Société Gatineau Monde—An Autopsy
We met with Nadia St-Pierre as arranged, at Aylmer’s trendy Café Mulligan on October 3, to talk about Société Gatineau Monde (SGM), which is soon to be history.
Before SGM, there were people at the University of Quebec in the Outaouais who arranged conferences for the public. In 2006, SGM was established to enhance this work. Later the same year, St-Pierre joined the crew, as they needed a graphic artist. While that was her paid job, she found herself volunteering for a whole range of other tasks—arranging halls, contacting speakers, approaching funding sources, and so on.
The thing she loved about working in SGM was the teamwork. “We were a microsociety, between three and nine of us at a time. There were difficult periods,” she mused, “but we negotiated our differences. That is, except for one unhappy person who called me at all hours to complain. I can’t say why, but the rest of the team supported me.”
One approach that she applauds was the practice of twinning new board members with longer-serving members. This helped in promoting continuity and stability.
“Some people wanted to be involved just to get something to put on their curriculum vitae. In my time with SGM I learned better how to size people up right away. I found the people from the university to be interested—and interesting.”
She left SGM last year. They no longer needed a graphic artist. She witnessed the decline of the organization with the changing situation.
The basic problem was simply that it became difficult to get derrières in the seats. “At the start, Le Droit and Radio Canada gave us free publicity. After about eight years, Le Droit changed its approach, and Radio Canada adopted a new policy of giving a 15-second announcement three times a day for local events. Both of these media also reduced coverage of the actual events. The modest membership fees were really about developing a contact list.”
She sees the shape of the audience most recently to be composed of older, better educated people. “Younger people have other interests these days—family, social media, games, for instance.”
St-Pierre pointed out that it was not financing that was the reason for the decline of SGM. Quite simply, the board did not feel that it made sense to continue without greater public interest.
SGM will be gone at the end of the year, but it is going out with two blockbuster sessions. On October 17, Peter Larson will look at the viability of a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine controversy, and on November 21, Gérard Bouchard will talk about Bouchard-Taylor ten years later. That’s Bouchard-Taylor without Taylor, who bailed out following the Ste-Foy massacre. The sessions take place at Gatineau’s Maison du Citoyen, at 7:30 p.m.