The Virtual Valley
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
As of this writing seventy percent of local bodies are in the process of moving into what is known as the Virtual Valley. It is seeing regular use and further support resources are soon to begin rolling out, so an increasing number of members are becoming aware of its existence and are wondering what it is all about. I wanted to take a few minutes to give you all the history and vision of the Virtual Valley.
No one joins the Electoral College without some experience in the operations of a local body. Some of us may have ideas or goals for improvement coming into service. Some of us get the opportunity to realize those goals, some learn that we were woefully clueless before serving five or so years. That certainly happened with me. I came in wanting to support the development of local body leadership and specifically to raise local body standards.
Through my service on the College and the Kaaba Colloquium team, I have had great opportunity to observe our strengths and weakness, mine included, over the last eleven years, and I came to some surprising conclusions. Or at least they surprised me.
To raise standards, we didn’t need to just increase the requirements placed on local bodies and expect them to meet them, placing undue pressure on the members to live up to these aspirations. Instead, we needed to provide better resources and more training, and to focus on the development of a strong leadership core from all the initiates interested in one day serving in this capacity.
The College had two committees tasked with the discussion of developing resources for masters and mentors, but they did not seem to be getting anywhere quickly, so as the President of the College, I rolled them into one committee and solicited members from outside the College to participate. Specifically, I solicited seated and past masters interested in the objective.
We started with what they wished they had or had had when starting in the role and issues the College had seen repeat over the years, and as chair of the committee, I started outlining a plan. It would take multiple years and would culminate with local bodies moving into the U.S.G.L. Workspace in semiautonomous electronic oases, we call the Virtual Valley.
Six months later the pandemic hit. Just as we were about to solicit volunteers for our traveling resources lists, suddenly no one could travel. We put that project on hold and started looking at what the local bodies needed right then to maintain their communities. The answer was first to provide the ability to stay connected.
So, we would give them the ability to Meet online for free in the U.S.G.L. Workspace. To do this, they needed oto-usa.org emails. We would buy them for all officers of local bodies. I asked the Assistant Internet Secretary what it would cost the Electoral College to buy up to 4 emails for each local body. Turned out, we had enough emails included in the U.S.G.L. workspace to do it for no additional charge. But, with that email came so much more than a calendar and the ability to host a Meet for up to 250 attendees and we had other goals from the plan that could be met at the same time. Resources local masters needed. Resources that would solve recurring issues.
We started rolling out the Virtual Valleys on a voluntary basis at the end of March 2020 and the initiative was announced in the Spring 2020 issue of Agape. Subsequently, at the EC’s Spring Policy and Procedure meeting, I outlined for the College what the Virtual Valley came with and how it could help by providing:
- email archives that pass from one office holder to the other with ease
- calendar for online meetings
- drive space to place all electronic resources in the hands of the body rather than individual members
- groups for communication between the local and regional leaders, a public announcement list, member lists, and others by request (with proper security settings prescribed for said lists to protect member contact information from accidental public exposure)
- training sessions on how to use all of the above.
The College voted to mandate the use of the Virtual Valley, leaving the calendar and electronic meeting software as optional, knowing that several bodies had paid services with which they were happy. This was announced on the internal U.S.G.L. policy update elist in June of 2020.
The Resource Development Committee continues to work on resources we plan to roll out over the coming months, including the aforementioned traveling resource lists. It turns out, however, that the first developed resource released in the Virtual Valley after the initial roll-out was not developed by our team, but instead came from the Diversity Task Force of U.S.G.L. This is quite encouraging, as one of the committees’ goals is to provide easy access to resources from across Grand Lodge to the local body leadership, and we are thrilled to collaborate.
If you have any questions, or to set up your local body, do not hesitate to contact me.
Love is the law, love under will.