This is a proposal specifically addressed to PPS-UK’s IT Team but I have posted it here because I would also like to know what others involved in PPS activities think and to keep the Z community informed about the kinds of developments we are making.
Being part of a local / regional chapter is one of the ways in which members of PPS-UK can get involved in organising for a participatory society in the United Kingdom. However, at the moment when people sign-up to PPS-UK they do not automatically get put into a chapter. Instead they are required to use their own initiative to join an existing regional / local chapter or set-up a new chapter for the geographical area for where they live. If they do not take such an initiative (as most existing members have not) we end up with two categories of members –
1. Those who have taken the initiative to set-up or join a local / regional chapter (what we might call “active members”)
2. Those who join PPS-UK but don’t set-up or join a local / regional chapter (what we might call “sleeping members”)
Although this “sleeping” / “active” distinction within PPS-UK membership is probably understandable in many cases – due to personal circumstances, levels of commitment, etc. and even, in my opinion, predictable to some extent – it is still undesirable and as an organisation committed to participation we should try to overcome it. We should design our website in such a way that any such distinction is minimized. Basically this means that we try to make networking between members as easy as possible and with it participation within the organization.
One way in which we could (quite easily?) overcome this problem, it seems to me, is by redesigning our sign-up system.
At the moment when people decide to join PPS-UK they click on a “sign-up” link on the home page of the PPS-UK site. This link takes them to a form that they fill in and submit. This is free and open to anyone interested in developing and organising around participatory vision and strategy and willing to respect PPS-UK’s Basic Organising Framework [add link]. The form asks information including –
· City / Town
This information goes onto a list of members which can easily be accessed by all members on the site. However, because the “country” and “city / town” categories aren’t required fields for a member to successfully sign-up many members have not given their location. Also, because these categories are left open for members to fill in themselves there is quite a bit of inconsistency in the information given.
So we have two problems –
1. A lack of information (where members do not submit their location)
2. An inconsistency in information given (where members give their location but use a variety of terms to describe their location)
I propose that the first problem can be fixed by simply making location a required field on the sign-up system. And I would suggest that the second problem could be fixed by having a predetermined set of location options for members to choose from. For example, to successfully sign-up to PPS-UK a new member would 1) have to give their location 2) would have to select from a list of geographical options from a drop-down bar. The initial options on the drop-down bar might be –
On choosing one of these options a new member would then have to choose a further category that falls within this initial area. So, for example, if someone chose England in the initial options then would also need to choose from the following options before successfully registering as a member –
· North East
· North West
· Yorkshire and the Humber
· East of England
· East Midlands
· West Midlands
· Greater London
· South East
· South West
Additional options for members in Scotland we might have –
· East Scotland
· West Scotland
Likewise, additional options for Welsh based members could be –
· North Wales
· South Wales
For members living in Ireland there could be –
· Northern Ireland
· Republic of Ireland
I have suggested these traditional categories as a starting point for regional organing because it is what people at the moment understand. However, as these regional chapters become more popular and local chapters are set-up, and self-management develops within them, these traditional geographical categories will no doubt start to breakdown and be replaced by new patterns of organization.
In addition to these categories we could also consider having “Other European Countries” as well as “Other parts of the World” options. These additional non-UK categories would help facilitate networking beyond the UK as well as possibly encourage members outside of the UK to establish a PPS organization in their part of the world.
My feeling is that redesigning the PPS-UK sign-up system along the lines laid-out above would better aid networking amongst members and with it make participation within the organization easier than it is at present.