The letter sent to our members April 8th, 2021
Dear WAURISA Members;
With mixed emotions we are announcing that our Washington GIS organization will be disaffiliating from URISA and will become the Washington GIS Association (WAGISA). This change will not have any direct impact to our members.
Our Washington members have always signed up and paid for WAURISA and URISA individually. URISA through their OneURISA initiative have changed this approach to combine those memberships and costs. We have found that the vast majority of our members are not willing to pay the extra dues to join URISA. In order to provide the same level of membership to the majority of our members we have opted to continue with the current system where people choose which organization they want to join (saving most of our members a $200/year expense).
We will continue to provide our WAGISA members all the benefits they have been experiencing, and we also encourage people to join URISA (but we don’t require it). The choice is up to our members.
We want to take this opportunity to explain why we made this decision and the historical facts that led to it. In addition we want to let you know how you can learn more through upcoming opportunities to discuss this with board members.
Background and Historical Context
OneURISA began as an effort to grow International URISA with a very inclusive model. It involved a reasonable individual membership cost and allowed our organization to continue to do what we have done successfully, since we were Northwest CAMA before associating ourselves with International URISA and changing our name to WAURISA. Funds raised by our organization would continue to be controlled by our Board and our board would be elected by us and remain focused on the needs of Washington State GIS professionals.
WAURISA has long been involved with the creation of the OneURISA plan and had representation on the Chapter Advisory Board (CAB). The early OneURISA plan that was created by Chapter leaders took into account many of the concerns brought forward by URISA Chapters. Our best interests were no longer being met when the URISA Board took over the process and changed and finalized the OneURISA plan. URISA increased the individual membership dues. Those Washington GIS users not willing or able to pay the dues, would no longer remain in our organization as members. We are concerned this would change the control of our local organization away from the current involved GIS users.
WAURISA has always been an inclusive organization with very reasonable membership dues. Attendance at our annual conference conferred membership and all attendees elected the Board. This made the Board very responsive to a membership that represented a large number of people in Washington State who worked as GIS Professionals and in related fields. We believe that the proposed changes will inhibit our ability to function independently and to focus on the needs of all GIS Professionals in Washington.
We, your Board, have tried to see if we could make this model work for us. We have provided an easy opportunity to have our members sign up for membership with International URISA at the same time as they registered for the Washington GIS Conference. Those costs were very similar to what the dues would be for membership under the One URISA model. Out of over 200 attendees, only 4 signed up for membership and only one of those was a full professional membership.
We have sent two letters to International URISA expressing concerns with the OneURISA initiative. The responses we received did not answer any of our questions, address any of our concerns, or indicate any willingness to consider alternative forms of affiliation. In an effort to work toward a compromise, in September 2019 our chapter sent four Board members to the International URISA conference in New Orleans. While there, we found that quite a few other chapters held similar concerns. However, despite these efforts, no changes were made to the proposed Chapter Affiliation Agreement to meet the needs of our members. We are not the only organization to express those concerns either. However, none of that changed the outcome.
In January 2021, the WAURISA Board voted to end our affiliation with International URISA. After much discussion, we felt that the International URISA membership model would no longer work for WAURISA. This change will be effective as soon as all the paperwork and forms are accepted.
We bear no ill-will to the organization in any form. We no longer feel that their membership model will work for our organization and that is the only reason this decision has been reached.
Some of the steps we are/have taken as a result of this decision are:
Our virtual conference is scheduled for May 25-27 and there will be session(s) where the Board will address this change further and provide opportunities for you to discuss this with the Board. In the interim if you have questions, concerns or comments regarding these changes please submit them here:
Washington State GIS Association (WAGISA)
Approved unanimously by The Board
Stephen Beimborn, President,