Chal­lenges, ex­pe­ri­ence, growth

Women or­ga­niz­ing po­lice con­fer­ence rise to oc­ca­sion

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

COUNT­DOWN! A 100-day count­down! That’s right, it’s 100 days un­til the launch of the an­nual 10-day con­fer­ence of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Po­lice to be held in Win­nipeg.

The con­fer­ence is the cul­mi­na­tion of four years of plan­ning chal­lenges and meet­ing af­ter meet­ing af­ter meet­ing. To cel­e­brate this 100-day mile­stone, the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee held a vol­un­teer pep rally at RCMP head­quar­ters June 20.

The ex­cite­ment among the plan­ners is grow­ing ev­ery day as they re­al­ize what an ab­so­lute ac­com­plish­ment they’ve achieved. Imag­ine suc­cess­fully con­vinc­ing an in­ter­na­tional board to come to Canada and to Win­nipeg. Imag­ine the num­ber of people who’ve been in­volved. Imag­ine the num­ber of spe­cial­ized com­mit­tees needed to carry out the con­fer­ence plan­ning, and imag­ine the lead­er­ship re­quired to keep ev­ery­one co-or­di­nated, fo­cused and mo­ti­vated over a four year time frame.

The Win­nipeg-based con­fer­ence di­rec­tor, Sgt. San­dra Martin of the Win­nipeg Po­lice Ser­vice and board mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Po­lice, says at­ten­dees fo­cus on the work­shops and spe­cial events; how­ever, from a learn­ing and pro­fes­sional-de­vel­op­ment per­spec­tive, vol­un­teers look at the con­fer­ence as a on­cein-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand their skills in project man­age­ment.

For this multi-faceted, 10-day con­fer­ence, Martin be­gan by cre­at­ing an ex­ec­u­tive-plan­ning com­mit­tee con­sist­ing of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the three part­ner po­lice agencies: the Win­nipeg Po­lice Ser­vice, the Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice and the Bran­don Po­lice Ser­vice. The com­mit­tee sub­se­quently ex­panded to in­clude more than 100 vol­un­teers from the Cana­dian Bor­der Ser­vices Agency, Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices of Canada and Man­i­toba Liquor and Lotteries.

The vol­un­teers were as­signed to sub­com­mit­tees that fo­cused their at­ten­tion on mar­ket­ing, the event, reg­is­tra­tion, fundrais­ing, spon­sor­ships, de­vel­op­ing and sched­ul­ing train­ing pro­grams and speak­ers and seek­ing re­sources for ac­com­mo­da­tion. As well, the lo­gis­tics com­mit­tee fo­cused on plan­ning for the grand Pa­rade of the Na­tions and the open­ing cer­e­mony to be held in con­junc­tion with the Man­i­toba As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice me­mo­rial ser­vice.

Just as with hu­man-re­source man­age­ment, over­see­ing a work­force of 100 vol­un­teers with di­verse and com­plex tasks is no easy feat. So how do you keep 100 vol­un­teers mo­ti­vated and fo­cused on a se­quence of project-man­age­ment tasks while en­sur­ing ev­ery­one is in align­ment with the over­all con­fer­ence theme and goals? Not only that, the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Po­lice sets cer­tain con­fer­ence pa­ram­e­ters, in­clud­ing the date. Once a con­fer­ence bid is ac­cepted the con­fer­ence date can­not be changed. In other words, the con­fer­ence goes ahead no mat­ter what.

As can be ex­pected, vol­un­teers are some­times dif­fi­cult to find and so spe­cial pep ral­lies were held over the four years to con­tinue the ex­cite­ment of the ex­ec­u­tive plan­ning com­mit­tee and to act as a re­cruit­ment ac­tiv­ity to at­tract more vol­un­teers. An­other so­lu­tion to build­ing and en­hanc­ing vol­un­teer mo­ti­va­tion was to cre­ate spe­cific project mile­stones and to cel­e­brate them with some sort of spe­cial event.

When the con­fer­ence plan­ning be­gan four years ago, the project seemed so far away. Yet, as of June 20, the 100day count­down has be­gun. The con­fer­ence plan­ners are ea­ger and are brim­ming with pride. The mem­bers of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Women Po­lice have booked their tick­ets. The ho­tels are wait­ing for their in­ter­na­tional guests and the tourist at­ten­dees are look­ing for­ward to vis­it­ing all the venues in our city as well as our new Cana­dian Mu­seum for Hu­man Rights.

While con­fer­ence plan­ning and co­or­di­na­tion was ex­tremely com­plex and time con­sum­ing, one of the great­est ben­e­fits for the con­fer­ence di­rec­tor, the ex­ec­u­tive plan­ning com­mit­tee and the many com­mit­tee mem­bers was the op­por­tu­nity to go far be­yond their ba­sic class­room ex­pe­ri­ences to im­merse them­selves in the true com­plex­i­ties of large-scale project man­age­ment. It was a chance to chal­lenge them­selves, build and test their skills and build in­ter­per­sonal friend­ships that will last a life­time. They will have also de­vel­oped and en­hanced their pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ships and will bring those re­la­tion­ships home to their work­places. Not only that, I am con­vinced each of the vol­un­teer com­mit­tee mem­bers has sig­nif­i­cantly en­hanced their ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

One of the other com­plex­i­ties of a large vol­un­teer work­force is man­ag­ing the tasks that have been del­e­gated to var­i­ous com­mit­tees. All com­mit­tees were given full author­ity to build their own team, cre­ate a project char­ter and man­age their own time­lines within the scope of the main project char­ter. Some com­mit­tees man­aged quite well, while oth­ers needed help. In nor­mal workplace sit­u­a­tions, a man­ager has for­mal author­ity to man­age em­ploy­ees who are not keep­ing pace with project time­lines.

How­ever, the vol­un­teer project com­mit­tee chairs found it was much more chal­leng­ing to man­age their team mem­bers be­cause the vol­un­teers were made of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the var­i­ous po­lice agencies over which they had no for­mal author­ity. For in­stance, vol­un­teers can sim­ply walk away from a project if they feel a lack of re­spect and/or feel their ideas or opin­ions have not been heard. In­flu­ence with­out author­ity is a very dif­fi­cult chal­lenge in any man­age­ment role, and from Martin’s point of view, this was one of her great­est ar­eas of pro­fes­sional growth through­out the en­tire project.

Ac­tu­ally, the en­tire con­fer­ence-plan­ning project was a gi­ant skill-build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The hands-on, prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence in­volved in such a com­plex project-plan­ning process built nu­mer­ous lead­er­ship skills that will help these women reach for higher-level job roles within their or­ga­ni­za­tion. For in­stance, sev­eral chair­women were leading a com­mit­tee for the first time. Oth­ers vol­un­teered for roles that would de­velop skills such as fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and project man­age­ment which in turn would help them work to­ward their de­sired pro­fes­sional des­ig­na­tions.

While the ben­e­fits to the con­fer­ence vol­un­teers and at­ten­dees are clearly ev­i­dent, the city of Win­nipeg and the prov­ince as a whole are also reap­ing huge re­wards. Can you imag­ine 700 women from all cor­ners of the world hav­ing 10 days to ex­plore what Win­nipeg has to of­fer? Busi­ness own­ers will be buzzing with ex­cite­ment as they meet groups of po­lice-women tourists who are ar­riv­ing to stay at a va­ri­ety of ho­tels, en­joy the di­ver­sity of our many restaurants and our unique cloth­ing stores. Many con­fer­ence del­e­gates will also join in a hosted bus tour around the city. Oth­ers will be trav­el­ling to Churchill post-con­fer­ence to see the po­lar bears and ex­pe­ri­ence life in the north.

There are also ben­e­fits to the gen­eral pub­lic as they are in­vited to at­tend and watch the pa­rade of na­tions on Sept. 28, the true 100-day marker for the plan­ning com­mit­tee. This date is also im­por­tant be­cause it takes place in con­junc­tion with the Man­i­toba As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice me­mo­rial ser­vice. Fi­nally, the pub­lic is wel­come to at­tend the fi­nal ban­quet.

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