Over many years there has been discussions around the situation for amateur radio and views of the future. Different initiatives have been started to improve the situation and budgets has been assigned (2005 Foresight project, 2015 Future of Amateur Radio) and there are probably many views of what happened over these years. Looking in the IARU-R1 records, there has only been one substantial result from the discussions: it was decided at Sun City 2011 to set up a Region 1 Youth coordinator and that the member societies also nominate a youth coordinator and/or a Youth working group (WG).
Several of the areas identified already in the Foresight project are again on the table from the 2021 workshop. One learning from the earlier initiatives is that some of the areas identified are complex to handle and require commitment from both IARU and member societies over longer time to succeed. Looking in the meeting minutes of the past, this does not seem to have been the case. In addition, to make change happen it needs to happen through out the region.
When planning the 2020 GC, it was discussed in the EC about what was done in the Region to attract new radio amateurs. It was decided that a significant part of the conference should be focused on this, Member Societies were proposed to reach out to their younger radio amateurs to take part in the discussions.
The provisional program proposed discussions on feedback on subjects such as :
- What have the Member Societies done about future of amateur radio in their country,
- What have Member Societies done about attracting young people,
- The relation with regulator.
- The role of Member Societies in general
The Member Societies approved this conference setup and the workshop focusing on the future. A self-reflection survey was circulated to prepare for the discussions, and it was sent out in Oct. 2019. Questions covered the following areas:
- Overall membership trends,
- Training, examinations for a licence and new entrants,
- Society strategy and governance,
- Relationship with Spectrum Regulator.
Only a 1⁄3rd of the Societies replied to the survey…
To the EC, the survey result did not come as a surprise but certainly confirming the worrying feeling. Below is the summary comment in the report that was sent out to the MS in May 2020:
“From the data and comments in the responses, some societies seem to have real concerns about the future. Do the others not feel there is a problem, or do they feel there is nothing they can do to influence events?
It may be that some societies feel they are “passengers” in terms of the direction amateur radio will take, whereas others seem to believe they can influence that destination and are trying to do so. In our Workshop we hope to create an environment where people can share their experiences and initiatives so that those societies who find it hard to influence direction can develop plans in the confidence that they have worked elsewhere.”
(Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats)
It became apparent that it would not be possible to hold a physical conference 2020 due to the pandemic. An agreement was reached to postpone the workshop part and move it to 2021, hoping that it then would be possible to hold a physical workshop.
Over time the importance of the workshop grew and the understanding that this must be a good workshop with results that everyone can support became clearer for a majority of Societies.
External expertise was engaged and it was agreed that, considering the circumstances, more preparation was needed where each MS can look deeper into its national situation. The tool for this was the SWOT analysis. It was proposed to evaluate the situation of Amateur Radio in the country. National preparations was then compiled, presented and discussed in June 2021.
In July 2021 it was decided to go for a virtual workshop, knowing that a lot of the advantages with a physical workshop would be lost.