Before we begin, we like to state that this is not a piece to ridicule or put down SGM leaders or strategy. But a critical and frank analysis and discussion. If you are not comfortable, we suggest you stop reading. If you are good, we welcome you.
We believe that SGM can progress only if we, those who care for our sincere members, can honestly and objectively reflect, and openly discuss matters that are crucial to the growth and development of SGM.
BSG – the Soka Gakkai organisation of India is the current poster boy. The growth of membership has been phenomenal. It has a much shorter history than SGM, but its membership currently stands at over 150,000. Top SGM leaders are sharing raving reviews about BSG (B for Bharat) after eight youth reps went there recently. It certainly make us feel good. [Much like the tagline for NTV-7.] As part of the larger global family, we are right to feel proud and happy for the steady and dynamic progress in India.
Looking back over the past decades, SGM has been learning and copying various successful strategy from other countries. Firstly, Taiwan. The membership there was said to surpass even Japan in time to come. But don’t hear much about them today. Next, Thailand. The membership was also growing rapidly. Surpassing SGM. Again. Woman Division representatives traveled to Thailand and spoke glowingly about their fighting spirits, wisdom and what we can learn from them.
But nothing beats Brazil. Brazil came with a concrete strategy and hence, we crafted the Role Model of the Oneness of Mentor and Disciple Han. A big plan was rolled out, ala Brazil, and specific KPIs were introduced. Achievements and numbers were periodically shown at SRMs. Statistics on Shakubuku, Gohonzon enshrinement, publication subscription and discussion meetings attendance were the main focus. Much effort were expended on collecting these numbers.
Our WD chief stated that statistics are important. Each number is not just a number, but a life, a person’s happiness. And that ‘We cannot manage what we cannot measure’ became a battle cry, sort of.
After a few years, it died off quietly. Leaders were tired of chasing numbers. We were not growing. New members were paltry. Attrition rate, those who stop practising or become inactive, was a taboo. So, what happened? Why we failed?
Difficult to ascertain where the problem is when there was never any formal and comprehensive review being done. We just set a new target and forget about all our past failures. The organisation is rotting slowly at the top. Two years ago, the Johor incident blew up. The rot finally came to the surface and now, we are witnessing what was festering for past two decades, hidden behind the feel good factor all these years..
Perhaps, we need to look inwards, and not outwards. Granted, there is much to learn from others. But we must not make the mistake that this can replace inward inquiry into the fundamental and underlying causes and weaknesses that prevent us from experiencing the growth rates of Taiwan, Thailand, Brazil and India. After all, we chant the same daimoku and follow the same mentor of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin. We all read and inspired by Ikeda Sensei.
What are our strengths? Large events; RFP, LSE, EYT. The entire organisation was galvanised each time and again, our members felt good. Victory reports were abundant and these were hailed as breakthrough and new history created.
But it does not translate to more new members. Over twenty years, our numbers stuck at 40,000. We make new shakubuku targets each year, and the same strategy of one leader shakubuku one new member is repeated year after year after year… Many don’t take it seriously anymore. But the same old, tried and repeatedly failed strategy is brought back to life. Honestly, we don’t think kosen-rufu will advance with the quality of the present batch of leadership. Exhaustion of new ideas.
Instead of looking inwards and discussing about the problems, they chose to focus their eyes on shakubuku target, as if with new shakubuku, everything else, all other problems and weaknesses will vanish. Instantly. Little did they realise that the success of shakubuku campaign is not the solution, but the end results of things done right. They have mistook cause for effect.
What then, is our problem? We do not claim that we have all the answers. We just hope that this will stimulate more thinking and deeper soul searching into how we can turnaround the lamentable state of SGM today.
Also, these are generalisations and not necessarily the case for every leader or chapter. Of course, we may also be wrong.
- Lack of warmth and genuine concern for one another. People leave when there is no warmth. Our activities are becoming routine and the close relationship between members today are rare. Example: when some leaders resigned recently, the only question asked was – ‘Who is going to handle the discussion meeting?” here. Confession of a youth leader
- Lack of answers to matters pertaining to governance and transparency. Till today, no proper and direct answers as to why the leaders in Sungai Buloh and Puchong were sacked. Not even a termination letters. Why the silence? This is not in line with what we learnt; Treasuring each person, Many in body, one in mind. What happened? If you disagree we sack you? If you ask question we sack you? How can we work for kosen-rufu wholeheartedly when we have so much questions and doubts? It is an important responsibility of top leaders, GD especially, to provide convincing and direct answers. Open letter to Ex Johor Region Chief
- Lack of long term strategic thinking. The activities of the Student, High School and Junior divisions were halted abruptly this year to focus on discussion meetings. Has anyone really think through this step? Have we strengthen our discussion meetings that enable it to attract and develop our youth? With hectic student life of homework, tuition classes and projects, how can we expect our youths, particularly students, to come out for discussion meeting?
- Lack of joy in our practice. If our members are joyful, deriving great benefits from their practice, then naturally, they will go out and shakubuku more people. But today, we only see top leaders shouting slogans and rallying members to the goal of 10,000 new members.
- Lack of fostering and training. As our organisation grows, we need more and more capable leaders at the han and district leaders. But they were left alone to learn things on themselves. Many backslide shortly after their appointment as leaders. Han and district do not understand their role and lack support in fundamental functions. Unless we seriously consolidate our leaders at han and district leaders, we will never expand. Also, we appoint our top leaders haphazardly. Here. Chief problems in SGM – Part 1
We don’t have all the answers. We would like to invite you to ponder on this. You are welcome to share your thoughts here. We believe that positive transformation starts within oneself. Human revolution, study, daimoku, and speak up against evil. Hone our minds to be sharp and critical, not accepting things blindly. The growth and future of SGM will depend on how much we develop our ability and speak out for what needs to be said. Think global, act local.