Seth’s Stone Soup

Seth Rubenstein doesn’t have many fond memories of attending Hebrew School as a kid.
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Seth Rubenstein doesn’t have many fond memories of attending Hebrew School as a kid. The one exception is a story he read back then, called Stone Soup. That children’s book was brought back to mind recently as he and his fellow members of the CEDIA board of directors faced the daunting challenge of re-engaging with alienated association volunteers.

Stone Soup is about fearful villagers whose hearts have been hardened after suffering harsh times. But when three monks, named Hok, Lok, and Siew, cleverly entice them to make soup from stones (in addition to a bunch of donated veggies), the villagers discover how much they are each capable of giving and how much more comes back in return when they do.

For Rubenstein, this parable is similar to the recent struggles of CEDIA and the custom installation channel as the economy, housing market, and technology commoditization has taken its toll. His new mission as membership chair is a little bit like that of the Stone Soup monks as he works to re-engage veteran CEDIA volunteers in the inner workings of their trade association and recruits new members to populate a completely revamped committee structure.

After several town hall meetings around the country revealed a general sense of alienation from long-time CEDIA volunteers, and a jaded attitude from non-CEDIA members about the value of joining the association, Rubenstein led board members in making drastic changes. The alterations that he and other suggested would put volunteers back at the top of the CEDIA pyramid.

During its June meeting in Chicago the board agreed that it should build its new volunteer structure specifically around supporting its fiveyear strategic plan.

“It’s not going back in time and building an old structure,” CEDIA COO Don Gilpin explained. “We first looked at the strategic plan as the guiding principle of the association and built our volunteer committee around that plan.”

Referred to as “ad hocs” in board parlance, the committees represent Membership Development, Membership Programs, Professional Development, Emerging Technologies and Trends, and PR and Marketing.

I, for one, hope this new structure inspires veterans and newcomers to take ownership of CEDIA. I hear plenty of people asking whether or not CEDIA is worth its $500/year membership dues. My answer is that you get what you put into something. So start getting your money’s worth from CEDIA by volunteering on one of these new committees (email sethrubenstein@hotmail.com to learn more).

I bet that our combined effort will result in a soup of ideas that gets this industry right back on track.

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