I've had plenty of email and some phone calls lately from people in the co-op who are NOT HAPPY with the way things have been going on the message board lately. I wanted to post a little background on what is going on and why.
Our co-op has grown and changed as more and more new members participate. An unexpected additional benefit to giving ourselves an internet presence has been the active message board we've developed. Even homeschoolers who do not participate in our co-op activities have a chance to share what they know with each other.
Issues to resolve With our growth have come new issues to resolve. Some people were concerned about sharing personal information, such as directions to their house, on a public forum and felt that a smaller, more private forum would work better. But we didn't want to "boot out" all the great people registered and using the message boards. A simple solution to the problem of privacy was to make a core set of forums exclusively for active members of the co-op, where they would feel comfortable sharing personal information with people they know from co-op events.
From that decision, came a need to define what was required to become an active member. How many activities would one need to attend or sponsor before being welcomed into the "inner circle"? And would it make sense to restrict or define membership in any other ways, for the sake of forming a strong group identity?
Debating the issues The debate on these issues has been going on for some weeks. Sometimes the disagreements are polite, sometimes not so much. I want to apologize if anything that has been said makes anyone feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. I know just about everyone who posts, and even if it doesn't seem like it from reading what we say, all of us are reasonably pleasant to sit next to at the park and chat with.
Our dynamic group is definitely experiencing growing pains. But we've drifted along far enough, and now decisions do need to be made for the ongoing health of the group. And these decisions must weigh the benefits of membership quantity versus quality, strong group identity versus group inclusivity, privacy versus openness, and so on.
Making decisions That said, I suspect almost no one will agree with all the decisions I have made and will make regarding the co-op. Why do the final decisions rest with me? I guess because I have the most invested in the group, having pretty much run the co-op calendar, message board, and web site single-handedly for so long. †I organized and attended almost every activity. I alone manned the phone and email to reply to prospective members. Not by choice, but because no one else was prepared to do it until now.
Some day we may get to the point where we have elected officers, dues, general meetings, voting, etc. Until that time, I can only say that I'll do my best to try to get consensus on major decisions, and to take into account as many different opinions as possible in forming our rules.
No group can please everyone I don't want to alienate anyone, but it may be unavoidable. I certainly don't expect that all 129 families currently registered will rush to become full co-op members. The co-op will continue to attract new members no matter what rules we eventually adopt. Obviously, it will attract members who agree with or at least abide by the rules we'll be putting in place. I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever been a member of a club, no matter how worthy, in which I agreed with all the rules.
Anyway, those who don't see themselves as part of our co-op will instead join (or form) other groups, and that's the way it should be. And these group are free to advertise on our message boards. But if you want this co-op to be your group, as I hope you do, consider making your opinions known, either by posting here or emailing me personally. I can't promise to do what you want; I can only promise to take your opinion into account.
I agree with Elizabeth and appreciate SO much her wisdom and openness to this whole situation. As I have become a more active member of the coop I realized just how much work she was putting into it administratively without ANY help from any of us that were taking advantage of the services it offered.
It just had to stop. She is such a nice person (her whole family is, in fact) that we had to make changes to make it more fair. That is why, in my opinion, that the core members that attend activities fairly regularly, stepped up to take the load off of her.
As a result, some administrative roles had to be defined and refined. In addition, I think, and please disagree guys if you do, that the regular hosters and planners got tired of always doing it. Kari said it well when she said in one of her posts that it would be nice to have more giving instead of so much taking. I must say that I am guilty of this myself as I have attended way more activities than I have planned/hosted. For me personally to have a definite requirement of hosting/planning an event or activity every 4 months or so will take the guilt off of me of not making the decision...I HAVE to make the decision, no matter what, to be a respectful member of this group.
That is my 2cents. Whew! I feel better already!
Thank all of you for just being you!
Amy mom to Emily(5); an angel in heaven, Alex; and Max(13 mo.)
Thanks, guys, that's nice of you to say. I hope I didn't come across as whining. I'm feeling a little stressed out about the contention on the board (I am really not CEO material), as you might have guessed by the time that I posted my original message. I'll be glad when all this planning is behind us, and I do very much appreciate your help and support.
For whatever it is worth, I still very much agree with membership requirements you have so far proposed. †
Some have proposed that requiring prospective members to host an event before they earn full membership is asking too much. †It was suggested that it may be intimidating to some. I think, at least until more members actually show that they are going to take an active roll in hosting events, three activities per year has to be a bare minimum requirement of each of us. †If those who have actually been active and hosted events in the last six months were to remain the only ones hosting events, that would only work out to about 18 events per year. †Even if all 15 people who have answered in the survey that they want to be a member were to host 3 events per year, that would only be 45 events in a year, working out to about 3.75 events per month, many of them as simple as just visiting at the park. So, I support you in your decision to require all members to host a minimum of three events per year. †
I agree with your decision to allow people a trial membership prior to deciding if they are willing to committ to full the requirements of full membership. †If I recall corectly, the trial period you proposed was three months. †A quarter of a year is plenty long enough to decide if you like a group or not.
I agree with your decision to have people identify themselves to the host of an event. †It is not a matter of distrusting one who claims they have been to events; †it is a matter of meeting those who so far are just names on a cyberspace bulletin board and deciding if we feel comfortable in believing that their motives are good. †To otherwise grant them access to dates, times and locations of our meetings would be risking the safety of ourselves and our children. †If prospective members have to go through Amy or Angela to get information on where they can meet us and particpate in our activities, we discourage those with less than honest intentions.
Like others have expressed, I greatly appreciate the burden that you have carried for so long by yourself. †I know that when I first started viewing the board last fall, I often noticed you asking for help. †Many times you asked for volunteers to help with administrative duties. †Many times you asked people to host craft days. †But, I don't recall many, if any, offers to assist in those areas. †Since becoming involved this winter, I have noticed that the same people attend most of the activities...unless it is something big, allowing access to something you would otherwise be unable to attend...then all kinds of members show up. †I don't know how long you have been flying solo, but I can imagine that it wouldn't take long to feel that you are being used. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for the benefit of all of us.