While COVID-19 has disrupted much of how we do business, ISA components continue to rise to the challenge and change how they approach meeting their members’ needs during this time. Below are insights from a few of ISA’s component leaders about how their organizations have adapted to remain viable during the pandemic.
La Asociación Española de Arboricultura (Spain)
Western Chapter ISA
Svenska Trädföreningens (Sweden)
The Arboricultural Association (United Kingdom/Ireland)
Utility Arborist Association
Sociedade Brasileira de Arborização Urbana (Brazil)
José Luis Martinez Sanchez
We have about 800 members who have seen how this pandemic has affected the organization. At the start of COVID-19, teleworking was a must for those posts at the headquarters. Any inquiry needed to be solved online or through the telephone lines. Things are less restrictive now; however, we have to follow appropriate security measures and control systems in place to comply with the rules laid out by authorities.
Our Annual Congress was postponed along with several different workshops and other events. On the other hand, as a positive effect of this crisis, we have noticed that online courses and webinars are an effective way to keep promoting arboriculture between our members. We have developed various webinars that have been very successful. So we plan to carry on working in that direction while this situation lasts.
During the confining period, we also started running a new ETT (European Tree Technician) Certification Committee to review and establish competencies related to ETT and ETW (European Tree Worker) credentials. We consider that as another positive project that emerged during those hard days of lockdown.
We are almost adapted to this new reality, and we are ready to maintain arboriculture alive in Spain.
ISA Germany has cancelled all climbing events for this year. And all our board meetings are online. As we do not have any other activities in the Chapter, no certifications or seminars, this is all we had to do in order to comply with the German rules of how to deal with the pandemic. Until now, per one million inhabitants, approx. 110 people died by COVID-19 in Germany. This shows that the corresponding governmental measures and rules in Germany were not perfect, but probably better than in several other countries. This is why most people comply with the rules. The number of people, thinking that wearing a mask in shops and trams is a threat to their personal freedom, is yet relatively small, fortunately.
The Western Chapter pivoted from in-person regional, Board and committee meetings to primarily online meetings and trainings, although we have several in-person TRAQ renewal trainings scheduled for fall 2020.
We canceled our Tree Climbing Championship, rescheduled Women in Arboriculture training to 2021, and postponed the Annual Conference from May to November 2020 (now moved to virtual). Participation from the Board and committee members remains strong, and online training revenues are higher than anticipated due to a widely engaging set of topics and speakers.
The Tree Care for Birds training for trained wildlife arborists moved online and expanded to include all states in the Western Chapter. We are also starting member meet-ups on Zoom to keep up informal contacts. Overall, chapter revenues this year are likely to be less than projected, but we have capable leaders and adequate reserves to take us into the next fiscal year.
We canceled all activities from 17 March through 11 September. Then, we will start organizing small in-person courses (not exceeding 30 persons) and one ETW-certification, which will hold a maximum of 50 persons. We have also had to cancel our Annual Conference, which was planned for November of this year.
Although this has been a hard year for the Association, we have not lost any members, and the industry is still doing well with much of tree work and interest from both private and professional customers.
We are now looking forward to the 2021 ISA Annual Conference and Trade Show scheduled to be held here in Malmö, Sweden 13 to 15 of September, and the ITCC in Copenhagen, Denmark 10 to 12 September. Visit www.isa2021.com for more information.
The Association, through many of its risk management policies and procedures, was prepared for the requirement to rapidly introduce the homeworking required under lockdown due to COVID-19. Daily Zoom meetings became and remain the norm. In April, the Association asked all staff to take eight days of annual leave. This action reduced forward holiday liability whilst enabling the whole staff to remain operational.
All non-digital training and event activities have been stopped. The ARB Show (May 2020) and Conference (September 2020) were canceled. All members and partners have been fully refunded. Due to the contracts in place, and support from our partners, the negative cost impact of cancelling activity has been very small. However, the cessation of paid training and event activity will negatively impact our turnover. Given the reduction in income and contribution to overheads, the management of the Association’s cash became and remains a primary objective. In response, the Association subsequently applied for an overdraft facility that was approved within 12 hours. Surprisingly, individual and scheme memberships continue to grow via new applications: current indications are that this year both will be above the record levels of 2019.
To ensure we continue to deliver member and public benefit, we have adopted digital output as our new norm. For example, we delivered a Virtual ARB Show at no cost to our exhibitors and partners; this generated a record 19,000 website page views. Additionally, our first e-learning course on the Nimble platform was launched in June. Our free digital outputs include a monthly digital output calendar and the overseas digital version of the ARB Magazine, which recorded over 600 downloads as of June.
The Association now turns to addressing the recovery plans which will be required for 2021 and beyond. Formulating this plan consists of two key stages: the first stage being the formation of a Business Recovery Plan 2021 to stress test the Association’s activities to ensure its fiscal and operational resilience; and the second part of our recovery plan will incorporate learnings regarding the impact of COVID-19 upon our sector, which will result in the formation of the Association’s strategic plan for the period 2022 to 2024. The ultimate goal is to continue to deliver member benefit and meet charitable aims and objectives whilst remaining fiscally viable.
The Utility Arborist Association (UAA) offers many of its services online, but in-person training, education and networking have always been, and will likely always be, a significant part of serving the utility vegetation management industry. COVID-19 has had an impact on the UAA as it has on the rest of the world. While UAA has eliminated its schedule of meetings through the end of the year, we have increased what is offered via our online systems. We have also chosen to look at the impact as an opportunity. UAA has paused or slowed many of our normal activities and is using the time to seek improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of our volunteer time and expertise. UAA has initiated a restructuring of operations which will make the strategic plan more robust, incorporate continuous improvement processes, improve volunteer engagement, and revise our marketing and outreach strategies.
The pandemic made our chapter, reevaluate the programming of main events, such as the XXIV Brazilian Congress and III Iberoamerican Urban Arboriculture and the XI Brazilian Championship and II Latin American Tree Climbing, which this year would have the presence of technicians and climbers from Latin America, supported by ISA. They would take place in September 2020 in Campo Grande City, Mato Grosso do Sul, in the midwestern region of Brazil.
Negotiations with government agencies, as well as potential sponsors, had already occurred with only the question of accommodation to be defined. Everything was headed to an excellent result. At first, it was postponed to April 2021, but due to the continuation of the pandemic, it caused a further postponement to September 2021.
National events are usually the ones that bring together the most members; it gives arborists the chance to learn and discuss the issues involved in tree work. Chapter management decided to innovate and hold Conversation Rounds every 15 days using virtual platforms on topics relevant to arboriculture in Brazil. An SBAU YouTube channel was created to make this content accessible later. The Conversation Rounds started on June 17, and the topics covered were:
- History of trees in three different cities in Brazil;
- How to make citizens aware of urban arboriculture;
- The look of environmental education in urban arboriculture; A look at tree management in Brazil; and
- Urban trees: soil, roots and sidewalks.
Other Conversation Rounds are also planned for the coming months. These meetings have enabled the exchange of experiences and knowledge with several arborists throughout Brazil. This new resource has shown that even in this period with so many problems, we can innovate and more than that, bring information to those who want to know more about arboriculture.