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2021 Component Challenges

Jason Bond, New Jersey Arborists ISA chapter president

New Jersey Arborists ISA’s greatest challenge is executing our annual conference. Normally this event is a two-day live meeting with multiple speakers discussing all things related to tree care. Having a live event meant that people get together and catch up with old friends, associates and like-minded individuals to help solve New Jersey’s problems. Additionally, we were dealing with a change in our component executive, who had planned this event for several years. 

Of course, in 2021, we had to convert to a virtual format. The upside was that our attendees were able to watch each session as many times as they wished and get credit. Sometimes when you watch a speaker, things can go unheard or misheard. Not with the pre-recorded videos. So, that was ultimately a good thing to come of this, and, next time, our event will be a hybrid to provide the best of both worlds.

Frank Rinn, ISA Germany component executive

The main activity of the German Chapter is the organization of the annual Tree Climbing Championship where we usually attract 60 to 80 climbers and 250 volunteers. Over the last few years, we have also added some regional championships -- all driven by volunteers as well.

The camaraderie these days, based on working for a better tree care, obviously attracts many volunteers, but still, our board members carry most of the workload. There is also an important point: We often discuss whether the board members should be paid for their engagement in the chapter, but we never implemented it. I believe this remains one of the reasons why we mostly have just enough volunteers because our chapter members know that the board spends a lot of time and money (for traveling and accommodation) for the chapter without being paid or compensated for the costs. Thus, the fact that our board works voluntarily and unpaid encourages many members to get involved as well.

Jason Heizer, Mid-Atlantic Chapter president

Several months after taking over as president of MAC-ISA, the pandemic hit and everything was shut down. Although this presented many challenges and opportunities, our board was resilient and rose to the challenge. Since tree care was determined as essential, we provided resources and guidelines on our website so that people in the industry could continue to work and remain safe. Next, we had to adjust certification and qualification opportunities to a virtual platform. This required a significant amount of coordination for the classroom and testing portion of the process. Third, we planned and executed a successful annual, virtual meeting. The biggest opportunity that we found was the ability to reach a larger population of our membership, some outside of our chapter (even in other countries), to attend meetings or sessions. 

Cody Flint, Indiana Arborist Association president

COVID-19 caused us to take a hard look at our strategic goals and how we could work through them in a very uncertain time.  We as a chapter really rely on our annual conference and other in-person events during the year to meet with our members and fundraise, as well as provide educational opportunities.  Having board meetings using Zoom was a good replacement, but still didn’t achieve the same success as an in-person meeting. The side conversations and other talks would happen during an in-person meeting would have helped with transitions to different positions on the board and among different committees. I think that we really missed those opportunities, and it is very difficult to recreate that environment in a virtual environment.

Some highlights that did come out of last year were that we conducted our conference virtually, and we were able to have our members hear presentations that would have been more difficult for them to hear in a normal year. We also were able to have members that had moved away join in on the conference and reconnect. At the end of our virtual conference, we had an open discussion with the presenters and members (to me, this was the highlight of our conference). To be able to hear discussions on topics not just from our members to the presenters but between the presenters was enlightening. The presenters were able to really drill down on topics and have an open discussion with everyone. We also had several climber hangouts on Zoom. Also, members of the chapter were able to talk about things impacting their jobs and home lives. It was good to see everyone; the group quickly fell into free flowing conversations and for a while, it made everything seem normal.