Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lung Association of Chicago spins off to counter centralization

Fascinating news from Crain's Chicago Business here:

Local Lung Assn. chapter breaks with national group

101 year-old group will change name July 1

(Crain’s) — The American Lung Assn. of Metropolitan Chicago is cutting ties with the national group and changing its name.

Effective July 1, the association will call itself the Respiratory Health Assn. of Metropolitan Chicago, said Joel Africk, the group’s CEO.

The Chicago association, founded 101 years ago, is managed by an independent board. Mr. Africk said the New York-based national organization wanted the Chicago association to sign a new contract making it part of a Springfield-based, multi-state satellite of the national organization.

The Chicago chapter refused and is changing its name and dropping its affiliation as a result.
The Lung Association has been a major player in the successes of the smoke-free movement in Chicago and Illinois.

And lots of advocacy organizations have a tendency to centralize over time, cutting off chapter autonomy and fundraising as the (usually D.C.-based) staff in headquarters look to consolidate budgets and authority. This is almost always a bad move, as most advocacy organizations are too top-heavy and D.C.-focused and not nearly focused enough on where most people live, and I'm glad to see the leaders in Chicago actively fighting this trend.

I should say I have no further information besides the Crain's article so it's possible that the story is more complicated in the Lung Association (perhaps there's a state-city split that isn't clear in the article). But local autonomy and funding for local chapters of groups with a common national/federal agenda is almost always a smart move and I'm glad the Chicago leaders of the Lung Association are making that happen.

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