SU: The Western Australia/San Francisco mentoring partnership began with a friendship between individuals. How did this partnership begin? How long has it been in place?
JM/AG: It developed along the same lines, based on the individual friendship/efforts. When Ashok was a member of the Global Task Force in August 2006, he interacted closely with Region VI delegates, particularly Region VI Vice President Jim Morris. Both recognized the benefit of partnership, and proposed the partnership to Region VI and the Kuwait Chapter’s Executive Committee in October 2006. The collaboration took off from there.
SU: What were some of the key stages and/or challenges in the development of this partnership?
JM/AG: There were two aspects in the formation of this partnership. On the business side of things, the Global Task Force constituted by ASSE provided opportunities for international chapter representatives and regional vice presidents to interact and discuss the challenges faced by ASSE’s international members. On the social side, friendships developed out of these business relationships. For example, Kuwait joined Region VI during the traditional night out at the Leadership Conference. Leaders from Region VI mixed with leaders from the Kuwait Chapter. With the ability to communicate around the world via e-mail, the friendships continued and the partnership blossomed.
SU: Did cultural differences or geographical distance present any unique challenges?
JM/AG: Even though much geographical distance separates our chapters, we did not face any big challenges in terms of communication thanks to advances in information technology and the Internet. It did take some time for both sides to understand the cultural issues, such as which days are “work days” and which are weekend days for each country. With that understanding has also come a great amount of learning.
|ASSE's Most of the World Task Force, which included Jim Morris and Ashok Garlapati, met in Chicago in 2006.|
SU: How much interaction do the members of each group have with each other? How often do you communicate with each other?
JM/AG: As part of the communication, the Kuwait Chapter president and secretary are included in the weekly updates sent by Jim Morris to the Region VI chapters. All in all, we probably interact with each other an average of about once a week.
SU: What has each group brought to the partnership?
JM/AG: The main focus has been the growing SH&E challenges for Kuwait Chapter members. They have to upgrade their knowledge and skills to meet these challenges. The chapter identified Region VI as a source of information in meeting such challenges. From Region VI’s perspective, the Kuwait Chapter has provided a greater understanding of the SH&E challenges found outside the U.S. It has also been interesting to learn that the two entities face many of the same obstacles and opportunities.
SU: Are there any specific future plans for this partnership?
JM/AG: After the recent change in professional membership criteria, Kuwait Chapter members are working to upgrade their skills in order to obtain the certifications required for professional members status. Region VI is planning to provide preparation resources to Kuwait Chapter members. Additionally, we are working as a group to develop an official commemoration of the partnership. Region VI has even incorporated the Kuwaiti Towers as a part of its logo. As a result of our partnership, Region VI is often referred to as the “Galactic Region” (a phrase coined by former Region III RVP Richard Bourlon that stuck).
SU: What has been the most significant benefit of this partnership for Region VI? For the Kuwait Chapter?
JM/AG: As noted, the Kuwait Chapter gets regular weekly updates from Region VI. One significant achievement of the partnership was the participation of Kuwait Chapter members’ children in the 2007 Kids’ Safety-on-the-Job NAOSH Week poster contest—and several won prizes. This was the first time any children of international ASSE members participated in the contest. It was possible because of the regular communication between Region VI and Kuwait Chapter executives. In addition, for the first time the chapter submitted an application to the Chapter Stars program in 2007, and the chapter became the first international chapter to achieve this status. The two groups also have exchanged several best practices/initiatives.
SU: Can you offer any helpful advice to other chapters interested in developing a similar mentoring partnership?
JM/AG: After successful partnerships, the Kuwait Chapter, Western Australia Chapter and Region VI made a presentation during the recent Leadership Conference on the advantages of partnering. We are currently working within the Council on Member and Region Affairs to develop some guidelines for how and when partnerships should work within the Society.
SU: Talk about the SOG for Global Partnering that is being drafted. What will be the benefit of this operating guideline?
JM/AG: So far, these partnerships have developed individually. To ensure that the process continues and involves ASSE headquarters, a Society operating guideline (SOG) has been developed for partnering among the chapters. Our hope is that this SOG will encourage others to form partnerships and give them some guidance. As ASSE grows, we should look to use the technology to share best practices and, at times, share information about the practices that didn’t work as well. Through the SOG, we hope to encourage partnerships and use the information shared to expand our presence around the world. Our goals and vision specifically mention ASSE as a global resource and leader, and this is one way to achieve that. Leadership in the SH&E field is by no means confined to the U.S. There is too much to share that crosses so many borders when we look at our mission to help protect people, property and the environment.