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Letter from the President: Your Official Invitation to The Solutions Summit

April 12, 2023, Jim Tedford

The Association’s President & CEO is saving the date – see you on June 13?

Dear Colleagues,

Please accept this as your official invitation to The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement’s Solutions Summit.  The event will be held virtually on June 13.  If you’re asking, “Why go virtual… isn’t COVID mostly behind us?,”  that’s a great question.  The answer is simple—it’s about inclusivity.  One important lesson we learned during the pandemic-driven shutdown was that there are hundreds (probably thousands) of animal welfare professionals out there who simply cannot take the time or spend the money to travel to a live conference event.  Our first virtual Spring Conference in June 2020 attracted over 1,000 people – nearly three times the usual number of registrants.

Moving back to two in-person events in 2022 was wonderful, but only for those of us fortunate enough to be able to attend.  On the flip side, returning to live conferences meant leaving many folks behind… again.  Animal welfare is a melting pot and there is great strength in the variety of organizations and individuals making up our profession.  We have much to learn from one another and it is very important that all those professionals dedicated to our field have a place at the table.  Virtual events, while challenging at times, level the playing field. Virtual events make it possible for folks from organizations with limited means to learn alongside those with larger teams and budgets.  And we have much to learn from each other, as well.  If you know me, you’ve heard me say (lots of times!) that the strength of The Association is our NETWORK.  And, that network needs to be representative of all levels of experience and all sizes, shapes and types of organizations.

The ingenuity of animal welfare professionals never ceases to amaze me.  There is a level of grit and determination paired with extraordinary creativity and problemsolving that is inspiring.  Over the years I have been witness to many, many innovations in our profession.  Some of them are driven by sheer necessity.  Even the most well-resourced organizations are limited by time, staffing, and money.  And, most organizations have been required to figure out how to stretch every penny as far as possible.  I vividly recall the arrival of shelter management software systems into our field.  Think about maintaining all shelter records on paper… not a pretty image! 

Our long history of innovation inspired the theme of our June event, The Solutions Summit.  Our staff designed the summit to inspire us all to continue thinking outside the proverbial “box” – and, indeed, to think outside our shelter walls – to address our most pressing challenges.  We’ll start the day off with a thought-provoking keynote address from Dr. Michael Blackwell of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee.  Dr. Blackwell will propose answers to the following questions: 

  • Are your mission and personal, professional, and organizational goals aligned with what our society needs?
  • Are your organization’s policies and procedures aligned with our society?

Enjoy solutions-focused discussions on big issues like access to care, staff retention, and building momentum for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.  And learn from your colleagues who will share their own potential solutions large and small.

We look forward to seeing you virtually in June and in-person again in November in Portland, OR.  In the meantime, don’t forget to use The Network to share any challenges or success you encounter.  Your colleagues are there to help, and they’re counting on you, as well.

About Jim Tedford
Jim Tedford, CAWA, is President and CEO of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

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