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La Leche League of the United States of America

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 3, June-July 2003, p. 68.

The last few months have been exciting for the fledgling organization, La Leche League of the United States of America (LLLUSA). The LLLUSA Steering Committee is working with Lynne Coates, Chairman of the Board of Directors and acting Executive Director, on a business plan to help LLLUSA assume responsibility for programs and services that LLLI provides to USA Leaders, members, and the general public.

In March 2003, the Steering Committee met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA—its first full face-to-face meeting since July 2001. Steering Committee members in attendance were: Alice Barbiere, Jane Berendsen-Hill, Pam Dunne, Judy Elder, Barbara Emanuel, Cindy Garrison, Diana Lewis, Pam Mills, Shirley Phillips, Judy Torgus, and Ilene Traiger. Lynne Coates joined the group for a day of listening and sharing. To ensure the LLLI office perspective was included in the planning, Steering Committee members Barbara Emanuel, Diana Lewis, Shirley Phillips, and Judy Torgus met with LLLI Directors and key staff members prior to the Pittsburgh meeting to gather information and ideas to bring to the group.

These are exciting times of change for La Leche League in the US, and the agenda for the Steering Committee meeting covered many critical issues. Much of what was discussed reflected comments that have been shared with the LLLUSA Steering Committee by Leaders and members since 2001. In case you have missed earlier opportunities to share your comments and questions, there is a survey questionnaire on the LLLUSA Web page: www.lllusa.org/ lllusa/survey.html/ Please take a few minutes to complete the survey if you haven’t already. Or, please consider sharing your thoughts about LLLUSA issues by writing to lllusa at llli.org.

What will LLLUSA do that the Divisions don’t do, or that LLLI is now doing for the US?

As part of LLLUSA, the two US Divisions will continue to provide Leader support in all the ways you are familiar with. Other programs and services that relate directly to the USA, which are currently administered by LLLI, will become the responsibility of LLLUSA. These could include the Lactation Specialists Workshops, the Physicians Seminar, the World Walk, the 800 line, the Alumnae Association, New Beginnings, and US-based Peer Counselor Programs.

How did LLLUSA begin?

Over the years, LLLI has continued to provide many programs and services for the US that it does not provide for the rest of the organization. Leaders in the USA may not be aware that LLL programs and services are provided locally in many other countries. Discussions have taken place about the possibility that La Leche League in the US could take responsibility for the programs and services that are specific to the United States, but until now no actions have been taken to make this a reality. However, it has become more and more apparent that having a La Leche League national entity in the USA taking responsibility for US programs would free LLLI to focus on the truly international aspects of the organization. So the time has come to move ahead with this transition.

Discussions began in earnest to address these possibilities in the summer of 2000. An LLLUSA Steering Committee was formed and they met early in 2001. From the beginning, the Steering Committee agreed that input from Leaders and members would be essential in the development of this national entity. Our first task was to ask Leaders and members to share their hopes and dreams for LLL in the US. An article in the April-May 2001 issue of Leaven invited Leaders to share their thoughts. LLLUSA held an open meeting and several informal discussions at the 2001 LLLI Conference and posted a survey form on the LLLUSA Web site so that those interested could ask questions and offer input about LLLUSA’s focus. Several lively email discussions have taken place on a number of topics including advertising/ public relations, education, organizational structure, and advocacy. In 2001, LLLUSA News was initiated online to keep people informed about our progress. In 2002, a meeting was held with Anne Gaskell, then the LLLI Executive Director, to discuss the development of a Business Plan for LLLUSA. In February 2003, the LLLI Board stated their intent to focus on activities that reflect the global aspects of the organization.

How does the recent LLLI Board action impact LLLUSA?

The February 2003 Board Action stating that "The LLLI Board of Directors is responsible for the global organization" has given support to the development of LLLUSA. In the very near future, LLLI hopes to shift the responsibility of all US programs and services to LLLUSA. The two US Divisions will be a part of LLLUSA as will all of the services and programs that serve the United States Leaders and members. This will allow LLLI to study "the more effective distribution of resources and responsibilities for programs and services." The LLLUSA vision is to be the national entity for US Leaders and members, freeing LLLI to focus on those issues that impact the global organization. All US Leaders and members who pay LLL membership will be part of both LLLUSA and LLLI.

Why is it important for Leaders to know about LLLUSA?

As US Leaders who care about La Leche League, we need to be informed about how LLLUSA will be supporting LLLI as the responsibility for US programs and services are shifted to LLLUSA. It is also important that US Leaders be informed about current national trends in breastfeeding and events in La Leche League. At the same time, because the largest number of Leaders live in the United States and are the principal body of contributors of revenue to LLLI, it is important that we know how our money is being used to support breastfeeding in the US and around the world.

What has taken place since the article about LLLUSA appeared in the April-May 2001 issue of Leaven?

Since the 2001 Leaven article, the LLLUSA Steering Committee has continued to work closely with the LLLI Board of Directors, US Divisions, and LLLI office staff to identify programs, services, and finances for which LLLUSA will become responsible. LLLUSA and LLLI are working together to ensure that all of the changes are financially sound—and carefully considered. An LLLUSA committee is already working on a business plan, and an LLLI Board Task Force has been named to work on the transition separating LLLI and LLLUSA.

At this time, since LLLUSA will be working side-by-side with LLLI in the Schaumburg office, the LLLUSA Steering Committee has begun the process of becoming officially incorporated in Illinois.

Is there a timetable for adoption of changes?

LLLUSA’s plans are ongoing. A timeline was put into place at the March meeting that includes projects that will be worked on in the next six months. Everyone wants to see these ideas move forward and become reality, but we also want to allow enough time for plans to be developed carefully. LLLUSA will be working with the LLLI Board to construct a budget for the next fiscal year (2004-2005), which will be the first step in the transition. Other plans will evolve as Leaders get involved in the new projects and programs that emerge and as we find ways to include as many Leaders as possible in dialogue about what we want to create together. Opportunities are planned to involve Leaders and members in discussions about LLLUSA that will take place at the upcoming LLLI Conference in San Francisco.

How will the new LLLUSA affect the work of US Leaders?

Most Leaders will notice little difference. Leader support will still come through the Area Council Team and US Divisions. Some mailings may look different and information about programs and services that used to come from LLLI will come instead from LLLUSA. It is hoped that US Leaders will feel closely connected to this emerging national entity and work together to make it a success.
To contact us, write to LLLUSA at llli.org (email).

For More Information, see the informational links to the LLLUSA Steering Committee background, vision, purpose, survey, and LLLUSANews subscriptions at wwww.lllusa.org
(requires LLLUSA.org password)

The February 2003 Board Actions include:

The LLLI Board of Directors is responsible for the global organization. In planning for the future the Board intends to study the more effective distribution of resources and responsibilities for programs and services. The outcomes of this study will begin to be reflected in the LLLI budget for the 2004-2005 fiscal year. We encourage all LLL Leaders and entities, including those in the United States, to take increasing responsibility for their programs and services.
Following the February 2003 Board meeting the Board established a task force, co-chaired by Carmen Vandenabeele and Sharon Vines to determine the programs and services currently supported by the LLLI budget that are primarily or entirely targeted to the USA and to communicate with LLLUSA about how these might be implemented in the future. Part of the task force’s assignment is to facilitate the transition as LLLUSA assumes responsibility for these programs and services.

From the Founders of LLLI:

We have long thought it would be to the advantage of LLLI if it was separated from LLL in the USA. We believe this is the way other international organizations are set up. Each country has its own organization and all are members of the international organization. Therefore we think this change would be a good one and is long overdue. It is also very much to our advantage that LLLI has not rushed into this but has allowed LLL USA plenty of time to work out all the details.

We have every reason to believe that LLL Leaders and members in the United States are quite capable of handling the administrative details of La Leche League in the United States just as LLL Leaders and members in each of the other countries have been doing for many years.

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