Friday, June 23, 2006

CyberVPM Is Sick

Not that many of you wouldn't suspect it, however... unless you want to post on the number of baloons you want to use for your next volunteer recognition event and their color, there is no room on CyberVPM for discussion.

Yesterday, Nan Hawthorne posted an open letter to Susan Ellis:
On her wwebsite Susan Ellis writes:

"Todd McMullin from Samaritan Technologies offered his company's software and Web site to the group free of charge to provide a new space without baggage, history, or strings. In fact, he will work with the leadership team to secure a new domain name. "

What is this impllication about "baggage, history, or strings"?? Would you please have the candor to explain what this means? I am not aware of baggage, history, or strings connected to CharityChannel.

And if you don't either, then why fix what ain't broke?

One of the things I have valued about the VRM Roundtable as it is is that it has never dissembled.. it is transparent. No one has so far been cagey or evasive or behind the scenes. At least until now?

I have been asking different people all day where this whole issue comes from.. so far it has all been suggestive, not concerte. I l ook to Susan Ellis to say exactly what she means so we can either deal with it or clear the air.

What is wrong with the current domain name?
Nan Hawthorne"

(the post also lists the initials of the moderator that approved it)

I did feel like replying to Nan, and I did via this post:
"Dear Nan,

Often when we (in general) have a discussion, we (in general again) tend to hear disagreements as insults. I saw it happening in the voluntary sector in general, and in this yahoogroup in particular. Different opinions and ways of doing things make a professional environment richer, not worse.

I can't speak for Susan and tell you what her opinion is. But I can tell you that the statement that apparently set you off, the "baggage, history, or strings" didn't sound anywhere near offensive to me.

In fact, in different ways and for different reasons (either history as far as the former is concerned, or financial support as far as the latter is involved), both CyberVPM and CharityChannel DO have "baggage, history, or strings". The site created by Lastfogel, considering that Michael is a former AVA employee DOES have "baggage, history, or strings".

What the real difference between you and Susan sounds like being is the extent to which each of you considers that "baggage, history, or strings" to be a hindrance to a healthy discussion. And, just to clarify it, a healthy discussion is one that honors *all* perspectives, not just the commonest or the one that is deemed as "more appropriate" by some authority figure of any sort.

I find it appalling that whenever somebody wants to discuss the "meat" of some issue (that is, pros and cons) one has to resort to backchannelling because, sooner or later, somebody else will or will try to hush him/her. I'm deeply grateful to the persons that arrange meetings, discuss and do things. But I think that nobody can/should be allowed to pass on the opportunity of making a contribution to a new initiative as big as creating another voluntary association, national or international just because, say, s/he doesn't "feel like" dialing.

Believe it or not, Susan is trying hard to push for that space to happen and without anybody to "sponsor" the conversation so that nobody can shut it down, steer it or merely passively "condition" it. You may think that her initiative is useless or plain wrong, but if it's an error it is on the side of freedom and *participation*.

I personally think (because historia magister vitae - that is, history teaches you how to live) that sooner or later participative democracy will take over even in the US (like so often happens in, say, Europe where voters reach far above 60%).

It's ironic for it to be a problem for the voluntary sector too, given all
that Putnam wrote about tit. On the other hand, life is often ironic.

Rosanna Tarsiero"

I get a message from the daily moderator (which I won't name because I'm sure they are all in agreement), this one:
"I am rejecting your post because it does not pertain to volunteer management issues and is a direct message to one individual. Please post to her directly. The original post also did not pertain to volunteer management issues and its posting is a concern. Please consider reposting if a connection to volunteer management can be defined. Thanks."

Now, I don't agree with the content of Nan's letter and I made it clear, but no, it does NOT concern me that Nan posted it. It's called freedom of expression and need for a debate, both symptoms of an intelligent mind behind the hands that typed it.

What does concern me, however, is that CyberVPM moderators do not see the extent of their groupthink, to the point that a message (or two) created to fuel discussion about Susan Ellis (renowed volunteer manager consultant), volunteer management boards (namely CyberVPM, CharityChannel's and Lastfogel's) and the bad "nice" habits of volunteer managers are deemed "not to pertain" to volunteer management. I ask: would discussing Judas or Aaron or Ishmael not pertain to the Bible because it's not the main character?

They have a problem, and they have it whenever people discuss openly and honestly. So how do they solve the "problem"? At first they IGNORE it, in the hope it fades away and the person becomes "nicer". When it doesn't happen, they mono-culturally chastize the dissenter (publicly) but don't offer him/her the same right (and they maintain they are nice!). Finally, if the dissenter gets "tamed", they censor all his/her posts unless they speak of the Wonderous Uplifting Properties of Red Baloons for the Spirit of Volunteerism.

Do you still wonder why AVA had to stop operating?

At the very end of this entry, I want to address three final thoughts to three persons:
*to Nan: you told me there was no censorship and no chastizing. Now that you too are the victim of it, how would you define it all?
*to Susan: you, like everything you write, are energetic and full of intuitions and charisma. But as much as those are wonderful characteristics to have, sometimes they aren't enough to convince "quiet" people. You are right, you've always been right on this issue from moment one, but you need to work more on making solid points that back up your ideas, so that less and less people will fall for "nice" antics (I admit I did and I am resentful that I wasn't warned "well" enough) and more and more newcomers will see the lack of meat behind it.
*to Jayne: sorry, sorry, sorry. I haven't understood your "toughness" and how much it was and is appropriate in this context till recently... and I'm publicly asking for your forgiveness on that.

I think it's about time to stop discussing only and start doing something. We need an ethical manifesto for the volunteer manager profession and we ALL need to contribute to it. Above all, we need to remember Mary Merrill and put some ACTION into this endeavor.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the Nan Hawthorne quoted in and addressed in this blog entry. I appreciate that I have an opportunity to respond to what was said.

First, on CyberVPM, I cannot comment since I am no longer associated with it. I have not been a moderator or even read it consistently for some months except to see what topics might be useful on Volunteer Management Review. I don't know how Ro is intending to connect me and CyberVPM here, but all I can say is that any decision maade about her post by the moderators was entirely independent of me. I knew nothing about it.

As to the much vaunted Susan Ellis and the comment I took exception to. I saw it, and I am not the only one, as a backhanded bit of innuendo made against CharityChannel. That Jayne, and I assume this is Jayne Cravens, is addressed here too in this blog entry seems apropos since my break up with the CyverVPM moderator group came from my own blow up at her for what I felt were persistent attacks on Stephen Nill of CharityChannel. I happen to know that she and others have attacked him directly fro some years and I am myself appaled by this and by the actions of people like Ro who appear to condone that. I saw what Susan Ellis said as a subtle way of trying to influence people against CharityChannel. I personally feel I had cause to.

People have characterized my comments mostly made on the VRM-Roundtabel forums as attacks. I see them as championing ethics. I felt several people had behaved in a way that had injured the Roundtable and I knew for a fact had hurt a good and generous man who is also my friend. I don't know how Ro would have reacted in my position. That is really moot, since I would have reacted the same way, looking at it in hindsight. I feel I was absolutely right to speak up as I did.

It always amazed me how people line up behind this person or that. In this case Ro is lining up behind at least one person who has been hostile to Nill and CharityChannel out of some sort of distrust based on her own baseless jugments. When this person makes hostile remarks, she is right. When I respond with indignation, I am wrong. The same occurs in the reverse.

Sometimes when one burns a bridge it is because one never wants to be seen again in the city one has left. That is fast becoming the case for me. I no longer am working in the field, but mostly out of commitment and loyalty to some colleagues I have remained involved. I did not compromise my standards before I left, I won't now. Each of you involved in this shall have to decide how you see me and the situation for yourself. I am confident I acted honorably and approapriately.

10:21 pm  
Blogger Rosanna Tarsiero said...


as I tried to explain many times, I make a difference between having a friend and being ok with everything the friend does. So in order to know whether to consider you right or wrong I would need to know the specifics of what happened.

But since I don't know, I want to hope that whatever the side you decided to take, you took it because you thought your friend was/is right and not just because he was/is your friend.

I see you as honorable in your feelings, and you know because I've told you many many times. I just happen not to agree with some of your evaluations and actions you took.

But as I tried to tell you in the post they didn't pass, disagreements are not insults or attacks and should NOT be taken as such. Disagreements are just a person's right to say what they mean. And that is valid and applicable to you, me, and ANYBODY ElSE in this world. People you don't like INCLUDED.

10:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ro.

Let me say what I have said a few times elsewhere. I do not support and defend Steve nill because he is my friend.. he is my friend becuase he is worth supporting and defending. I would not even be associated with him if I did not value and admire him. And I know for a fact that the aspersions and innuendos about him and CharityChannel are complete and utter nonsense. What else should I do as an honorable person than defend against lies and manipulation, whether I am a friend or not of the person being attacked?

I am not the only one who sees Ellis' trio of loaded words as disingenuous. I personally believe that she intended to influence people negatively with her choice of words. I say shame on her for that. She has told me I misunderstood what she said.. I just don't believe her. I have my reasons, and I don't intend to share them here. You will just have to trust me or not. I do fear that hero-worship or starlight as I like to say is bright enough to blilnd people.

Again, I had nothing to do with your post being rejected on CyberVPM. I am no longer connected with them. If I had been moderating and it had been my day, your post would have gone through. Please do not paint them with my brush or me with theirs.

1:41 am  
Blogger Rosanna Tarsiero said...


if you can just tell me WHERE did I say that you had anything to do on how my post was treated on CyberVPM....? I just asked you: do you still call it lack of censorship, and that's it.

As for Susan Ellis, in 3 years that I've known her I never once saw her mistreating, harrassing or putting down somebody. Only thing is, she is strongly opinionated and if she doesn't agree she'll let you know but hey that's not necessarily a bad thing to be or do. Sometimes she comes off too forceful but you (and I) do as well, and never in a million years I think that being strongly opinionated should imply censorship.

Though I don't claim to be her friend, she is the first person that believed in me and gave me a chance, thing which I'll be eternally grateful for. And as you know, I've disagreed with her too and publicly.

It's called dialectics and I still think it's fine, you know me.

If I can say what an external observer sees... I see people misunderstanding one another! Some misunderstand what one speaks up for, and some (maybe) misunderstand what is left unspoken. Above all, I see people refusing to trust each other's words.

Now, do we have to keep on with this attitude or we can find a forum where conflicts can be faced, explored and - finally - be overcome?

And of course Susan is right: that forum can NOT be CyberVPM!

2:16 am  

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