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the world needs joiners, too

Startup culture, entrepreneur culture, all great things. But sometimes I think we've gone overboard.

I am most likely to see it in the world of STEM diversity initiatives, as a diverse person in STEM who cares about advocacy, I feel like it happens all the time. I won't call out specific examples but egads, it's like every day, someone wakes up and says "we should start a program to reach out to kids and expose them to engineering and science opportunities!" and they start from scratch, a brand new...

website, facebook page, committee meeting time, blog, program, lighting talks session, coffee meetup, board of directors, grant proposal committee, team building retreat, brainstorming session, logo design, tshirt sales, mugs, pens, manifesto, mission statement, badge lanyard.

It's even better when their "newness" and "inspired initiative" gets them noticed by some other powerful CEO or government person and suddenly there's a executive sponsor too.

All this before they've actually done anything.

And the whole time, they could have just volunteered a few hours with an existing organization.

I had a breakdown about it a long time ago on a political campaign too. Back when I was a better gay rights activist, I can't tell you how many times I'd talk to people who'd say "Oh I totally agree with you on this issue, I just never feel like I hear anyone else saying it, the other side is so organized and we are not."

One day in a sunday school class I yelled, "You can't say we're not organized if you've never attended a single meeting of THE ORGANIZATION that is right in front of you!"

Maybe these established groups need help. They need leadership, the existing board is burnt out, they could use a new activity idea, they could use fresh connections.

Those are all reasons to join! Not start a new group.

And yes, you will have to attend some meetings and LISTEN and learn the old way first because maybe they won't take kindly to you "I'm the 23 year old who knows everything and is here to save you!" introduction at the first meeting. But you might learn some things by listening to. Maybe that thing that didn't work before is worth trying again, maybe it's not. You won't know unless you actually hear what they're saying.

So join a group.

Join an old engineering society... IEEE, SAE, AIAA, SWE, NSBE.

Want to share ideas? Join Toastmasters, it's like a mini-TED conference every week going on everywhere, without the "you have to be a millionaire" feeling of TED.

Join the rotary club. Join the optimist club. Join a church. Be old-fashioned.

Put your energy into harnessing people who are already there - they'll save you some recruiting work. You'll learn something.


Maybe you can't say you started the group, but you'll meet some amazing people who will all love and appreciate what you've done and see you as a leader, and that's huge.

And maybe you'll learn that your different idea is really different and needs a new group. That's okay too. The bright spots in those old organizations you joined might help you even - people will be behind you, since they know you, they'll vouch for you, it'll be even bigger.

Stop reinventing wheels and try being a joiner. Just try it. What do you have to lose?

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 31st, 2016 05:07 pm (UTC)
I feel this way about a lot of certain very large meet up groups that find it more important to expand and start new branches than to support their existing branches.
Jan. 31st, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)
*nods* Everything new and shiny holds such promise, compared to the old battleaxe.

Trying to work with the established things is a risk, because it takes months or years to figure out how open they will be to new ideas. A few bad experiences can sour a volunteer, unfortunately. A willingness to listen, learn, and help out is a good starting point, though, and even if things don't go as one hopes, at least something gets accomplished, right?
Jan. 31st, 2016 10:14 pm (UTC)
I think the thing keeping most people from doing it is just the research and slow act of asking around and learning what existing groups *exist*, it's the listening. Yes there are bad volunteer experiences, but these new shiny groups I'm complaining about weren't started by people who said, "I volunteered with six groups over the past year and ran into all kinds of roadblocks so I'm starting my own." - they'd get a ton more street cred with me if that was their position. They're wide-eyed, innocent, and convinced that the world has never seen their idea.

There are groups that meet all the time and do great things but none of their members are all that internet savvy, maybe they've got eight facebook likes, so yeah you have to dig and ask around a bit.
Jan. 31st, 2016 10:27 pm (UTC)
Lack of listening to and making connections with other similar groups is likely to make any new group a flop, and I'm sure that would burn someone out pretty quick too.
Jan. 31st, 2016 10:23 pm (UTC)
Saving recruiting work is huge. As hard as it may be, it's much easier to get existing people to do more than it is to get new people to join.

TED has a millionaire feeling? Do you want to expand on that (maybe in it's own post), I got the impression that TED is trying to be accessible, you may have to pay quite a bit to be at a TED event, but the TEDex events are easier to get into, but even if you can't get to a TED or TEDex event you still get to watch all the talks so in that sense it could be considered less exclusive than Toastmasters.
Feb. 1st, 2016 01:17 am (UTC)
Totally agree.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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