Diane Gage Lofgren, chief communication officer, brand communication, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, said that diversity and ethics were two of the major topics discussed at the three-hour “unconference” of the Society Assembly Oct. 13 in San Francisco.

sealGage Lofgren
Her report, published on the Society’s website March 5, comes about four-and-a-half months after the Assembly.

For the second straight year, reporters were banned from the meeting of the Society’s legislative body.

The only report on the meeting thus far has been from several senior members who said it was “the most utterly useless Assembly in the history of the Society.” They felt Gage Lofgren was treating them in a “condescending” manner by telling them not to be afraid of an “unconference” that had no set agenda. “Did she think she was doing a session for newly-elected Brownie troop leaders?” they asked.

As described by the seniors, the morning of the Assembly was taken up by 11 speeches including a half-hour nominating committee report by 2011 chair Gary McCormick although none of the elections were being contested.

The Assembly was broken up into more than 15 groups for the afternoon session with initial instructions to bring up any subject at all.

Subjects Suggested; Legal Action Threatened

However, Gage Lofgren had announced beforehand on the Society website that her committee had come up with a “list of Assembly objectives and themes” that included “growing and retaining membership uncovering membership and growth development issues, and finding ways national can support membership.”

The Society had 20,266 members in January 2000 when the Ethics Resource Center conducted a survey and as of today had 21,367 for a net gain of 1,101 in 12 years.

When this website published and e-mailed Gage Lofgren that she was contradicting the definition of an “unconference,” we received a letter from the Kaiser Permanente legal department accusing us of being “unfair” to her and threatening legal action.

“You have made certain unfounded and unfair allegations regarding Kaiser Permanente and Ms. Gage Lofgren and her work with the Society,” it said, adding, “We view these unfair statements as potentially damaging to the reputations of Kaiser Permanente and our valued employee.” It suggested we consult our lawyer since KP “vigorously protects our reputation and our brand from baseless attacks.”

Gage Lofgren is a director of the Foundation of the Society and a member of the Arthur W. Page Society.

Her report says delegates “were given the freedom to propose topics they believed would inspire membership growth, and to move-about freely among the topics that most interested them and contribute creative and engaging ideas and solutions for the issues being discussed.”

It turned out that, “In many cases, the new solutions and initiatives brought forward by the delegates are already in place or are being tested by national,” said her report.

One topic of “particular interest,” she added, was “pursuing more diverse membership.”

The Society closed its Multicultural Section at the end of 2009 because of low participation by members.

Ethics Called “Critical” for Members

Another topic that was called a “critical and central focus” for members was “ethics.”

“Consistent with the advice and counsel of the Leadership Assembly, the Society’s focus is on helping practitioners learn how to be ethical and how to detect, deter and avoid unethical behavior,” said the Gage Lofgren report.

“We do this by commenting on relevant ethics-related issues through a variety of forums, including public statements, op-eds, letters to the editor and blog posts,” it added.

The Society is moving “in lockstep” with delegate views on assisting chapters with membership recruitment and retention, it further said.

Spending on ethics was $1,406 in 2011 and $2,649 in 2010. It is the smallest expense of the Society. Next in size is the $127,931 spent on the Counselors Academy and other sections in 2011.

Mickey Nall, 2013 chair, said last year that the membership renewal rate was 73%, meaning that about 5,800 members did not renew.