Build on the past for a happy new WI year!

Happy New Year! No, this is not an April fool joke as April 1 is now the start of the WI membership year and coincides with the biennial appointment of the Federation trustees and the annual voting for the Federation officers: Chairman, Treasurer and Vice-Chairmen.

What this new year holds for us all is largely unknown, but a critical measure of its success will be the number of current members who re-join, the recruitment of new ones and when, hopefully, Covid-19 restrictions will become a thing of the past.

At Federation level, April also heralds the appointment of Committee Chairmen and Federation roles. Have you thought about joining a Federation committee or becoming a trustee? April 2022 would be an excellent time to do this as we move forward, I trust, into what will be an optimistic and settled future. Will you join us? Come along and shadow a meeting and find out what stepping up could mean for you!

April is, of course, also the beginning of Spring, with new life, new beginnings, new challenges and for the WI, a new world rooted in a tradition that must not be underestimated and yet forward thinking.

It is a time for me, still with childlike wonder, to spot the first frog spawn of the year — always a moment of excitement and promise. It encouraged me to search for a dictionary definition of the word ‘new’. I came up with ‘fresh, modern, unprecedented, youthful (in mind)’, which put a creative twist on the word.

It prompted me to make a resolution for us all; that we should build on our heritage, do things even better, learn faster and, as a result, be stronger as WIs, for I firmly believe that 2022 will be a year of transformation for all levels of the organisation. Together we will need to be both forward thinking and forward doing.

Surely all we have learned from Covid in the past two years will inspire us to both consolidate all that we have achieved and to greet the future with imagination and enthusiasm. The secret of such change will be to focus our energies not on fighting the old, but on building the new upon the legacy we inherit.

Key words

I am not, for one moment, suggesting that our position is less than good; in fact the strength, commitment and resolution of you, our members, has ensured that our WIs and our Federation is in the very strongest of positions. However, I do believe that we will be called upon to meet new challenges in the exciting times ahead.

For me, there are two key words giving focus to future actions: Retention and Recruitment, terms harking back to my previous life as a University Learning and Teaching Co-ordinator.

Key to the Federation’s future success is, first of all, the retention of our current wonderful members who are the backbone of our organisation. But we must also look to the future and address how we can ‘grow’ our membership, championing equality, diversity and inclusion. We may need to adapt but we have very firm foundations to build upon.

One challenge we will all have to meet has been presented to us as a fait accompli by NFWI, namely that from July, all their communications with Federations and WIs will be in digital form only. Fear not, if any WIs need hard copies then the Federation will ensure that they have them.

Another challenge to us all will be balancing our income against expenditure as anticipated costs rise. Maybe we can have a sharing of ideas here to ensure that WIs don’t constantly reinvent the wheel. Some WIs might also see the adoption of Office 365 as a challenge whilst others have welcomed it as a benefit. Whatever your WI’s standpoint the office will support you in ensuring that you receive key documents and communications in the form most appropriate to you and that, when you are ready, you will be offered an Office 365 induction programme.

In my former life I worked in Hong Kong during early Spring, often over the Chinese New Year. The only Cantonese I ever mastered was the New Year greeting ‘Gong hei fat choy’. The New Year has a very specific significance for Hong Kong and its people, and I think that the message of the Chinese New Year 2022 has a particular resonance and should inspire us all.

It is an uplifting message of bravery, courage, strength and hope. A message that will resonate with us all, I am sure, as we embrace our future together as members of the WI and that these words, along with the precepts of the WI movement of truth, justice, tolerance and friendship, will come to the fore, will inspire us and will be as relevant to us today, as we move forward, as they were in 1915.

Happy New Year!

Carol A. Gartrell
Federation Chairman

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