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Mensa International - A Mini Tutorial

by Jim Werdell

Ever wonder about the structure of Mensa and its membership outside of the U.S.? Well, perhaps I’m a bit slow, but it took me several years of membership to realize the extensiveness of the worldwide Mensa organization. American Mensa was fairly easy to fathom --- one hundred and thirty-something local groups with a total membership of about 50,000. And although I knew that Mensa was an international society, I was unaware of just how pervasive it was. For those of you who have not yet delved into the mystique of Mensa International (generally called MIL for Mensa International, Ltd.), here is a short tutorial that should bring you up to speed.

Countries and Membership

Similar to American Mensa, members outside the U.S. are grouped by country. As of the last official reporting period, June 2002, there were 24 “National” Mensa countries (including the U.S.) and five “Provisional” National Mensa countries with a total of just under 100,000 members. To be officially recognized as a “National Mensa”, a country must have more than 250 members and have met a number of requirements as specified in the International Constitution, such as: an approved national constitution, a testing program, scheduled activities and a national publication. “Provisional National Mensas” may have met some of the requirements, but have not yet met all of them.

In addition, there are presently twelve “Emerging National Mensas” --- an informal category assigned to countries with fifty-plus members who are trying to get their act together and begin to meet the requirements for provisional status.

To summarize, MIL is comprised of 29 countries with about 100,000 members. 

Governing Bodies and Elected Officials

There are two primary MIL governing bodies, the International General Council (IGC) and the International Board of Directors (IBD). The IGC is comprised of the Chief Executive Officer of each National Mensa and the International Chairman. The IGC meets annually to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information and to review and evaluate Mensa’s policies and programs. The IGC provides recommendations to the IBD and may place items for consideration on the IBD agenda.

The IBD, which also meets annually, is comprised of the four International Elected Officers and National Representatives from the National Mensas. Each country is assigned a number of votes based on the country’s membership. A country with fewer than 1,000 members has one vote; countries with 1,000 to 4,999 members have two votes; each country with 5,000 or more members has three votes plus one vote for each additional 5,000 members. As an example, American Mensa, with an officially recognized membership of 45,000, has eleven votes --- three for the initial 5,000 members, plus eight more for the additional 40,000 members. The number of National Representatives is determined by the requirement that no Representative may have more than three votes. Thus, American Mensa has four Representatives.

As mentioned above, the four International Elected Officers are also members of the IBD. They include the Chairman, the Director of Administration, the Director of Development and the Treasurer. The Chairman acts as the Chair of both the IGC and the IBD. The Elected Officers generally act as the day-to-day MIL managers.

To summarize, MIL is governed by the IGC and the IBD and has four elected officers. 

Election of Officers

Elected officers serve for a term of two years, but may not serve more than two consecutive terms in the same office. Candidates may be nominated by petition or by the Boards of National Mensa countries. Although only one nomination is necessary, candidates often vie for nominations from a number of National Mensas. Any Mensa member in good standing is considered eligible to serve as an international officer.

Candidates in the international election run on slates more often than seen in American Mensa elections. Similar to American Mensa, slates may pool their candidates’ campaign statements, thereby submitting a common platform of ideas and intentions. Voting is also similar to that in American Mensa elections --- a preferential voting system is used, where each member may vote for any individual candidate, even those attached to slates, and may indicate a declining preference when more than two candidates vie for an office.

The next election is scheduled for mid-April through May of this year, concurrent with the American Mensa Elections.

To summarize, International Officers are elected every two years through a preferential voting process.

The author, Jim Werdell, is currently (2003) AMC Treasurer and has been nominated by sixteen National Mensas for the position of International Director of Administration.

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