On the politics of clubs..

Steve has an interesting post entitled “Golden Rule and Imagined Worlds” on his blog. It’s an interesting post, suggesting that transparency and equality are the basis for a good club.

I’m not sure I disagree, but I am going to take a different tactic, and it will be of the following form: how much “organization’ does your club really need?

Imagine that you loved ham radio a whole lot, and found two or three others that really did too. Because you all like it, it’s natural to want to dedicate time to pursue it, and to share your interests with like minded fellows. So, perhaps you decide that you can go to a local pancake house on a particular day and talk about radios. Surely nobody here has any power over any body else: you are expected to pay for your own pancakes, and if you don’t like the conversation any more, you stop showing up. There is no need for a “president” or a “secretary”. If someone wants to (say) put up a synopsis of the discussion on the web so that others can see what you talked about, well, then they can do that. If you don’t want that to be your job, then don’t do it: nobody is forcing you. If they aren’t discussing what you like to talk about, then find some others who do, and go to lunch with them.

But from these simple beginnings, things get more complicated because people think that if they just pooled their money, they could do something interesting. They could build a club station, or a repeater, or even buy up old rigs, fix them, and give them to new hams. If it’s just a couple of people, they usually just make an agreement, and do it. But if it gets to be a reasonably large number of people, they might disagree upon what exactly the priorities should be for their donated money. So, they decide to elect a leader, whose thankless job is to try to intuit what they really should be doing. Maybe that works okay, until the group grows a little bit more. Then, the total amount of money gets larger, and it’s too big of a responsibility for just one person. So, you start electing a board, and keep minutes, and draft bylaws and…

Hey, weren’t we supposed to be doing radio stuff? Why is our copy of Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur getting dusty, while our Robert’s Rules of Order are getting dog-eared?

Any club that doesn’t spend 99% of its time actually doing the thing they were formed to do is no club I want to participate in. The more money you contribute, the more bureaucracy is needed to manage it. Here’s an idea: keep your money, and keep your amateur radio activities something you do with friends. If they try to assert power over you, just laugh, and hang out with someone else. Spend your time doing stuff, rather than discussing stuff.