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Please come vote tomorrow
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jducoeur
[Context: Carolingia will be holding round 1 of the Baronial election tomorrow evening, at 7:30 at MIT in room 2-105.  This vote is open to Carolingians, somewhat loosely defined: paid members, Council officers, and anyone who has attended a Carolingian event in the year to October.]

This is the hard part.  Campaigning for the group comes naturally to me -- I've been recruiting for the SCA for 25 years, and doing publicity in general for longer than that.  But campaigning for me feels rather odd.

But now's the time to put that aside and be honest: I'd appreciate it if you'd come to the vote tomorrow, and consider voting for me.  I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I was the best person for the job right now -- I've got a lot of ideas of things we should try, but also a solid sense that this has to be collaborative effort.  I wouldn't be the grandest Baron Carolingia's ever had, but I'd be one of the friendlier  and more imaginative ones, and at the moment I think that's more needed.

And yes, I think tomorrow matters, even if nobody's being eliminated.  It's going to indicate the opinions of the people who actually made the effort to come vote in-person, not just the ones with paid memberships.  It's largely symbolic, but we're at a point where symbolism matters.

I want the job: it's going to be hard work for whoever wins, and more than a little scary, but it has the potential to be real fun if approached properly.  So I hope you can and will come tomorrow, and cast your vote.
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We long had a "Friends don't let friends chair cons." policy.

I think that can be expanded to "Friends don't don't let friends run Baronies."

That said....


Good Luck.

Heh. Having been both a Con Chair and Master of my Masonic Lodge, I definitely understand the policy. In this particular case, I take some comfort from knowing the lay of the land a lot better than I did in either of those, and having a *far* clearer sense of what I want to do and why I'm getting into it.

Thanks...

Things I've learned (by observation of as well as being guilty of most) from the volunteer groups I've been heavily involved with (Carolingia, Bergental, 4H, BSA):
Want a volunteer? you've got to ask them directly - telephone or face to face.
The same people doing the work all the time is not the problem everyone thinks it is. It's ok; leave it alone. It has a natural life-cycle.
Thank people, with more than a 'thank you'. (Adults need star-sticker rewards exactly as much as children do; trust me on this.)
Be welcoming to everyone. (This is cultural, and really, really hard to get people to see how they're being non-welcoming.)
Get input from not-just-the-people you already talk to all the time.
Don't, don't, don't try to solve problems through email.
Don't yell at or scold people in public. (I'm still prone to being surprised at just how ruinous this behavior is. But I've seen it again and again; it never ends well.)
Don't ever do back-room, or parking-lot decision making -excluding the rest of the group from the conversation. I've seen insistence on keeping decision making or problem solving out of the public eye implode more than one local volunteer group. It's ugly, very destructive, and it happens a lot.

I see that last point as Carolingia's greatest sin this generation. It disenfranchises the rest of the group when they figure out it's happening. Those who are doing it won't be around running the group forever, but the citizens of the group *will* be around forever. (You think the SCA has old farts with long memories, try Boy Scouts. Holy Cow...60 years in some of them, and they're still at it, and they forget nothing.)The king is 'in power' for only six months; a baron for years....but we will all still be here for decades.

People are the same everywhere. Most of them just want to feel wanted, be included and appreciated.





Be welcoming to everyone. (This is cultural, and really, really hard to get people to see how they're being non-welcoming.)

There is a world of difference between "not being unfriendly" and "being welcoming". The former is a passive state; the latter is an active engagement which usually takes at least a bit of time and attention.

I'm curious if that gulf is what you refer to people not seeing, or whether it's other (perhaps more specific) things.

Yes, that's exactly what I mean; thank you for saying it so much more clearly.

Great list -- thanks! If you don't mind, I'm going to jot these down in my wiki so I remember them. Some thoughts:

Want a volunteer? you've got to ask them directly - telephone or face to face.

Yep: we have the world's worst case of what I call "broadcast syndrome" -- making an offer to the masses instead of talking to people directly. That trick never works. (Or at least, is only about 10% as effective as approaching specific folks.)

Indeed, I'm realizing that what I'm going to quickly need is a database to keep track of what people are interested in, to tap folks gently on the shoulder. (One trap I've often observed, here and elsewhere, is the leader having a small cadre of people who they just get used to tapping. It's healthier to spread it around.)

The same people doing the work all the time is not the problem everyone thinks it is. It's ok; leave it alone. It has a natural life-cycle.

While that's somewhat true, I think it can feed a lot of dysfunction. It often results in both the experienced people not slowing down until they're horribly burned out, and the newer ones feeling shut-out. So while this doesn't need to be stomped on, a little gentle rebalancing would make things more healthy. (Like so many things, this wants a nudge, not a slap.)

Thank people, with more than a 'thank you'. (Adults need star-sticker rewards exactly as much as children do; trust me on this.)

Yep. Indeed, one of the things I think about a lot is how to give smaller thank-yous more frequently. The SCA has a bad habit of focusing everything on the bloody award system, which is both heavyweight and coarse-grained -- and frankly unimaginative. One of Jehan's cleverer ideas was the crowned I's: I think we need to take that and run with it, and spend some real imagination time on how to thank people effectively and appropriately.

Be welcoming to everyone. (This is cultural, and really, really hard to get people to see how they're being non-welcoming.)

Yeah, and quite deeply ingrained. It's worst when people *think* they're being welcoming, but wind up coming across as hostile or controlling because of how they do it. This'll be a long, slow project, but there's a lot we can teach about it.

Get input from not-just-the-people you already talk to all the time.

Of all of the list, this is the one I actually look forward to if I win. I like talking to people and finding out what they think: being Baron is a lovely excuse to do so more broadly.

Don't, don't, don't try to solve problems through email.

Heh -- yeah, this is a really bad habit, and one I'd have to watch for. In general, we need to re-foster more of a face-to-face culture in the Barony.

Don't yell at or scold people in public.

Yeah, this is a fine reminder. I'm not especially prone to it, but I agree that the few times I've been on one end or the other of it, it's generally backfired horribly.

Don't ever do back-room, or parking-lot decision making -excluding the rest of the group from the conversation.

Fortunately one I'm not *too* prone to -- I'm enough of a Silverwing to always prefer open discussion if I can get it. But it's a horribly easy trap to fall into, so it's important to be watchful for. And yes, all the signs are that we've been doing it *way* too much, for probably at least ten years now...

List away. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's thought of these points.

The email habit is incredibly common everywhere; it's just too easy to use. BSA tries to hammer in that you have to Call People Up to get them to volunteer; Email blasts do work some; I'm sure that's why we are all sucked into the method.

Back-room management: yeah, it's gotten pretty bad. (Ok, quite bad.) It's seductive; seems like such a reasonable way of getting things done more quickly, but it really bothers the rest of the volunteers. And when they are bothered, they vanish.

Thank people, with more than a 'thank you'. (Adults need star-sticker rewards exactly as much as children do; trust me on this.)

...and spend some real imagination time on how to thank people effectively and appropriately.

If I may say so, the BEST 'thank you's are really personal. Perhaps the opposite of SCA awards, if you could do it differently for *every single person* that would be awesome.

Yep. I suspect it's not possible to get it right every time, but when you can do something individual it can mean *worlds* more. It's a fine example of, "it's the thought that counts"...

Something else about the 'you want a volunteer' point - when someone DOES come out of nowhere and volunteer - TAKE THEM UP ON IT!

I have over 15 years of SCA experience, and nearly as much time professional experience. This includes scheduling (both in mundania and classes for interkingdom events like Pennsic and KWDS), hotel blocks, room lists, roomate and car pool lists, working primarily over email/overseas (for both Pennsic and KWDS my bosses were in different countries - like Germany, etc).

I have professional experience formatting flyers and booklets. I have experience with professional marketing and advertising.

I have even offered my assistance at events that have nothing to do with what I typically study/focus on. That way I can learn something new, meet new people, and let the people who want to enjoy the event enjoy it, while I have a good time helping run it.

I have offered about 10x in the past year to help with administration, rather than simply teaching a class (I teach 90% of my time in the SCA and mundania... but I LOVE LOVE LOVE administration.) And, 6 of the 10 turned down my help... and of the 4 remaining, two told me to teach classes.

Blink.


If I wanted to teach, I would (and have) signed up for being a teacher. I want to help with administration.

But no one wants my help. No matter how much I know, how much I can do, or how many reference (both in the SCA and in mundania) I can give.

*sigh*

So, it's not just important to ask for help face to face. It's important to take people up on it who want to help. Otherwise those worker bees will go away... after all ... nobody wants the help anyway.

Yep, although there's an important corollary here: don't pigeonhole people.

This one's pretty pervasive in the SCA: I think the award system reinforces it. There's a strong tendency to lump folks into "arts people", "service people" or "martial people", assuming that they are one-dimensional. You hit it as someone known primarily for arts who likes particular kinds of administration, but I've seen every combination of it. Indeed, probably the most common form is the ostensible stick-jock who turns out to be a really excellent artist in the field he's passionate about.

So yes, both aspects are important -- don't make assumptions about what someone can do or wants to do, and try to enable them to help out as they ask. That's not always simple, but in a volunteer-driven club like ours, it's really important...

I see this happen all the time...generally in very established groups. I put it in the categories of 'Be welcoming to everyone' and in 'Get input from not-just-the-people you already talk to all the time'.

Spot on. And the same in true in business. However


"The same people doing the work all the time is not the problem everyone thinks it is. It's ok; leave it alone. It has a natural life-cycle.


The natural life-cycle can lead to people disappearing. He said looking in the mirror. :)

The natural life-cycle can lead to people disappearing. He said looking in the mirror. :)

Yeah, that's true. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. One group goes; space is made for a new group to do stuff, stuff that is likely new/different.

Really, I agree with Justin on this one: it needs a nudge, not a hammer.


Yaas. I've seen this done crudely, and very occasionally that *is* necessary. (In one club, I recommended explicitly that the entire leadership, including myself, should resign ASAP -- we were too mired in old politics, and needed to go away for a while and let some new blood take over.)

But usually it's best done gently, encouraging folks to recognize when they've been doing something too long *before* it becomes a Problem. Nudging them to groom some successors is often the best way to do this: it sets up succession while letting them choose the appropriate pace...

Wishing you the best of luck.

I think you would make a great Baron.

Thanks -- I like to think so, although I'm terribly aware of the scope of the job, especially now...

You'll be a terrific Baron BECAUSE you understand the scope of the job.

Your list of ideas provided a fascinating insight into the challenges of another old barony. We have a lot in common. (We've attacked some of these issues with varying results. Every group is different, of course, but if you want me to say more, I can.)

*I'd* like you to say more if you wish. Private e-mail is fine. I'm considering the possibilities if our shire went barony. -- Dagonell

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