for OUTREACH and DEVELOPMENT
"Outreach" can mean a number of different
things, depending what stage you are at with your project. In a
mature group it may well be the responsibility of a person called
"Outreach Officer", in which case it might mean keeping tabs on
things to do with the Local Council, or the local Voluntary Service
organisation, making sure the group is listed in the right places,
and attending meetings of voluntary organisations. It could include
making sure you have a stall at every Green Fair or holistic exhibition
that occurs on your patch. Or it might involve getting in touch
systematically with individual organisations, such as elderly homes,
mother and toddler groups, after school clubs, and nowadays climate
change or transition town groups, and making sure that membership
of your group is made available to them.
If you are into networking this lists goes on and
on. Outreach is essential, because a group that sits in its comfort
zone and doesn't make an effort to attract new members becomes a
cosy clique where "people who are not like us" get the
impression that they are not welcome. The in-group become friendly,
people start bartering or just doing favours and in due course the
system is not needed by them, the group becomes hard to find, and
the process of decline begins.
Round the Houses"
A straightforward way of keeping things moving in any scheme is
to "go round the houses" with meetings, so that the work
of hosting is shared, and if the geographical spread of these meetings
is wide, members in different areaas all have a chance to meet up
when the location is near them. It can be the role of someone on
the core group to invite ordinary members host such meetings, and
a small standard fee in local currency can be offered for the service
of hosting them. The full details of such meetings can be published
to members, or just the phone number of the contact, if people don't
want to give out their addresses to strangers. Such meetings are
an ideal way for new members to join the scheme, as they get a feel
for how it works by meeting people who are already members.
These meetings work well if some modest ritual is involved, for
example, refreshments, followed by an introductory go-round, through
which people introduce themselves, talk about what they have gained
in the scheme, and mention their current offers, and particular
wants. They might also bring along craftwork or second-hand items
to sell. Some groups make the process more elaborate by proper catering,
or running it as a bring and buy or an auction in a community centre,
but it can work just as well in a domestic setting. There can also
be an informal "show and tell" presentation, or in public
venues, a proper lecture designed to attract members of the general
public, on a topic related to the green economic or holistic agenda.
If members are going to be able to enrol at such meetings, either
the host will need to know the routine, or someone from the core-group
will perform that task - it all depends on the distances involved,
and the stage of development of the group. Enrolment will involve
receiving information about how the system works, and signing an
agreement to the rules. This may be done by means of paper documents,
or online, depending on how the system of that group works. It will
also involve paying whatever subscription is required, if any. If
the local host enrols new members, they will have agreed formally
with whoever is responsible on the core group, ie the administrator,
membership secretary, or treasurer, how the procedure is to be carried
out. A small standard fee for each enrolment may also be agreed.
One type of outreach if the group covers a wide geographical area
is "branching out". With the typical small town LETS,
where the meetings are always held round the same kitchen table,
people who live in outlying towns or villages are excluded, except
for a few high-fliers who enjoy meetings and will travel from some
distance to attend them. However, this travelling may takes up their
available energy; the meetings may be supportive for these individuals,
but do not enable the group as a whole to achieve geographical spread.
The good news is that web-based systems allow much of the administration
and communication that had to be done at physical meetings to be
done online or by email, so that people can be part of the same
network, but work at some distance to each other.
We are particularly keen to support this type of geographical networking.
It may be sustainable over a period of time, for example in a county-wide
network. Having a major network strengthens the value of the currency
because of the richer variety of offers available on the system
for those who wish to travel. At the same time local trading is
supported when the system enables people to find those local to
them, and this is where the majority of trading typically occurs.
In time, this way of running local meetings could evolve into
a way of supporting new start-ups, as a sort of "budding off".
If numbers are moderate, say, up to a few hundred members, a widely
spread network may be sustainable on one level, but if the popularity
of the scheme means that numbers go up to a thousand or more, there
might come a time eventually when groups need to bud off and form
a separate network. In this casse, accounts set up in the original
system can be maintained for the occasional distance trade, so individuals
may have a local and/or wider account, to support their habitual
patterns of trading.
Business with Pleasure"
One issue that has come to our attention in contacts with local
groups is the need to separate out management of the group from
social meetings. In some cases it might work for bits of light-weight
business to be conducted at a social meeting, for example the co-signing
of cheques, or agreeing the next social meeting, or finding out
who will run a stall at the next fair, or for the core group to
meet beforehand then other members arise so that it evolves into
a social. However, in general we recommend that socials are a different
type of meeting from core-group meetings.
One group we know of holds what they call an "open forum"
as the only way for members to engage, and this constantly exposes
them to discussion on organisational issues. Members can always
have an input on how the scheme is run by submitting agenda items
by email and/or attending meetings which are designated as core
group meetings, but not having a vote. However, where contentious
issues are being discussed, core-groups may need a private space
for debate to take place between them, or simply for work to be
done. In general the model we recommend is that core-groups conduct
their business either by physical meetings or email discussion in
whatever way suits them from one AGM to another, without an over-emphasis
on participation by members. Between AGMs the pre-rogative of ongoing
decision-making should be the preserve of those who are doing the
essential work of running the scheme.
from Where You Are"
In a county where there are existing mature groups, and a new group
is needed in an area where there is a gap, we would start that group
individually with an independent web-based system. Whilst that is
happening neighbouring groups might recognise the value of networking
and agree to form an umbrella group to connect up the individual
groups, so a two-tier system evolves from the ground up. However,
if there are no functioning groups in the area, it makes sense to
build in a network of local contacts at a very early stage, so that
anyone looking to join in that county can be welcomed in even though
there might be only a handful of people near them. Once they have
joined, they can outreach amongst people they know near to them
and start building up numbers locally without having to develop
a separate infrastructure.
The instinct of many individuals wanting to start a group is to
join their nearest group in order to learn the ropes, but then they
get involved and do know how, or more likely they do not get support,
for going to the next stage of branching out, so the group gets
stuck with a strong root and very weak outer tendrills. If this
has happened a conscious effort needs to be made to support stronger
growth at the extremities.
the Development of Local Groups"
We want to support groups to grow and develop in a healthy way,
so that they can continue to meet the needs of the community at
large. Organisers need to be aware of how they are managing their
groups, and when it's hard to know what to do because of emotional
ties and uncertainty, it may help to seek outside support. We recognise
that for many individuals, the mutual support and friendship that
arise from membership of a LETS is the ultimate goal, whilst for
others the economic value of trading is the primary need, and this
factor may become the key issue in a serious economic downturn.
A vibrant LETS group has an intricate chemistry between emotional,
social and economic factors, which needs to be consciously nourished.
We are looking to make more expertise available locally, so anyone
needing support in this area or would like to become involved in
supporting local groups, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Draft as at 18/6/2009