Friday, March 13, 2009

New Sons of Norway Charter & Constitution

Recently Sons of Norway unveiled the reboot of its Charter and Constitution. The resulting document is the culmination of more than two years of hard work on the part of a committee who have shown great dedication. This new document constitutes a big change in layout and organization of information. That being so, I thought it would be a good idea to interview someone who was a driving force behind the project, International Secretary Audun Gythfeldt.

Audun was gracious enough to speak with me and share some behind-the-scenes information as well as his own thoughts on the project.

SofN Blog: First, thanks for taking the time to share some information about this project with the readers. Now, tell me who was on the committee that was tasked with this project. Also, did each member have specific duties/roles? If so, what were they?

Audun Gythfeldt: The Committee consisted of the following: Marit Kristiansen, Jostein Bakken, Sherrill “Swede” Swenson, Tore Pettersen, Jim Olson, Barabara Berntsen, Ray Knutson and myself as chairman.

I asked Barbara to be the secretary for the committee, but otherwise none of the members had a specific duty.

SNB: What were the goals of the committee? Do you feel you met them all? If not, which goals were not met?

AG: The resolves of the resolution that was passed by the International Lodge in Vancouver in 2006 read: “THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the International Lodge support a process to review the current Constitutions as to its components and their relevancy to the laws and governance of our Society; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the International President shall appoint a special committee to develop a re-ordered constitution and companion document which will be reviewed by the International Board during the 2006-2008 biennium and /or any other member group. The committee shall submit a report to the 2008 International Lodge Meeting.”

The goals therefore became to reorder the Charter and Constitutions into a document, or documents, that were relevant to the laws and governance of our Society. We clearly think that we achieved these goals.

SNB:Tell me about the process. What were the steps taken from the beginning, leading to the document we now have?

AG: In order to avoid any misunderstandings, the Committee asked the International President for clarification with regard to what was expected, task parameters and process. No limiting factors were set, but it was strongly suggested that the re-ordered Constitutions and Companion document should have a one-to-one correlation with the material in the then current Charter and Constitutions, and that the documents should be debated on their individual merits as to form, not content.

Having accepted this, the purpose of the task was to simplify the Constitutions , keeping in only laws-related items. At the outset the Committee developed a “structure outline” setting out the flow of the constitutions after having removed items not considered being law. The items so removed became the Procedures part, or the “companion document” if you like. During this part of the work, it was realized that there were many issues that that applied equally to all the three sections of the former constitutions, and with that in mind, a fourth constitution, General Provisions, was developed.

The Committee then worked on the structure of the document as we wanted the chapters to have the same contents in each of the different sections, in the constitutions as well as in the procedures. The idea was to line up the issues in a lateral fashion so that an issue in one section can be found in the same place across the board.

Probably the last thing the Committee tackled was the numbering system. I suggested that a decimal system would be my preference, and the Committee agreed. This is particularly important with regard to the Committee’s attempt to line up issues in a lateral fashion, and it would also avoid that future changes would necessitate significant changes in the numbering system.

The Committee also discussed whether to separate the Charter and Constitutions from the Procedures, but came to the conclusion that there is such a strong relationship between the sections, that they should be issued in one publication, and made available both in hard copy and on the SONS OF Norway web-site.

SNB:Have you gotten any feedback from lodges/districts about the updates that have been made so far? How has the document been received?

AG: I have had very little feed-back yet. There was surprisingly little debate at the International Lodge meeting in San Diego, and the printed version is just now being distributed.

SNB: What’s the next step for the committee? I know that in this first stage you didn’t make any changes to the content, just the order. But now are you going to be reviewing the content for possible updates?

AG: The Committee is now at work making improvements. We have already made changes in the Procedures, which the International Lodge granted the International Board the authority to do. We are now looking at changes in the Constitutions. Several of the committee members have suggestions, and we got a number of suggestions from former International President, Dennis Sorheim, that we are looking at. Tore Pettersen and I also want to take a look at the Index, which we think is in need of some improvement, and we want to include procedures from other parts of the organization in the Procedures section. With that I think we have plenty on our plate for this current biennium!

SNB: Any final thoughts?

AG: It was an incredibly interesting exercise to be part of. But I am sure thoughts will come once I start getting feedback from our members. So, let us have a little chat when I come out to Minneapolis next month for the International Board meeting.

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