So, in my unpaid consultant (cough cough) role today, I was ad-libbing about how you could make everyone in the room – from hardened activist to starry-eyed “newbie” (terrible phrase that it is) – see that their contribution is both valid and validated.
Context: in my opinion one of the MANY reasons the “movement” hasn’t grown is that we continually ignore the special skills and perspectives that potential activists have (whether it’s graphic design, acting, public speaking, accountancy etc) and use people merely as cannon fodder for petition-signing, stalls-staffing or going on TOTALLY POINTLESS MARCHES (sorry for shouting.)
What you could do, I said from the top of my guru-mountain, is this; after welcoming everyone to the meeting, get everyone to write down on a slip of paper something they are quite (or very) good at. Anonymously – no name, no packdrill. Then collect the bits of paper. And read them out, and start riffing on how that skill could be useful to your group in the coming months.
“Cooking” – “great, if you wrote that you can take on some or all of the catering at our summer barbecue.”
“Social media” – “great, you can be twitterer in chief for our next event”
“Book-keeping” – “great, you can keep us solvent!”
“Being friendly to strangers” – “great, you can help us from letting talented and dedicated people being discouraged from getting involved….”
And after a few have been read out and the person “in charge” has ad-libbed some of these suggestions, they could pretend to stumble, and ask everyone to join in, shouting out ways that each (anonymous) person’s skills could be used to grow the group’s reach and grasp, its effect and affect.
And after this piece of stage-managed camaraderie, you could even, *gasp* , actually put this into action. That is, you could create some events/projects that were explicitly there to make people feel that their contribution was valued. Is this “tail wags dog”? No, it’s called getting out of the clique’s comfort zone and actually trying to Grow A Movement.
Let’s see if it happens in a week’s time. And if it doesn’t work then, let’s keep doing it a few times to see if it can be made to work…