Whither CHAMP? Possible Futures

In my privileged position as the Communications Coordinator for CHAMP, I have an interesting perspective on the members, group ties to other organizations, and on the challenges that we face. So much has happened to the organization and to the world in the last two years that I find myself wondering about our future.  How should we adapt? Are our goals still the same? How can we improve our support to military and to academia? I intend to explore these issues in the following article, then offer four possible optons for the future.

Present: CHAMP is now a large (over 400 members), yet amorphous, group composed of members from several militaries, government and non-government organizations, and many countries. (For a full listing, see the reference page on the CHAMP website – http://aiamilitarypanel.org.) A large number of student members are studying cultural property protection and the military. With the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), CHAMP members have provided excellent training and education to many deployed military personnel, and provided many resources to military commands and to academia. All these people are working towards the CHAMP goals in many ways. Some have direct influence over defense policies and military training; others have the ability to provide information, advice, equipment, and other support to DoD and national agencies, governments, and international organizations.

Combatant Command Cultural Heritage Action Group (MilCHAG) in particular has grown in influence and has developed excellent training and education tools and resources. Col Joris Kila, International Military Cultural Heritage Working Group (IMCUWG) leader, and Dr. Karl von Habsburg, President of the National Committees of the Blue Shield, have made several investigation trips to Egypt and Libya during the revolutions in those countries. Their reports have helped to raise awareness and aid policy-making for many organizations and individuals. UNESCO, AIA, the Committees of the Blue Shield, International Council of Museums (ICOM) amd the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the US State Department have been influential in advocating for the protection of the cultural heritage in the nations undergoing revolutions. CHAMP is a convenient nexus for these groups to exchange ideas and information between each other. The website has provided a source of information on the work of everyone, and has acted as an excellent recruiting source.

However, violence in Syria, Mali, Egypt, Sudan, and other countries has severely limited CHAMP’s options to help preserve the cultural heritage of those nations. The humanitarian crises worldwide have had devastating effects on the heritage of most countries. Military units are being asked to help work with organizations like the Red Cross and the UN to save such property. The world economy is also impacting the ability of nations to save their heritage. As organizational budgets shrink, CHAMP members have less funds to travel and work on group projects. The shift in focus of the US to the Far East will bring new challenges to CHAMP as it seeks to work with the militaries of nations supporting that mission. All this information needs to be taken into consideration as we move forward.

Possible Futures: Several possible future paths for the group could be pertinent and help to attain all goals. I will discuss four such paths here. 1) We can continue as we are or 2) we can disband entirely as an organization (gasp!); 3) we can become more engaged with different constituencies within the group without becoming more structurally organized; or 4) we can take the full route towards incorporating as an organization with a governing board, stronger goals, and necessary resources. I welcome discussion on them as well as other ideas to accomplish unit goals.

1)      The first path (stay the same) is obviously easy to continue along in the same direction. This has the advantage of being simple to implement and requires little change. However, there are several disadvantages based on its lack of structure and resources.  First, the group is becoming too large to meet all the desires and interests of its varied members. I frequently receive questions about how members can become more engaged, or discontented comments about how little the group accomplishes together. Military members want to become more engaged in influencing military policy and operations. Students want advice on their theses and dissertations. Organizations want more data about how they can work with CHAMP. Second, there is not strong group leadership on accomplishing certain organizational goals. While numerous people are strong leaders in their individual organizations or other groups, they have not applied those leadership skills within CHAMP.  While good role models, these leaders are not truly leading the group. (Yes, I am guilty too!) Third, numerous people say that the website is too limited, that social media should be used more, but there are only a few contributors of information. However, there are certain security rules that we need to consider to protect sources and sites. Some members think that CHAMP should provide funding for various projects.  However, there are not any group resources, unless  they are provided by other organizations. As secretary, my own poor ability to help answer all the group needs is becoming weaker.

2)      The second option (disbanding the organization), while extreme, is one I feel must be at least raised as a viable concern. It is my personal opinion that CHAMP requires more leadership, focus, and resources to truly achieve our goals and help our constituencies in the current environment of growing revolutions and economic burdens. Have we now reached our potential? Are there too many group offshoots and competing interests? Are we all now so engrossed in our other activities, often similar to CHAMP’s, that we do not have the time or capability to work within CHAMP? Are there other organizations, like AIA, MilCHAG, UNESCO, ICOM, and BLUE SHIELD that are now accomplishing CHAMP goals so well that CHAMP is not necessary? Do those organizations have the necessary resources to make a real difference? If so, then perhaps CHAMP should be phased out and members encouraged to join another organization that meets their interests. Ultimately, we all want to accomplish the group goals, but there may be another organization or process that is working better than CHAMP.  If so, then why should we disperse needed energy and strength away from those organizations by continuing to work through CHAMP? Please consider this option carefully, looking not only at group goals, but also at those of your own work and affiliations. What does CHAMP do for you?

3)      The third option (becoming more integrated) has some interesting advantages and disadvantages. There are several ways that we can become more integrated and focused. One possibility includes building several smaller sub-groups such as the current AIA Annual Meeting roundtable constituencies (Education, Policy and Doctrine, Cultural Heritage Tools, IMCuWG, and Original Research), military members only, academic members only (to include university faculty, museum curators, and students), all non-military governmental departments and non-profit organizations, businesses, and interested individuals. From the recommendations and activities of these working groups, the entire organization can profit and engage with each other in a better way. This will require stronger CHAMP leadership to work with the different sub-groups. The website and/or other media can be used to support these groups. Another possibility lies in working closer with organizations such as AIA, UNESCO, US State Dept, various military departments, Ministries of Culture, etc. This would require that CHAMP become better organized in some fashion and able to speak with a single voice. The advantages lie in becoming more effective and meeting the needs of the various members of the organization. On the other hand, some of the same disadvantages in the first option still remain in this option. The group will still not be seen as having the necessary level of influence and effectiveness to meet all expectations of the group or the status that organizations acquire by officially incorporated organizations. Lack of resources (funding, training and education aids, and equipment, etc.) will continue to hamper the ability to support projects.

4)      The fourth option is to fully incorporate as a formal non-profit organization to work towards our common goals. We would have to establish a Board of Directors, acquire a 501C3 account to accept donations, determine group structure, lay out more formal group policy, and determine resource needs. This is obviously bureaucratic and requires more work and time from many of us. Naturally, this is a difficult step to contemplate for all our overworked over-achievers! However, the advantages are numerous. First of all, as a formal institution, our “voice” will be heard as coming from a recognized organization. Second, outside organizations (both governmental and non-governmental) will hopefully feel more comfortable working with an internationally recognized NGO. Third, the organization will be able to gather resources (funding and in-kind) through such means as member dues, donations, or grants to aid various group programs and projects. These could include creating the popular playing cards for more countries, buying training equipment, funding member travel to conferences and training exercises, publishing group documents, etc.  The various sub-groups mentioned in the third option could become more formally organized to meet their goals as well as aid the overall group goals.

Obviously, I am all in favor of the last option! I welcome your thoughts on these ideas.  I will post my article on our website on a new sub-tab for any CHAMP articles on the Resource tab.  Blogs are being arranged for you to answer my article and other articles. Whatever the group decides, I stand ready to help implement. I look forward to our discussions online, through email, and especially at the workshop in Seattle!

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