2,500 and Climbing

I placed the following blog on the IOPS site – but I thought it was relevant, as well, for folks who use ZNet but might not see the IOPS Blogs. Give it a read, see what you think. And – perhaps consider joining IOPS.

IOPS has passed 2,500 members. To me this seems like a milestone. Put succinctly, if in the next three months each current member successfully recruits one new member who is fully cognizant of and supports the IOPS commitments – and then in the following three months each member recruits another, by May 2013 we will have 10,000 aware and committed members. And if, during that same period, members make a concerted effort to create local chapters, we could have 50 – 100 local chapters meeting, as well.

We shouldn't unduly elevate ourselves.

In a world of nearly 10 billion people, 10 thousand members and 50 – 100 local chapters is not many. It just isn't. 

But we also shouldn't unduly denigrate ourselves.

Considering the question, do we have a basis upon which to solidify an organization and to then continue growing, 10,000 members and 100 chapters is a whole lot. It just is. Indeed, it would be more than enough, I think, to warrant a founding convention. It would be more than enough, I think, to begin working on international and national program and process. This is why reaching 2,500 members feels like a milestone. It establishes a position from which we can quite plausibly reach convention readiness by May 2013.

And finally, we shouldn't kid ourselves.

This type formulation of prospects can over simplify the task we face. Indeed, put as above, the task may seem almost trivially simple – and in some  abstract, mega sense, honestly, I suppose it is. But the larger reality is that up to now, and especially for the past two months, we have been enlarging IOPS at a much slower pace than the one needed to accomplish the above achievement. Three months is roughly 90 days. Enlarging by 2,500 new members in that time means growing by, on average, almost 30 people a day. That is, I think, about four to five times the rate we have been hitting recently. And in the second three months the number of new members added per day would need to climb to nearly 60. So achieving this growth, viewed from how we have been growing, would be a big leap forward. It would require everyone pitching in.

Can we do it?

Well, why not? What is the impediment, and how large is the impediment, to our accomplishing this? When I do a thought experiment to test my intuitions on the issue, I am struck by the result. 

Suppose every member would receive $1,000 upon successfully signing up one new member who supports the IOPS commitments and is eager to themselves be part of a growing organization. The $1,000 in this thought experiment is called, by economists, an incentive. How many of us would, in that event, fail to sign up one new member in the next three months? And how many of our then five thousand members would fail to do so again in the subsequent three months? My best guess is that everyone would succeed. And so the economist would say, whatever the obstacles are to our each signing up one new member in this period – our own personal obstacles mean less to us than $1,000. Okay, suppose we lower the incentive to $500. Or to $100. Wouldn't we still succeed? And just imagine it was $500 or $100 not for only getting one new member, but for each new member you attract, up to as many as you sign up. 

We know there are obstacles to hurdle for each of us to successfully sign up another person. What are some of these obstacles – other than the resistance of the people we contact? I may be missing something very important, yet it seems to me that the four biggest obstacles are:

1. Lack of time. 

We are all very busy. Lots of things occupy our available hours ranging from maintaining life by eating, sleeping, and working at paying jobs, to dealing with family, school or other personal responsibilities, to fulfilling other movement responsibilities, to maintaining our psychic and emotional well being by entertainments and activities. One obstacle is, in other words, that it is hard to find time in our already stretched schedules without the choice exhausting us or taking away from something else we do. 

2. Feelings of embarrassment. 

We can guess that some people we ask to join IOPS will disparage our motives, sanity, and intelligence, upon hearing us make our case, and we don't want to endure that kind of dismissiveness or ridicule.

3. Fear of estrangement. 

We expect that some people we ask might consider us weird, upsetting, or even dangerous for being in IOPS and inviting them to join, and we don't want to risk that they will feel these ways toward us, and perhaps even avoid us.

4. Feelings of failure. 

We know that some people who we ask will say no, and we do not want to endure their rejection causing us to feel inadequate.

Beyond the above, other than rare situations, there are no unavoidable drastic penalties. There is no actual danger, for example, assuming we are smart about our entreaties. Nothing like that obstructs each of us carefully talking to selected others about IOPS. Rather I suspect that the above four types of concern are the most prevalent impediments blocking us. And though they may seem minor, listed so starkly – in truth they are very often the cause of failed movement efforts. 

Take an average current member. He or she contemplates giving a public talk, speaking to an invited group at a party, sending invitations out to a list of folks via a social network or his or her address book, or directly making a case in a personal face to face conversation. Contemplating reaching out, this average current member feels the above reasons for not following through. What can overcome the obstacles? Well, the $1000, $500, or $100 payment is one possibility. But that does not exist. So what else is there?

There is the prospect of having, six months from now, or a few months after that to allow for final planning and arrangements, a founding convention of an organization of over 10,000 people with roughly 100 chapters. 

  1. Would such a founding convention warrant the effort to attain it, including the expenditure of time and the possible feelings of embarrassment, estrangement, or failure we might endure along the way?
  2. If so, then do we believe that such a founding convention can happen? 
  3. If so, then do we believe that our own personal effort to get new members could be part of what can make it happen? 

If your answers are, yes, it would mean a ton to me for a convention to happen, yes, it can happen, and yes, my actions can help make it happen – then wouldn't those prospects be more than enough to outweigh discomfort over stretching our time budget and sometimes being embarrassed and enduring feelings of failure along the way?

Is IOPS just a nice thing to feel good about being in? Or, are we serious about building IOPS into a vehicle that matters for winning new societies in the years ahead?

That polarity conveys what I am feeling – and it is why I think if we can't do this, if we don't do this or something quite like this, then IOPS will be a nice idea, but little more. If we can do it, however, and if we do do it, then IOPS will become a real organization on the road to really mattering. 

Three months to reach 5,000 members. Three more months to reach 10,000. Will we do it? That is  the question.

Here is a specific proposal:

  • That between now and the end of October, in chapters, in blog posts and comments on blog posts, and in the forum system, we discuss a plan of proceeding in accord with the above observations. I offer one such possible plan below. 
  • Based on all that discussion of possibilities, a few ICC members are entrusted to distill three scenarios/proposals that try to embody the best ideas that emerge during the exchanges. 
  • The three proposals are put to a vote of the whole ICC – including first asking them for amendments and incorporating those. 
  • The results of the ICC vote are reported, and then, as well, after another period for deliberation, the entire membership votes on the top two vote getters. What emerges from that, becomes our plan, by November 1.

Now, as a possible draft plan that I currently favor, at least as a way of getting the discussion going… and which I therefore offer for assessement, refinement, etc.:

  1. We all commit to each getting one new member who is aware of and supports the IOPS commitments to join, during the three months November, December, and January. We each try for our new member to be a woman, for purposes of attaining better gender balance.
  2. We all agree to each getting still one more new member, and to making the first round of new members aware that this will be a task for them as well, in the following three months – February, March, and April. If the first member we got was a man, we restrict ourself to signing up a woman as our second, to attain better gender balance. 
  3. We all agree to try to assemble local people in the city where we live and once there are enough such people in IOPS, we agree to respond positively if someone contacts us seeking to establish a local chapter. In any such chapter, if there is not yet gender balance acceptable to the chapter, we agree to prioritize recruiting to attain balance.
  4. We put on the IOPS top page, starting in November when the allotted three month period begins, a daily tally of how we are doing at reaching our goals.
  5. When we reach 5,000 members – or half way to whatever our ultimate six month goal is determined to be – we initiate an IOPS project with at most 20 members, to begin to address the features of and how to hold a founding convention. The project is at least half ICC members, so that there are many members in it who the full membership knows. The project generates three plans, trying to embody the preferred ideas of as many people in IOPS as possible, and then, when those plans are ready, the ICC and then the full membership deliberate on, refine, and then vote among them.
  6. If we cannot or do not by our efforts attain at least 7,500 members (or, at any rate, three quarters of whatever our full goal turns out to be) by May 1, 2013 – we strategically reassess the future of IOPS including the possibility that our conception is fundamentally flawed. 

We are all serious, aren't we? There are consequences to our choices, aren't there? Waiting for magical success bequeathed by some magical historical phenomena is dogmatic and delusional, isn't it? Waiting for someone else's effort to ensure success, is irresponsible, isn't it? 

Thus, it is our time, each of us. It is our task, our responsibility. We can certainly do this. And so we must.

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