Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stirring the pot...

(This entry inspired by a recent blog entry from the Village Carpenter.)

Tonight is my monthly local woodworker's guild meeting. I really enjoy going to these meetings. They allow me the opportunity to meet other woodworkers in the area and see what they are making. Once a year, usually some time in the first quarter, we often have a well-known instructor or woodworker come in and host a weekend seminar. It doesn't ever cost that much, all things considered, and I've been able to learn from some of the greats, like Mark Adams, Frank Klausz, and David Marks. All that for a $25 annual membership fee? Can't beat it. (Ok, the meetings also takes place at the local Woodcraft store, so there is that, too...)

I tend to stand out in our meetings. Most of the guys in our club are 55+ years old, making me their younger by 20 years or so. There are a few other younger guys in the club, so I don't just stand out because I'm young.

I stand out in the group because I'm a rabble rouser. I like to stir the pot and challenge the status quo. I actively take part in meetings, speaking my mind and questioning purpose and intent. I don't do this for the sake of being different; I do it because I see a stagnant group that needs some energizing. I don't quite think the club is on its last leg, but it looks like the general direction it could be headed and I'd like to nip that in the bud.

I have an interest in maintaining the club. Right now, I'm of the younger crowd. Eventually, I'd like to be of the older crowd! I want this club to be around in 40 years so I can sit in the second row and heckle the younger guys and buy 50/50 raffle tickets. But if that is going to happen, then we have to shake things up.

One of the problems I have with the club is that they're very much stuck in the ways they've done things for the past 10 or 15 years. Many of them are far from "embracing" the technical age, though I think most of them do have computers. This keeps the club from being as efficient as it could be.

I have a few partners-in-crime who are a bit older than me, but just as interested in instilling some vim and vigor into the club. We have several ideas we've brought to the attention of the board, but... they don't ever seem to go anywhere. It isn't that they're bad ideas; they're just different than the way things have been done. And it isn't that the board is full of bad people; they're just used to the the way things are. But deep down, I think they do understand the necessity to keep the club current and appealing to new members.

It's interesting to see the mental struggle with some of the officers. They're tired of being in charge. They want to pass on their position to someone else, but most of the older club members don't want to be on the board - they just want to show up, sit in the second row, heckle the younger guys and buy raffle tickets for the 50/50 drawing. The board knows the young guys are the future of the club, but they're not sure about letting us have any kind of control or power. They're afraid of what changes we might initiate.

And with good reason - I'm not really sure how it's happened, but we've lined up one of the younger guys to be the new president. Just as soon as he takes office, we're going to stage a coup on the newsletter (printed out on paper, pretty much a three-page dictation of the previous meeting) and the website and revamp them both, bringing them up to 2008 standards. It'll be XML and PDFs from then on out!

(Can you call it a "coup" if the President is involved?)

Taking over the newsletter will probably fall on my shoulders - it is something the current editor has wanted for several years now (either my hearing is better than they think or their volume control is worse than they think). I've successfully navigated that mine field so far. It isn't that I DON'T want to do it; I do. But I don't want to be tricked into doing it and I don't want to take over the responsibilities of taking dictation on the meeting to reprint into a "newsletter", which is what they want me to do. They also want me to continue sending it out in antiquated form via the US Postal Service.

There are better ways! We can save trees and postage by generating the newsletter in PDF and either sending it to all of the members digitally or just making it available on the website for anyone to peruse. I'll be happy to print out a limited number of newsletters and mail them to anyone who does not have internet access. I think I can help sell this idea by presenting the club with the financials of mailing out 20 newsletters vs. mailing out 150 newsletters

The other major area requiring some work is the website. One of the other younger guys is a website developer - he wants to totally trash the current site and start over from scratch. And he wants to make it more accessible to non-members. That's another road block we're trying to overcome. Some of the current board members think the website should be for members only. The younger crowd thinks the website should be used to attract new members! How can you do that when you can't see what activities are going on with the club? I see a minor need for a smaller, secured portion of the site (member mailing lists, maybe?), but in general it should be open to all, user-friendly, and updated monthly to keep it fresh and new.

This next meeting will be an exciting one. The new president takes over, several other board positions are getting filled with new blood and I get to pull out my big wooden pot-stirring spoon. :)

Wish me luck!


Kari Hultman said...

Change in leadership and procedure is necessary for an organization to grow. I enthusiastically support your coup!

Ethan said...

Thanks for the support, VC!

The meeting went well. Afterwards, the new president and secretary approached me and Mike (the website guy). The four of us started hashing out a game plan for tackling the website and newsletter.

It feels good to take on some of that responsibility - I really don't do well with sitting on the sidelines.