5 Things Niko Taught Us
Odd Fellows who are online are probably aware of Niko Boskovic’s experience with the United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth which is supported by the IOOF. If not, doing a google search will bring up plenty of articles which explain the situation. What I wanted to do is focus on what lessons IOOF can take away from this experience. Here are 5 things:
- We have a HUGE technology gap in the Order. Odd Fellows who are online are very aware of desperate attempts to update the Order as well as see how the odds are stacked against us surviving as an organization in the 21st century. Those who are not comfortable with technology are, in many instances, in control of local Lodges, Grand Lodges, and Sovereign Grand Lodge and may not see the urgency that we see, or how accessible our mistakes are to the globe. As of this writing we still have 21 Grand Lodges without websites. Many Grand Lodges have websites that are outdated and unattractive. We must find a way to bridge this gap. Perhaps internet savvy members could offer Lodge internet classes for the good of the order.
- As an organization, our decision making process is too slow and cumbersome for today’s world. Once the story of Niko broke, many of us sat horrified as we tracked the story spreading across the web and across the globe in real time. Yet, there seemed to be total indifference from our leadership. In the words of one critic “…it concerns me that it took so long for them to work this out. This is simple, a young man won a contest and, according to federal law, arrangements should have been made to accommodate his attendance…” The wrongheaded decision regarding Niko didn’t just hurt the Order. More importantly it upset a child–and we’re here to help children, not upset them.
- We discovered we have people in leadership who are inexperienced. Maybe they understand the workings of the Order, but they may not understand how 21st century public relations works. We also discovered we have leadership that may be uninformed about federal and state law, minority rights, modern social issues, the 24 hour news cycle, how quickly news can spread online, and how quickly people can unite using the internet to support their causes.
- We found out the hard way that perhaps the only time Odd Fellows matters to the world at large is when we do something wrong. There are two lessons in this. First, for publicity’s sake we must do everything right. Today, there is little room for error. The second lesson is that few people know the good we are capable of doing. This is our fault. Local Lodges must partner with business, social, and organizational leadership in their community to reach those in need. Grand Lodges must reach out to a state’s business, social, and organizational leadership as well as provide leadership to local Lodges. Sovereign Grand Lodge must engage the nation’s business, social, and organizational leaders to promote the Order nationally as well as provide leadership to Grand Lodges. This is reminiscent of the DMC’s three legged stool. If one level–whether it’s Lodge, Grand Lodge, Sovereign Grand Lodge–is not doing its job, the stool collapses. In this case, the Lodges and Grand Lodge did their job.
- We, the membership, held the leadership accountable. In this case, I separate membership into two categories. First the membership online that expressed their outrage and worked with the public. The online membership and the public forged a campaign to get Niko his rightful prize. Second, the local Lodges and Lodges across the country came together to raise enough of a stink that something had to be done. From these two efforts we learn two things: That it takes too much effort to make modern changes in the Order, and that changes can be made when we, who wish to see the Order move healthily into the 21st century, stick together.
I hope we get stickier in the future.
My humblest apologies to Niko.
Scott The Conductor
Scott Moye is an award winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folkore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas. He is a founder of Heart in Hand blog.