Guilds must be strong for IFAJ to go forward


Owen Roberts
IFAJ Vice President

IFAJ’s strength has always been based on the health of its member guilds. That’s proven true again lately, as guilds have come forward to support the federation’s new global strategy by reaching out to help journalists in less developed countries whose freedom of the press is often restricted.

That help is seen in the guilds’ contribution to co-sponsoring participants in the IFAJ-Agriterra Master Class program. The Master Class, coordinated on behalf of both groups by Agriterra’s Jose van Gelder, is a key cog in the federation’s global strategy.

The master class supports the global mandate by bringing 10 developing country journalists from the southern hemisphere to the IFAJ annual congress, for a special two-day skill development and information exchange program.

It’s a significant resource commitment.  Agriterra supports Jose’s involvement, while about half of the program’s hard costs are graciously supported by BAT. The negotiation for this agreement was led by IFAJ treasurer James Campbell.
However, the remainder of the support must come from other sources.

Three guilds – Canada, Finland and the Netherlands — have stepped up to answer the call, and at least one more guild is discussing it.

Each guild will support part of the cost of one of the 10 Master Class participants.
Canadian executive member Allison Finnamore said the support is based on feedback from participants in other IFAJ programs, who see the value in these leadership programs.

“Our decision was based on strong support from Alexis Kienlen and Lisa Guenther, IFAJ-Alltech Young Leader award winners from 2012 and 2011, who are both on our national executive, as well as our president Tamara Leigh, who participated in the Exposure-4-Development program last year,” says Finnamore.

IFAJ recognizes the contribution made by these guilds, and indeed, the way all guilds in the federation support the various activities that keep IFAJ vibrant, such as hosting congresses and supporting their executive members’ participation at IFAJ meetings.

Ultimately, this support is contingent on the guilds themselves being healthy. That’s one reason why, as part of the new global strategy, IFAJ is also committing resources to helping support and strengthen individual guilds.

What can IFAJ do to help your guild be stronger? Could it provide or help support a guest speaker, perhaps? Help with professional development activities? Offer tips for successful meetings?

Good health in humans hinges greatly on a steady level of activity. And so it is with IFAJ – active guilds make for a stronger body.

This month IFAJ is starting research, led by Japan member Masaru Yamada, William Nelson at Texas Tech University and me, on members’ most successful approaches to identifying, creating and disseminating agricultural and rural development issues or stories. The idea is to ultimately share these ideas and research results throughout IFAJ and with farm groups. 

Again, it’s the strength of individual guilds that will help this research succeed. We’re hoping the guilds will promote this survey among members and contribute to what should be some of the world’s best examples of successful communication approaches.

So, what makes your guild strong? What does your guild do to ensure long-term success? Let’s use opportunities we have through IFAJ’s facebook page to start a dialogue that will help guilds share good ideas with each other, perhaps in areas that challenge us all, such as financial security, sponsorships and fund raising.

And on the flip side, how can IFAJ help your guild be stronger? If you have some ideas, let me know. Or if your guild needs help, let me know. It’s a good time to ask – thanks to prudent leadership from past executives and strong sponsorship support, IFAJ has the resources available to make sure guilds are as healthy as possible. Our current members need to be at the top of their game as we go forward into new global territory.