Sunday, March 8, 2020

PS1: Issues with Campaigning

PS1 has a deep-set issue with the practice of campaigning. I don't mean politically, but PS1 relies entirely on the efforts of its membership... every member is also a volunteer. The organization just does a very poor job tapping their membership to accomplish large tasks.

As of the last count, PS1 has roughly 550 members. However, the popular channels of communication are only checked or monitored regularly by a relative few core members... I'd estimate maybe two dozen, consistently. The Slack channels are similarly under-populated. However, the core membership... those members who are most likely to engage the larger tasks PS1 needs done, don't really extend themselves past these outlets to look for support in accomplishing these tasks.

This has an odd effect, creating an imbalance of power and influence that often tends to be subtle: those members then overextend themselves to get the task done, under-supported, and with the effort contained to that same core group. They've then gone "above and beyond" to accomplish the task, and garner an exceptional amount of recognition and praise. Some of them really do just do the work to get it done... others are farming this recognition. It's an exchange: doing the mechanical work of PS1, and expecting the power and influence, rather than doing the humanist work of an organization 550 people large that will be affected by that influence.

Doing the mechanical work, avoiding the humanist work, still counting on having exceptional power and influence.

I've become aware of this over the last three-plus years because there are three resources they almost universally avoid or ignore, avoid the work of campaigning, in the interest of minimizing the need to share the work... and the accolades:

The first is me. I am here a lot. I don't monitor the communication channels very well, and have some physical issues that limit what I can contribute, but I can contribute, and I am very often available. Any time I've been asked, in recent months, I've done my best to lend a hand; I've received shipments, answered questions, helped with projects, played nurse, and even kindly kept drunk members from operating dangerous machinery by engaging them in conversation and getting them to chill, eat, and drink water. Has my effort been exceptional? Probably not... a lot of cleaning messes in the aftermath, carrying things from one spot to another, a little basic paperwork. But I am here, and I do help.

The second is a much larger point: in having a membership of 550 people, and many former members, we have the email addresses of thousands of people. We're making efforts to extend memberships to people participating in PS1 committees and management. We could easily send out a weekly newsletter, which could also detail what projects are at-hand and whether we could use help... and that, simply put, never happens.

And the third is a very telling point: did you know PS1 has scholarship memberships? No? Virtually nobody does. Income-challenged people can apply and earn three months of free basic membership, and they can do this up to three times. But you never hear much about it. At all. Last rotation, we had eight scholarships... and three applicants. Not for lack of applicants, but for lack of advertising. Lack of campaigning. PS1 has many core members with connections to communities where this would matter... but the word never gets out.

PS1 could. They just don't. And a few key members do an outsized amount of mechanical work, exercise the influence it gives them, and entirely avoid the humanist work that influence impacts.

And a long-standing institutional imbalance of power is maintained.