BURLINGTON, MA—On Sunday, Oct. 8, members of the India Association of Greater Boston will elect new officers and a new board of directors, including president of the organization for a two-year term.
Given the importance of elections of the IAGB, one of the oldest Indian-American community organizations in the United States, INDIA New England News sent the same set of questions to two presidential candidates: Syed Ali Rizvi and Aditi Taylor. Here are the unedited answers from Ms. Taylor.
INDIA New England News: Why do you want to be the president of IAGB?
ADITI TAYLOR: In its 55 years of history, IAGB and its leaders have provided a solid foundation for many other community organizations that came after it. But IAGB itself hasn’t really covered much ground beyond the two events it is known for. Progress is impossible without change and for change to really ‘stick’, it has to be driven in the tone from the top. In order to thrive with the changing times and to serve as the leader of the community, IAGB needs an infusion of new ideas, new blood and new energy.
I am well known in the community for my ability to ‘get things done, and done well’. I know that with the support of the capable Executive Committee that will be in place, I can drive demonstrable, measurable and positive change in the next two years that can inspire our next generation to be engaged in this organization and to keep the torch burning!
INE: What does IAGB mean to you as a community organization?
AT: To me, IAGB must be that cohesive group that is responsible for fostering and supporting a sustainable identity for our Indian-American community regardless of region, caste, creed or age. It should be a conduit to connect our ever-growing Indian-American community with the society at-large across multiple dimensions of civic engagement, community service, social interaction, economic opportunities, business collaborations, academic exchanges and cultural relations.
INE: How long and in what capacity you have been involved with IAGB?
AT: I have been working for IAGB as a Director on the Executive Committee for 8 years (2005-2011, 2015-2017) and supporting it from the outside for many more. All throughout my focus was on innovation. Over the years, I have envisioned and actively led the design, ground work, implementation and leadership of many ‘first-ever’ events, including the college workshop, food festival, multi-age group competitions (including chess, quizzes, art, essay, debates, etc.) and Antakshari for IAGB. Over the years, I also consistently co-chaired the Cultural Committee, including all the ground work to leading up to the event-day management of IAGB’s signature events.
INE: What are the three things you wish to accomplish as president of IAGB?
AT: Actually, I have six?. My objective is to drive CHANGE. These are not just six letters, but six Pillars of Action. Under each Pillar of Action, I have identified 2-3 measurable and actionable activities that can be accomplished in the next two years. These are not merely general ideas, but have concrete actions associated with them. Not only will these expand the reach and visibility of IAGB, but also engage our younger generation to pay it forward, which should be the most important reason for running organizations like this!
1) Create a visible presence and voice for the Indian-American community in New England
2) Harness the non-profit and Greater Boston area academic relations to identify diverse opportunities for our youth
3) Activate the organization strength and resources to serve the underprivileged in our adopted land, USA
4) Nurture a sustainable platform to unite our seniors to share knowledge and experiences for social.
5) Garner opportunities for our Indian-American children to get involved and collaborate in civic activities.
6) Establish a forum to crowd-source your input and ideas for continuous innovation of the organization.
INE: There is an outside perception that there is often infighting within the organization which hampers it from moving forward with its goals. If that is true, how do you plan deal with this?
AT: There’s usually no smoke without fire! But whether it happens or not, perception creates reality!! And that in itself hampers progress, because it detracts new ideas, new generation, good people from wanting to be associated with the organization.
In my experience, the best way to deal with such things is once again, setting the right tone at the top. As a leader, the President must never have to demand respect, he/she must encourage healthy debate, promote diversity of ideas and listen to all, even when he/she may disagree. At the same time, the leader must also set some non-negotiable parameters. For example, no one is above the law or the established constitution of the organization, everyone must be a given a fair chance to provide input, and rules must not be bent conveniently and willy-nilly.
INE: It seems IAGB is still stuck in the past and the new Indian-American generation, especially those born here in the United States, have not been actively recruited to lead the organization. How can any organization move forward and energize the community when it fails to get younger generation involved?
AT: There is a lot of truth to that, unfortunately. And also, it is the primary reason for contesting this election now. Growing up in a demanding management consulting career, it was very important for me, as a woman and woman of diverse background, to see people who looked like me in leadership roles. The same philosophy applies here too!! For an organization to thrive and succeed, it needs to attract the input and talent that they can relate to. Only then can it be propelled to the next rung of the ladder and the next thereafter. Research analysis shows that our young generation is far more community oriented and politically engaged than previous generations, and wants much more than a platform for cultural dances twice a year! My objective is to expand IAGB’s footprint using a methodical platform for CHANGE described above. If we follow course, I know it will gain the traction it needs with our younger generation.
INE: Do you agree that 50 percent of the IAGB executive committee members should be first generation Indian-Americans? If yes, how do you plan to recruit them during your two-year term?
AT: The shape and needs of progress are unpredictable, the only way to succeed is to keep up with the changing times. Hence, I don’t think setting a %age threshold is wise, as you never know what the future holds. But I do think that the IAGB EC should be a healthy mix across demographics.
If elected, the specific activities under the 6 Pillars of Action would provide significant opportunities to recruit, engage and eventually retain the younger generation.
INE: With tremendous growth in Indian-American population in recent years, especially given the rise of regional and ethnic Indian-American community organizations, what should be the main task or mission of IAGB?
AT: It is wonderful to see the proliferation of new regional and ethnic Indian-American community organizations. It is a marvelous sign of progress in itself and shows how vibrant our community has become. But this is also great inflexion point and opportunity to re-learn lessons from history; to not allow the ‘divide and rule’ history to repeat itself! Instead of simply being one divided and separate faction of our growing community, IAGB should focus on being the unifying thread that holds together the fabric of our Indian-American community and meets the greater, overarching socio-economic-community needs.
INE: Since the 1990s, IAGB has been trying to get all other Indian-American organizations under a loose banner or as a joint forum, but has so far failed to achieve this goal. Do you want to continue working on this seemingly-impossible mission or launch a new initiative to unite these groups?
AT: What IAGB set out to do since the 1990s is certainly not impossible. But it requires a high degree of enthusiasm, confidence, and commitment. In the past five decades, IAGB’s focus was mostly on keeping the cultural fiber alive. While it may have been the need of the hour then, times have changed significantly. The needs are far bigger now. But as long as we keep a dedicated and committed foot on the accel supported by a well-thought out platform for CHANGE, that vision can be realized and very soon. As they say, impossible is only an issue of the mind!
INE: Why should an IAGB member vote for you?
AT: I firmly believe that ‘nothing changes if nothing changes’! We are at the crossroads of the destiny of this organization. One can take the road they know well, rely on the relationships they have. Or one can be bold enough to take the road less traveled, only then will they be instrumental in opening new avenues, new opportunities for themselves and their children and building a legacy that truly makes a difference! I have a methodical plan, enthusiasm, experience, commitment to drive change. I am confident, that if they vote for me, I can show demonstrable and measurable progress that will move the needle for this organization and our Indian-American community!