Start a local group

Summary

Create a local or national group to work on FFII activities.

How this helps

The FFII is a global network of local groups. We find our strength in numbers, our creativity in diversity, our wisdom in aggregation. The cute slogan "think globally, act locally" was never more true than in the FFII. A local group reaches people in their own language, talks to politicians who need to listen, connects to journalists, and at the same time talks to the rest of the FFII.

Explanation

Types of participant

A local group always consists of:

  • One or more people who lead the effort; it's wise to not do this alone, but to make sure you have backup. First, to spread the work, and second, to make better decisions. It's best if you can work with people who you can actually meet now and then.
  • A community of people who are close to the effort, who help with many aspects, and who could, sooner or later, become organisers and leaders.
  • A larger network of people who are occasional visitors, readers, commentators.

And in general the group talks to many people in the wider public.

Mailing lists

The simplest way to start a local group is to create a mailing list and invite people to join.

Because people need to trust those they work with, at some point you will want to make two mailing lists; one for public discussions, and one for internal work. Anyone can join the public list, but only the people leading or close to the project can join the private list.

Microsites

A microsite is a specific domain name, a slogan, a clear message and identity. It helps people focus on the problem at hand.

Using email is great for discussion, but it's a lousy way to store knowledge. Yes, some people do this, but some people will cross the Atlantic in a small boat. The best way to store knowledge is on microsites; look at a site like epla.ffii.org, which documents a situation and remains useful for years.

If you use a tool like Wikidot, you can make microsites in a few days, including all the content. If you find it takes longer to make your sites, dump whatever technology you're using.

In larger organisations, you may want to create 'workgroups', where a workgroup exists as a set of email lists, and microsites. Use good names, so the same name for the workgroup, the lists, the microsite.

Motivation and activism

There is no point bringing people together just to talk. Sometimes there are clear and specific problems to react to - a government proposal, an industry event, a standardisation issue, and so on. But to really be useful, you need to create your own opportunities. Some local groups have managed to get government to pass progressive legislation.

A good campaign is controversial, ambitious, and makes good press. It brings people into the local group and helps them focus and learn to work together.

Identify good people

FFII teams need all kinds of people - leaders and organisers, communicators, disciples, researchers, presenters, writers, and so on. The beauty of our kind of organisation is that people do what they like, and what they do best. When you see people who want to contribute, encourage them and give them space.

How to motivate volunteers

We joke about this but it's true. Even if you start a local group and are the "guru", you can't tell people what to do. Instead, make puzzled noises about some problem, and how apparently no-one is able to solve it. Try yourself, and show how incompetent you are. This makes the problem irresistable to some people, who are then determined to show they can do it. Whether people do well, or badly, always tell them they did great, and provide small points for improvement. If you have to, you can motivate subgroup A by suggesting that subgroup B could do the work.

How to handle troublemakers

There are people who cause trouble. Most typically, they are very good talkers, perhaps excellent communicators, but they don't share. You'll see them taking credit for other people's work, putting their name before that of the association. They don't do work for other people, only for themselves. If you see this kind of person, double-check, give them a second chance, and then kick them out. The most effective technique is simply to isolate and ignore them. Never get into name calling. Make sure you explain to everyone who counts what you're doing, and why.

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Author

  • Pieter Hintjens <gro.iiff|hreteip#gro.iiff|hreteip>