Field staff…

There’s a movement afoot to replace the state/regional structure with “field workers” –

  • Field organizer — goes out into the field to help arrange events, recruit members, start new branches, bolster faltering branches, etc., etc.
  • Field coordinator — works out of a (home?) office to facilitate communication between the national organization and the grass roots

It’s clear that this has been discussed at the board level for about a year, and the August 2007 statement of the board’s priorities for implementation by 12/31/2007 includes:

  • Create a staff Field Coordinator position within the Membership Department to work with branches, identify and share best practices, etc.

Note, however, that the “field worker” position — from the membership/volunteers — is different from the staff position called for in this short term plan. From what I’ve heard, these are “quasi-staff” (e.g. some expenses reimbursed, but no salary or benefits). The prediction of our ability to recruit these folks is based somewhat on our success in recruiting folks to serve at the state and regional levels.

There’s a danger, I think, in holding the mental model that two people can accomplish what a dozen or more contribute to now in a successfully functioning state. Yes, of course, both of those roles are needed — but what’s the infrastructure look like to have them pull others in to get particular tasks accomplished? What’s the glue that holds that team together over the medium term — to take the lessons they learn from one project and pass it on to the next? to find the particular skills that individuals are willing to offer and  leverage those on more than one project.

I don’t want to get too Myers-Briggsy, while I honor the notion of field staff just “getting things done” (J), I’d hate to lose the capacity building/potential of the current “network-focused” structure (P).

So perhaps the OSG nugget that recommends the current “required” state/regional structure be pared back to “primary contact, communications contact, financial contact” could be morphed:

primary -> field organizer
communications -> field coordinator
finance -> ?? who *is* handling the local money in the field staff model? Do we need to care?

[It doesn’t look like those specifics made it into the final report — it just says updating what’s required and what’s optional in terms of offices.]

I’ve spent so much of my AAUW time focused on providing the infrastructure to allow the grass roots folks to find each other. I don’t see as much progress as I’d like from the national level to take over that role (though there is some, of course). My motivation for all this effort has come from  _Bowling_Alone_  — the importance of community groups in ensuring the health of communities in general.
So as this idea continues to be discussed, I do think we need to put some “network” around those “field workers” (and discuss how they link to resource pools at the national level) in order not to risk going down a Lone Ranger path.

Some of this may be obvious — but until it’s all hashed out and written up, I’m trying to capture thoughts here.

More Facebook seduction …

I’ve written before about the “reboot” of e-mail: a completely clean “mailbox,” only a few manageable threads, not the hundreds of folders with thousands of messages collected over the years.

But I realized another seductive characteristic …

There’s only one “theme,” no hours of angst over typography and images.  Kinda comforting to be in a world where content is so important.

Facebook seduction

Okay, I think maybe one of the attractions of Facebook is that it’s a “reboot” of the e-mail contacts — a dozen or so correspondents, maybe 30 threads, and I don’t feel bad when I delete a “discussion”. Contrast that to 10 years of e-mail archives that are “in my face” when I open Eudora. Ah, the freedom …

Can I live with the new paradigm? Of course not. But will it change how I think about things — more than RSS has (which causes me to completely ignore random newsletters that arrive in e-mail)? Could be

Yet another steep hill…

Okay, so part of the problem is the vast majority of AAUW members just don’t “get” this. I’ve talked to dozens, if not hundreds, over the years since the IT 2001 campaign, and can’t really name more than 10 who understand that “sending an e-mail with an attachment” is not the pinnacle of electronic communication.

I put up my first web page in 1993. I really thought that communicating on the web was going to be as swift a transition as the PC taking over word processing. Okay, granted, it’s only been in the last couple of years that things like Google docs and blogs have made “putting info out for all the world to see” have made that publishing accessible. But still.

Back in 2001, Jackie Woods hallucinated that I was going to find a way to train all the members in tech issues. [See interview transcript.] Aside from the fact that I just didn’t want to do that (and she wasn’t suggesting she’d *pay* me for it, so what I wanted ruled), it just seemed unwise. There are dozens of “how to use your computer” resources in every community. Our “lifelong learning” thrust should have allowed us to urge our members to take advantage of them.

Recently, I’ve been hallucinating that AAUW is going to come up with a skills checklist and a way to have each branch show that they’ve got at least one member who can pull them into the new age. [See the blog’s training wish list and the aauwtech tags at for possible topics that would need to be shaped into a curriculum.]

Anyone else interested in pulling that together? I’m, frankly, about at the point where I’m not willing to do it as a volunteer…