I returned from Japan and the South China Sea and the inspiring travel with Peace Boat and the School of Peace and had a few wonderful days of rest over Easter. Then the first friends and visitors started to come in to Geneva. The first to come are always the Global Staff Team, the leaders from the Areas and from US and Canada. The first meeting of the World YMCA Executive Committee always take place in beautiful Geneva, so that our governance can see the headquarters and enjoy the beauty of Geneva and surroundings.
This time we decided to hold all the meetings in Chateau de Bossey, half an hours drive outside Geneva. That was a real hit. It is the conference centre of the World Council of Churches, and beautifully situated along the Lake Geneva. The sun was shining every day, it was summerly warm and still snow on the alps surrounding us. It was breathtakingly beautiful!
And the first to start were my good friends from GST. After 24 hours deliberation about our common future on Our Way we welcomed a number of International Secretaries to talk together with us about Movement Strengthening. We decided that it is very meaningful to include these International Offices of the YMCAs in our conversations about Movement Strengthening, and decided to repeat the same Movement Strengthening Summit next year.
The Investment Committee
On Friday I met with our Investment Committee and also with representatives of our bank, UBS, United Bank of Switzerland. They are managing our investment portfolio, and they are doing it well in good times, last year our portfolio made a fantastic result of more than 9%.
Patrick Geiser, the inspiring Chair of the Investment Committee
This Investment Committee is an inspirational group to be with. You may think that the conversation is only about high flying investment strategies. And it is! But it is also about visions and dreams and possible projects to drive us forward. Their task is to recommend issues and projects to the ExCom, and the ExCom is always deciding.
After that meeting I met with the Officers and Committee Chairs. That means Peter Posner, President, Evelyne Gueye, Vice President, Leopoldo Moacir Lima, Treasurer, Ken Colloton, Past President, Pamela Davis, Chair Governance and Alan Morton, Chair Strategy.
Excellent afternoon in preparations and planning for the coming days of the ExCom. I informed them about an exciting new initiative from Africa Alliance of YMCAs, they want to buy a University in South Africa together with partners, and use it as part of their African Renaissance University. It was an application on short notice for a loan from the World YMCA. Difficult, but a very important and visionary initiative. At that time we are all excited to see how this issue will be handled in committees and plenary. Equally exciting is the issue to invest in another apartment in Geneva, to accommodate Staff Placements and decentralized staff from all around the globe. The third big issue was the adjusted budget, following the very positive results of the John R. Mott fund, our investment portfolio.
Saturday morning started with a fascinating report from the Investment Committee and a solid question and answer round afterwards. Then the ExCom met in closed session for a couple of hours to discuss governance issues and how we can improve the ways we lead our organization.
The early afternoon took us for a very interesting excursion to the United Nation, and we were taken into the halls and offices of this huge organization, where the YMCA has enjoyed observer status since the very beginning. It was all extremely impressive and made an impact upon us all. From there the busses took us to Clos Belmont 12, the Headquarter of the World YMCA. We saw the house, went through it in smaller groups and even had a close look at the original paper of the Paris Basis. The evening took us back to Chateau de Bossey for informal social fellowship.
There will be an official report after the meeting that you can all read on http://www.ymca.int.
Sunday and Monday for me demonstrated modern governance on the highest level. Excellent discussions, good reports, committee meetings to go in depth of the issues and then plenary debate again and decision making.
And the result was breath taking. The ExCom decided unanimously to invest in a new apartment with 4-5 bedrooms. The ExCom decided unanimously to offer an interest free, unsecured loan to Africa Alliance of YMCAs to invest in the mentioned University in South Africa, to be paid back in 10 years. And the ExCom decided Unanimously to release half a million Swiss Francs for future oriented projects and at the same time setting half a million Swiss Francs aside as a reserve to meet possible negative results from the investment, to give the administration time to cancel projects in a planned way, in case times grow bad again. This is a reserve that the ExCom will decide upon before it can be used.
James Ekow Rhule, President of Africa Alliance of YMCAs
Peter President said at the end of the meeting: “It is not many people around who can honestly say that what they are dealing with is touching the lives of millions of young people around the world.” That summed up a brilliant experience of good and inspiring governance.
Paris Basis Original