Connecting the dots between strategy and volunteerism

Jim CudahyI began writing this column in Ghent, Belgium, in a room with two dozen Chinese court reporters quietly engaging in the Intersteno equiv alent of NCRA’s Speed Contest. With fingers tapping and pressing away as the ambient noise, I can remark that this event — Intersteno — is remarkable on a number of levels. What strikes me most notably is that an event of undeniable global scale takes place — even on a biannual basis — effectively rests on the shoulders of volunteers.

That’s asking a lot of volunteers, and NCRA does the same. And we’re now asking for more.

Over the course of the past year, the NCRA Board has assembled a strategic plan. Within this plan are six general areas of focus or, as I have come to call them, “buckets”:

  • Awareness
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Professional development
  • Resources
  • Member tools

Each of the strategic buckets represents areas of focus that you —NCRA members — have identified as critical to the profession over the next five to 10 years. As an example, we need for more people to know and appreciate the value of stenographic court reporters; hence, we have an awareness strategy. As another example, we need to get more students enrolled in court reporting schools and move reporters out into the field, so we have our education strategies.

We have a lot to accomplish, and we have finite resources — both in terms of human capital at the staff level and in, well, cash. So, we lean disproportionately on volunteers to execute on the tactics in fulfillment of our strategy.

The Board has outlined aggressive new charges for our volunteer committees and attempted to align their activities with our strategy. Virtually all of our committees now will rely on individual NCRA members to carry the responsibility of not only coming up with great ideas, but executing them as well.

Think of it this way: If we, as an organization, have 1,000 lbs. to carry, our old way was to rely on 10 people to carry 100 lbs. each. But with our new direction, we’re seeking 100 people to carry just 10 lbs. each, thus distributing the weight and perhaps, over time, enabling us to carry even more than we ever have in the past.

For our awareness strategy to work, when we come to you, the members, to spread the word about Court Reporting and Captioning Week, we will only succeed if you are inspired to get involved. For our education strategy to accomplish its ambitious goals, when we come to you to engage with prospective students in your area, we will be far more effective if you are willing to make a presentation at a local high school or take part in a career day with a neighborhood court reporting school.

You’ve given us direction. We have taken action. Now, we need you to be on guard for your marching orders. It’s the best way you can serve your profession and its future. It’s the best way you can engage with your court reporting community. Soon, we will bring these volunteer requests to you: Are you ready to lift your 10 lbs.?

A global business

Jim CudahyWith the Intersteno Congress coming up, you might want to visit www.intersteno2013.org. In the fall, I had the opportunity to attend a council meeting for Intersteno for the first time. Much of the discussion, which took place in Prague, was about preparations for the 49th Intersteno Congress, which will be held this coming July 13-19 in Ghent, Belgium. Intersteno is held every other year, meaning that its history goes back more than 100 years, taking into account those years when they couldn’t hold the event because of extenuating circumstances, such as world wars.

Let me go on record as saying that I wasn’t completely prepared for the experience I had at the Intersteno Council meeting. I’d read about Intersteno, and while I could completely understand why NCRA needed to have a presence within the Council and at Intersteno, it was less clear to me where the niche for stenographic court reporters from the United States was supposed to be. It took three whirlwind days in Prague for it to become completely clear.

Court reporting is a global business, and there lies major opportunity outside North America for those NCRA members who might be interested in conducting business on a global scale.

When you look at finance and manufacturing and virtually all aspects of our life, it’s almost a cliché to say that we exist and work as part of a global economy. Think of the biggest American companies out there — names like Apple, Exxon, Walmart, and Coca Cola should come to mind. Each of these companies has a global footprint, but it’s not just them. It’s business of all shapes and sizes.

That’s why every time you hop on an airplane to Europe or to South America or to Asia, the plane is filled with U.S. business folks headed overseas to take advantage of business opportunities. It’s why the planes also are filled with European, Asian, and South American businesspeople entering and leaving the United States; they are participating in all manner of business dealings here in the United States.

Where there is international business taking place — whether taking place on American shores or overseas — there will be opportunity for court reporters. All of us know of court reporters and captioners and CART providers who are traveling all over the world for work. That could be you.

So, whether you’re already engaged with clients on an international scale or you want to be, Intersteno might be well worth your time and money. Now, one thing that might take some getting used to is that Intersteno is agnostic when it comes to method. Whereas there are certain countries in the world where steno remains the dominant method, there are other countries where steno doesn’t exist at all. Within speed contests and through education and networking, above the opportunities that are available for you to showcase your business, you likewise have the opportunity to showcase steno.

Over the long term, there is major opportunity for court reporters generally and NCRA members specifically who have a global vision. English is the international language of business, and when you think about the potential for stenographic court reporters, captioners, and CART providers to provide services to the large and growing international business community, the opportunities are extensive.

Where to begin? How about a trip to the Intersteno website http://www.intersteno2013.org—to see whether a trip to Belgium might be in the cards for you this summer?