TEAM PRAXIS started as a movement in July 2020 that was known as Filiki Eteria. It sprung from the belief that the HCGM was at a stage in its development that required a comprehensive re-examination of how it is structured, how it operates and how it serves the broader Greek community of Montreal.
Since that moment we have worked with a very diverse group of members of our community to apply their knowledge, expertise, and experience towards preparing a set of proposals that in our view would allow the HCGM to regain the trust and confidence of the community at large.
Although the Board of Directors of the HCGM, on multiple occasions, shunned the idea of this examination, and refused to collaborate in this exercise, the Filiki Eteria as we were known, decided to proceed without the recognition of the Board and to communicate directly with the community at large because of the pressing need to do so.
In the spring of 2021, we were pleased to announce that we were able to present our vision and proposals for change directly to the members and potential members of the HCGM.
The proposals we submitted to the community at
large for consultation through a series of virtual Town halls represented many
hundreds of hours of diligent work, consultations, and analysis with the
purpose of presenting changes required for the HCGM to reach its full potential
and present a vision and a plan for a modernized organization that would be
more efficiently structured, professionally managed, transparent and, more
importantly, united and mobilized. From those Town Halls we refined and
adjusted our proposals through the fall of 2021.
In January of 2022, having concluded that the HCGM is today an organization with a growing financial debt, a real estate portfolio of old infrastructure requiring vast investments to repair, decreasing enrollment in the schools, suboptimal use of community real estate, limited cultural programing, much diminished social services for the community’s needs, financially unsustainable churches, member disengagement, a lack of operational structure, an outdated governance model and much more, it was decided to field a team of candidates for the upcoming HCGM Board of Directors elections under the name Team Praxis.
The recommendations of Team Praxis that form the basis of the electoral platform are based on the following seven main areas of focus: Governance and Operations; Membership Involvement; Education; Health and Social Services; Culture; Finances; Church Relations. These recommendations serve as the core of what is the electoral platform of Team Praxis which is fielding a slate of candidates for the June 12th
HCGM Board of Directors elections.
A New Governance Structure
Team Praxis is proposing a new governance structure based on subsidiarity, while retaining a single, unified entity called the HCGM, the primacy of the Members, the General Assembly and particularly the elected Board of Directors, which will continue to hold ultimate authority. Let there be no doubt, the Community will continue for at least another 115 years but with a 21st century governance model and structure.
Subsidiarity is a principle of organization that holds that issues should be dealt with at the most immediate level that is consistent with their resolution. Decentralizing decision making and empowering those that are more directly concerned by the success of a given sector (education, social services, cultural affairs, church activities) are therefore a key element of our proposals with the creation of three new Service Boards and the creation of empowered ecclesiastical HCGM parishes.
In addition, a number of other important changes to the By-laws are proposed to ensure inclusiveness of all Hellenes and their family members, streamline operations and reduce the unwieldly size of the Board of Directors, eliminate political polemics from the election process and attract candidates that can bring added value to the HCGM, enhance the Advisory Board, and strengthen the Audit Committee, and create a Youth Council, amongst others.
An Education Service Board for both the Day Schools and the Saturday Schools
Team Praxis believes that there is a need for a dedicated structure to oversee all educational and pedagogical aspects of school operations. While the HCGM Central Board would retain ultimate authority and control of the finances, a dedicated Service Board of educational professionals, parents, and others with expertise in the pedagogical matters would allow for proper oversight, planning and growth and development of the schools, and offer proper support to the Director General of Socrates Demosthenes.
The Education Service Board would also be responsible for the oversight and development of the Saturday schools, and be mandated to expand the reach to a wider clientele including through online
A Social Affairs Service Board
Similarly, Team Praxis is proposing to establish such a dedicated Social Affairs Service Board for the overseeing, planning, control, and development of the Health and Social Services of the HCGM on the basis of the existing charter of the Services Sociaux Hellénique du Québec which was registered in 1992 under part 3 of the Quebec companies act. The composition of the Service Board would be drawn from professionals in the Health and Social Affairs field as well as community-based service groups.
The fundamental role of the Service Board would be to guide and accompany the Services Sociaux Hellenique du Québec towards supporting and finding solutions for the most vulnerable members of our community by collaborating with public and other sister community institutions which cater to our elders, youth in difficulty, children with special needs, women in difficulty and other vulnerable groups. A community coordinating committee would be initiated with the other community groups operating in the field to better coordinate efforts, avoid duplication and maximize reach.
A Cultural Affairs Service Board for the Promotion of Hellenism and the transmission of our Culture to our Youth
A Cultural affairs Service Board would seek to engage the community at large and all Philhellenes in the promotion of our cultural heritage within and beyond the borders of our own community.
The Cultural Affairs Service Board would draw on the expertise, knowledge and networks of the many Hellenes, professional and amateurs, in the different cultural fields (music, art, theatre, literature etc.) in order to conceive, prepare and implement a program of cultural activities on an ongoing basis.
Our ultimate goal is the creation of a Hellenic Cultural Institute that establishes an ongoing program of cultural activities aimed at transmitting our rich cultural heritage not only to our youth but to our Montreal and Quebec compatriots.
A New Hellenic Community Foundation for Fund raising
The HCGM has always suffered from a serious lack of revenue, especially fundraising, which we believe is caused by the problems cited above.
Team Praxis is proposing the creation of an independent Foundation with the sole mandate of raising significant funds on an ongoing basis to support the various HCGM sectors. Fundraising is a specialized function that requires professional management, consistency, planning, involvement, donor recognition, that can only succeed on an ongoing basis if there is transparency, trust, and accountability to donors. This is best assured by separating the fundraising for the institution from the administration. This is how all major institutions operate and Team Praxis believes this is the model that the HCGM must adopt.
Headed by its own professional Director of Fundraising, overseen by its own Board of Directors and composed of credible, notable and well-connected individuals, initially nominated by the HCGM Board by a 2/3 vote.
Of utmost importance is that this structure will allow the HCGM to regain the much-needed trust of the community at large, without which fund raising will always be erratic and will achieve limited, short-term success.
An Enhanced, win-win, Relationship with the Church
The six church buildings of the HCGM will continue to be the property of the HCGM and the churches will continue being an integral part of the HCGM whose mission will continue to include the support and promotion of the Orthodox faith and assure the maintenance of the affiliation of its churches to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada and the Patriarchate of Constantinople. From the point of view of the faithful, nothing will change. They will continue to be able to go to the church of their choice and receive the sacraments as they do now.
The changes being proposed are administrative changes that will result in each church having a Parish Council or Board which, together with the priest of each church, will make the decisions for the good of the parish. Parish council members must be Greek Orthodox and will have authority over all church matters.
All revenues that the church generates, will be deposited in a parish account and the Parish Council will pay all expenses from this account. This way every parishioner will know how the church revenues and his or her donation to the church are being used. This ensures accountability, transparency, and traceability as to the use of the funds and allows for a more direct understanding of the needs of each church by those in charge of its operations.
It also needs to be made clear that the Parish councils that are envisioned will not operate under the Uniform Parish Regulations of the Archdiocese but under new regulations for their operations that will be adopted by the HCGM General Assembly.
The transition from the present situation will not happen overnight. The process of creating the Parish Councils and transitioning from full dependence on the HCGM to full operational autonomy, (not independence) for each church will happen over a period of time which may vary for each church. The time needed will be arrived at after consultation and discussions with each church. Before any changes are made, new regulations will have to be studied, proposed, and adopted. This will require at least two, or three years, perhaps more.
The churches will continue to be an integral part of the HCGM, and it is understood that the HCGM will accompany them in ensuring their viability in every possible way.
The goal of the HCGM is to maintain and strengthen the strong ties that exist between parishioners and their church. The changes proposed are designed to empower parishioners, to build trust and increase active participation. Encouraging involvement in church affairs, results in stronger churches with energized and committed parishioners.
Team Praxis believes that this different, more engaging form of administration will result in stronger, more successful, churches that will be able to better contribute to the religious needs of their parishioners
(**For clarification purposes, only directors of the Greek Orthodox faith will be allowed to vote on any matters brought before the Board that either directly or indirectly involve or impact the Greek Orthodox Church or faith, as well as any other related ecclesiastical issues to be defined in consultation with church leaders. Directors not meeting this criterion will be required to abstain.)
A Real Financial Plan for the HCGM
Team Praxis is proposing the creation of a short, medium and long-term financial plan to put the HCGM on a sustainable financial path. The HCGM has been burdened with a deficit of long overview infrastructure investments as well as a debt to financial institutions costing over $600,000 annually in cash flow, and grossly inadequate fundraising. In short, the HCGM has been suffering from a Revenue problem for decades.
The recommendations made by Team Praxis would add approximately an additional $300,000 to the existing $800,000 management and administrative payroll. However, with a reorganized management and administration structure, specific objectives to increase revenues from all existing sources, including unused real estate, and the elimination of wasteful or low priority activities and expenses this can realistically be met.
Additionally, with the transfer of the Foyer Hellénique, the HCGM can anticipate a substantial increase in its free cash flow in the vicinity of two to three hundred thousand dollars a year. If used properly this new increase in revenues can be the beginning of financial stability.
Additionally, with the churches gradually being given the autonomy and incentive to run their own affairs, the annual deficit stemming from church operations will be eliminated. This is forcefully demonstrated by the recent St George initiative which we applaud and wish to extend to the other churches with our proposal.
These few examples, paired with a modernized administrative structure and a professionally run Foundation will contribute to the HCGM generating upwards of 1M$ in additional annual revenue.
A vision to conclude with
A restructured, modernized HCGM can regain the confidence and trust so sorely needed to succeed. We believe that this regained trust and confidence is the only way to put the HCGM on the road to fulfilling its full potential in this third decade of the 21st century, that of taking its rightful place amongst the best run organizations and become a source of pride for our community. We believe that tinkering around the edges or throwing money at the problem will not solve the fundamental problems.
If we are to go beyond surviving and muddling along, but wish to shine, we need to engage our youth, offer them state of the art schools, community centers, a youth council, that serve as a true hub of community activity. We need to undertake an effort to fully support our elderly through an ambitious but certainly achievable building of a state-of-the-art assisted living facility, and for the community at large, to inaugurate a Hellenic Cultural Institute worthy of the name.
We offer these program proposals as a blueprint to all those in our community that share this vision and these aspirations, and like us, believe the time has come to go forward together towards such a common goal.
We are open and ready to hear feedback from the community at large, and even the HCGM Board, in order to achieve a consensus that we can all agree is the way the Community can prosper ang grow for another 115 years.