to come!) and to add a part-time
person to the office staff.
The external committee has continued to involve itself with things such as
the Word on the Street festival, and to court media attention -- free, of
course. But we have also moved on to explore possibilities for
partnerships with other community groups. The Halifax Inner City
Initiative which you heard about earlier is one. Others are under active
consideration or are on the horizon.
So have we solved all the problems? Well, no of course not. But we've made
pretty fair progress, in one short year. We're still standing, and even
growing. Take that message away with you. And, please, feel free to spread
Chair, Board of Directors
Chebucto Community Net Society