The Ontario Recreation Facilities Association (ORFA) is a not-for-profit membership driven organization that is confused at times by members who believe we have some form of connection to provincial governance – we do not have any such affiliation. The ORFA is a network of recreation professionals that is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and managed by an administrative team to meet the mission and vision of the Association. Belonging to the ORFA is a choice that is confirmed through an annual membership fee. Our core responsibility is to collect and share information. This core function is accomplished in many ways including electronic, print and education. The level of information received by each member is controlled by the type of membership. Some members receive benefit from their employers “group membership” which has limited direct access to some Association tools and information when compared to an “individual membership”.
Recreation operations must comply with many different legal obligations. Strict governance is a direct responsibility for each operation to review and interpret. Codes, Acts, Regulations and Standards are all examples of these legislative governance responsibilities with each having its own specific directives that will dictate if an action is mandatory or has some flexibility through operational interpretation to meet the expectation of the directive. The ORFA attempts to assist members by monitoring the 100 plus known governance documents that may impact a recreation operation based on its design, function, or service provision. These directives can change with limited or direct notice. The ORFA monitors both the regulatory documents as well as how the industry is interpreting and applying action toward compliance and shares this information with other members so that again, they may decide how best to operate. The ORFA Resource Centre contains a variety of “guidelines” and/or “best practices” documents. These documents are designed to highlight regulatory responsibility and capture the industry driven information (best practice) so that the experiences are not lost. Here is where “what ORFA thinks” becomes complicated for members to navigate.
The ORFA has no authority to direct any member or facility with respect to how they operate. At times, the ORFA is contacted by members for advice or direction on products and/or services that are available in the marketplace. ORFA staff do not have the ability to provide such advice. However, there is an ability to connect the person making the inquiry with other members - be it individual or corporate that may have experience with the subject matter being researched. Over time, as products or services are naturally vetted by our members and the use or practice becomes “common”, the ORFA may feel more comfortable with referencing a collective comment as to what the Association believes is happening within the industry. In time, these become “industry best practices”.
I have previously stated that the “ORFA has no authority to direct members on how they will operate”. However, when regulatory bodies or the courts lack direct governance on a subject that is being investigated or discussed as part of litigation, they will often turn to industry representation to help determine what is considered the “norm”. When the majority of an industry is functioning in a specific manner, then it would seem reasonable that other similar operations should have used this same approach as a minimum benchmark to meet or exceed. It will be up to each operation to explain why they were not following any stated industry “best practice” should it ever be called into question.
The confusion by some members when contacting the ORFA for advice or direction is that they are not accessing a consultant but rather, they are receiving what the Association is aware of that their peers may be doing in respect to operations or service provision. At times, some members are breaking new ground by moving in a completely new direction with a product or service that has not been explored by any other member. When the ORFA encounters these types of shifts, we begin to monitor the progress and acceptance by the industry so that we are positioned to share the change in various communication tools including Facility Forum magazine, course materials, and/or a guideline or best practice document.
Over the past 25 plus years, the ORFA has invested in creating different professional accreditation pathways for our industry. These professional accreditations are a form of but not a guarantee of “proof of competency” of the individual who holds and maintains the certification. An employer understands that the worker has undertaken an industry-based training pathway and is remaining connected through membership to changes in the industry. A form of self-directed ongoing professional development. If a member regularly follows ORFA's ENews, the “Job Posting" found at the end of each release highlights employment opportunities but what is of interest to the Association is how many positions are now seeking ORFA certification a part of the application requirement. By default, ORFA certifications are becoming an “industry best practice”.
In the end, it is left with each member to determine how they will operate. Nevertheless, it is ORFA's fear is that membership dollars used to create the necessary tools to provide industry generated direction will one-day be used against our own members for failing to adopt or at least consider the information when deciding how they will best operate. As the ORFA celebrates a 75th anniversary, one can look back and see that the role of the ORFA has not changed since 1947. We do however have better technology and communication tools that allow for instant access to information. The challenge today is the amount of information that is available and determining what is creditable and requires action. On this task the ORFA will continue to assist members as best that we can while relying on their own commitment to share challenges and experiences so that we might continue to lead and grow as an industry through our collective actions.
Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Technical Director, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association
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