The Annual General Meeting is a special highlight on the calendar of an organisation such as the Professional Women’s Group of Basel. It’s the biggest gathering of the membership, and therefore the best opportunity to inform, involve, inspire and engage the talented women who continue to shape the PWG.
Last Friday night was no different. We were given a warm welcome to QU.BA, an energising and vibrant location with its DREAM motif – the perfect environment to gather informally over drinks and nibbles. As we chatted, I realised how diverse our membership is – in the space of just a few moments, I introduced my Greek guest Gina to an Italian, a Canadian, a Dutchwoman, an Englishwoman, all with very different backgrounds and interests. Yet, the conversation flowed and connections were made.
We were invited through to the more formal part of the meeting, and Isabelle Valibus, Chair of PWG, welcomed us to the 23rd AGM, pointing out that while this is considered young in human years, it is pretty mature in the life of a voluntary organisation. We were invited to consider the early days of PWG, where a courageous group of women stepped forward to create something new – and this year, like many other years, we had several long term members in the room – including Jan Hawley, one of the founding members of PWG, Cathy Hartmann Campbell, a long term contributor to the PWG programme, and Lorraine Rytz, the founder of the Women Entrepreneurs Group.
Since those early days, there have been many generations of talented and courageous women stepping forward to play their part in the development of PWG. Some have dedicated their time and energy over a long period, some have dived in deeply for a short time, others have dipped in and out, others have supported when and where they can.
Isabelle is one such woman – despite being new in town, despite not having spoken English professionally for quite some time, she took on the challenge of the role of Chair this time last year. One year in, and Isabelle is comfortably and eloquently presenting in English – one very obvious way in which she has been able to develop personally through taking on this role – and contribute too.
Volunteers being the lifeblood of the PWG, it is a tricky business each year to repeat the message “we need more volunteers”. So it was refreshing to have a different approach this year – Janet Jaffke led us in a game of Volunteer Scrabble, a fun group exercise which revealed some powerful words and phrases around volunteering. Not only did this get everyone mixing, but it enabled everyone to take a fresh look at volunteering. I recommend you read the output from this exercise on the website.
Following on from the game, we heard about all the activities of the PWG through the year, a great variety of events and opportunities to share experiences, learn, develop and connect. We heard how Membership is at a record high, at 165 (end 2013). We heard how successful events such as the Expat Expo have become in terms of spreading the word. We had an update on our financial position. Of course, PWG is all about teamwork, and we saw many members of the Committee play their parts on the evening, as we have throughout the year. We heard about the work of the committee, and thanked the volunteer team for their contributions during the year. There was applause, a moment of gratitude expressed by the members for those people who’ve made PWG possible this year.
Then, something happened that I’ve never seen before at an AGM. After all the well planned agenda has almost run its course, after the 2013 committee stood down, and as the vacancies for 2014 were presented, we had a passionate invitation to get involved, to step forward, to VOLUNTEER. There was the smallest moment of silence, then one hand went up. Then another. And another. Then more! Brand new members and long term members reaching out to join the PWG team for 2014. What a powerful moment. Thank you Tunde!
And from this high, we were treated to a Bollywood dance demonstration by Shalini of DanzBollywood and Sarah, one of Shalini’s students. We were invited once again to step forward – this time in our own choreographed sequence.
Finally, to round off the evening, we were presented with a delicious apero, courtesy of ………., and another opportunity to meet and mingle with friends old and new.
Thank you PWG for another excellent event – and in anticipation of a lively and dynamic year to come!
Proud to have been a PWG Member since 2007!