New social network DemocraSki.com aims to empower FIS members


When Canadian aerialist Ryan Blais was elected to be a FIS Athlete Commission Representative at this year’s Freestyle World Championships in Inawashiro, Japan he took the four-year responsibility to heart. Within three months he has created an online social networking platform called DemocraSki.com. According to Blais, the site aims to become a centralized nucleus for FIS constituents to communicate and stay informed with all matters relating to the sport’s governing body. The site’s slogan? “Power to the People.”

“Our goal is to create an online hub for FIS athletes, coaches, judges, officials and key stakeholders to discuss all things FIS related,” writes Blais in an online “call to action” document. “DemocraSki.com is a private online hub (membership approval required) for all FIS members to discuss issues, share ideas and work on projects together in a transparent manner.”When Canadian aerialist Ryan Blais was elected to be a FIS Athlete Commission Representative at this year’s Freestyle World Championships in Inawashiro, Japan he took the four-year responsibility to heart. Within three months he has created an online social networking platform called DemocraSki.com. According to Blais, the site aims to become a centralized nucleus for FIS constituents to communicate and stay informed with all matters relating to the sport’s governing body. The site’s slogan? “Power to the People.”

“Our goal is to create an online hub for FIS athletes, coaches, judges, officials and key stakeholders to discuss all things FIS related,” writes Blais in an online “call to action” document. “DemocraSki.com is a private online hub (membership approval required) for all FIS members to discuss issues, share ideas and work on projects together in a transparent manner.”
 
Blais compares DemocraSki.com to social networking site Facebook, with the exception of its limited access to the public. The site will include community blogs, discussion forums, member profile pages and member inboxes. The site, which will be translated into 40 languages, will also feature a video section via youtube.com, a photo section through Flickr, RSS feeds and share buttons.

“There’s sort of this sense amongst the athletes that democracy is what we want, but in reality FIS is run more like a dictatorship and that should not be the case, nobody wants that to be the case,” says Blais. “So I thought it was appropriate for the athlete commission to create its own platform to engage the athletes, and through that platform ensure that democracy is the standard.”

Members will have the opportunity to join and form groups with fellow members interested in common disciplines and issues. “Each group can opt to have its own private discussion forums. This enables more streamlined communication and collaboration when needed,” says Blais. “I really think this is going to be great for the athlete reps to be able to communicate with their athlete membership and just foster a great level of communication and encourage involvement from athletes.”

Blais will be the network’s webmaster and primary administrator, but will be assisted by the 11 other peer-elected FIS Athlete Commission Representatives, who will be granted “Admin” privileges. As decided by the FIS, the athlete body is represented by 12 athletes (four alpine, two freestyle, two cross country, two snowboard, one ski jumping and one nordic combined). Representatives are elected by their fellow athletes at every other World Championships.

Blais got the chance to unveil his idea to his co representatives at last week’s FIS calendar conference in Croatia. During the meetings the commission developed “guiding principles” and a “strategic plan.” With DemocraSki Blais plans to embody the committee’s values including: transparency, leadership, accessibility, accountability, relevancy, integrity, and fairness.

“This is your FIS … I don’t think it’s fare to assume that the athlete reps will assume such a lead role and they will push all the issues. I don’t think it’s fare to assume that as an athlete rep I know exactly what needs to be fixed about FIS,” says Blais in a youtube video. “So we’re going to lean on you, the membership, to communicate those issues, problems and concerns, or maybe good stuff going on as well and communicate those to the higher-ups at FIS.”

Blais says the site, above all else, will “continually strive to maintain an ‘Athlete Centered and Athlete Driven’ philosophy.”

Blais keys on the following athlete commission “guiding principle” as one of DemocraSki’s first initiatives.

“The Athlete Commission represents the Voice of FIS Athletes and is the official platform for Athlete Representatives to engage FIS at the highest level.  It is not enough for FIS to establish an Athlete Commission if this same commission does not have voting rights and significant influence at the FIS Council level and Discipline Committee level.  The framework and structure of FIS must be revised if necessary to ensure the Athlete Commission has a relevant voice and sphere of influence in the decision making process.”

The site, which initially launched three weeks ago, will be a place for serious discussion and debate. To keep the all-business tone and promote open conversation the site, at least for now, will remain closed to the media and fans. “We’re gearing it towards athletes but of course it’s open to coaches, judges and officials, and then later on we’re considering adding some media as well,” says Blais. “I don’t know if we want to do that, it’s going to be up to the athletes and the membership to determine that.”

According to Blais his goal is to plant the seed of the network without introducing any of his own agendas. After setting the wheels in motion, virtually every topic, debate, discussion and decision will be determined by popular vote among DemocraSki members.

“One of the discussions we’re having is, should we close DemocraSki down and just allow athletes on there. So far my advice is, we should not close it because one of the things we want to do is engage FIS, World Cup officials and coaches,” says Blais. “We are screaming for open lines of communication and transparency so we need to lead by example and offer the same thing within our own platform.” 

While Blais has fronted the money to get the ball rolling, he is planning ahead to ensure the continued growth of the network by tapping into advertising revenue. “I am open to continually absorbing maintenance/operations expenses, however in this scenario I would receive full payments from ad revenue,” wrote Blais. “I am also open to the possibility of having ad revenue diverted into a “DemocraSki.com Fund.” The purpose of this “Fund” would be to maintain and upgrade the site; whereas surplus funds would go towards funding initiatives chosen and voted on by the DemocraSki.com community.” One of Blais’ ideas is to use such surplus money to support former athletes who have been badly injured while competing.  

“I see me keeping all ad revenue as a conflict of interest. I didn’t create this to personally benefit from it,” says Blais. “I absorbed the costs to get it going because if I had waited to get funding from FIS there would have been too many hoops and too much red tape. It never would have started.”

The site is currently in private Beta and open to FIS members and stakeholders only. Blais plans to extend a formal invitation to all FIS members next month through the governing body itself. 

To visit DemocraSki.com click here.

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