New Frontiers – Including Collaboration & Innovation

By: NEFHS Board Member Gilberto Gandra,  Pethealth Inc.

In 2017, the New England Federation of Humane Societies 72nd Annual Conference tackled the topic of collaboration.  A common topic for conferences in varying fields, everyone seems to agree collaboration can lead to bigger better results and this is especially true when it comes to helping animals and our communities.  As the  NEFHS Program Committee looked throughout an extensive list of top animal welfare speakers, we began to find sessions that would suggest collaboration amongst co-workers, agencies, communities and distinct non-profits.  After the three-day conference, attendees are surveyed on various topics and their responses revealed the collaboration conversation had started; or did it never stop?

Collaboration has been part of animal welfare advocates’ efforts in the New England for years.  When looking for someone who could give me a longer range of perspective, I found New Hampshirite resident Dave Betournay, ASPCA Senior Director for Community Outreach.  I asked him three questions to help understand where we are and where we are going. I am GG and Dave is DB.

GG: Give me two metrics that define animal welfare success in New England…

DB: #1 population of animals that are homeless is comparatively lower than most of the country and even most of the world. #2 Standard of care of owned and sheltered animals in New England is relatively high.

GG: How has collaboration helped the region?

DB: I think the collaboration is more common this past decade compared to twenty years ago or longer.  It seems to be fairly standard now to see individual shelter/rescues work together to help each other.  There are more educational opportunities created by NEFHS and individual state federations sharing knowledge. We even see different shelters combining resources to become more impactful in their communities, something that was rarer back in the day.

GG: Define what is innovation is to you and give a specific example of how it changed animal lives…

DB: I define Innovation as a new way or combination of ways to tackle an existing issue via new or existing products or techniques.

In 1994, NH started State Plan A and Plan B, which I think at the time was an innovative way to bring spay neuter efforts to areas of need.

Professionalization of animal welfare, which has helped shelter medicine becoming a real thing, a separate science than traditional veterinary teachings ie: ASV Sheltering Guidelines.

As for NEFHS, at our next Annual Conference in April of 2018, the New England Federation of Humane Societies will aim to combine collaboration, new frontiers and innovation into its theme: “A New Frontier: Listening, Learning, Evolving”.

While consensus is that collaboration is a positive thing, it difficult to agree on what how to or how much to do it.  Some experts even suggest poor collaboration is worse than no collaboration at all.  This is why it is important to set the framework of objectives and expectations before you start blocking time out on everybody’s calendar.  The NEFHS Program Committee will seek speakers which can suggest to the audience ways to accomplish this.  Additionally, this theme will look for speakers that can help attendees understand the changes in their communities and what’s next.  Innovation begins with an idea, often a challenge of the how and why, fueled by the desire to make things better.  There is no lack of fuel in amongst people who serve animal welfare, and we are looking for speakers and attendees from all places and backgrounds who are willing to collaborate, innovate and take us to the next frontier to create a more humane society.

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