An open discussion paper on our future as a club
It contains the thoughts of the author and as such does not convey agreement with nor is it
to be considered policy of the club or its executive. It is only published as a discussion paper.
Is the SAARC at a Crossroads?
I care about what happens to the SAARC. The club has been around for decades and has served our members well over those years. It has been the central focal point for amateur radio in the Lethbridge area all those years in the most relevant ways possible. However, during the last year I have listened to comments that say the club is no longer the collective voice of our members and that it has become stale. In fact, there is a lot of truth to that statement when you look at what has been going on with both membership and the activities that the club has been involved in. Another disturbing fact is that there is a vocal few out there that don’t think it is viable at all and should be disbanded. Others have decided to start their own organizations instead because of their experience with the somewhat conservative and stagnant feel about the club overall. Ideas that have merit and are progressive are often shot down or permanently tabled for future consideration when “there is more activity happening”. Many of these ideas have great merit, but because they might require a bit of money to be expended, or, perish the thought, might require some members to get off their collective butts and do something innovative and exciting, they are abandoned. Enough is enough, I say. This club has been the nucleus of amateur radio in Southern Alberta and with some tender loving care it will become that again. All we need to do is identify the things that we want to do to make it that way.
Meeting with Rob Papp and Geoff Petersen the other night encouraged me to start thinking long and hard about what we should do. Ron came up with the idea of putting out a Survey Monkey and ask the membership some open-ended questions so that they can get excited about participating. Although I agree in principle with the idea, I think the questions should be less open ended and more direct in their nature instead. Why you ask? Because of the nature of our demographic. I strongly believe that we have a bunch of fence sitters in our midst. They are ever ready to sit and complain about things and proffer reasons for not doing anything. Asking them open ended questions will only encourage them to continue to sit on that fence and the result is even more apathy. Most of them wouldn’t take the time to respond and the survey would be useless. Believe it or not, the ham radio community, based on the notion that we are communicators are non-communicative except to pass their reports and biographical information amongst each other and talking about the weather. Rag chewing is not their strong suit. Taking the initiative on any issue, unless it is to tell us it isn’t viable, is another thing completely foreign to them. So, what do we do then?
Finding the hot button that’s required to make someone want to get involved is key to the type of questions we want to ask. For instance, instead of asking what kind of activities they want to get involved with, ask them to get involved with an activity instead. I.e. “Are you interested in coming out to Tom’s place to discuss integrating transceivers with SDR software?” How boring? The invitation is nebulous and uninviting because it doesn’t tell you anything. How about, “Tom is holding a workshop on integrating transceivers with an SDR to give you that band-scope that you always wished you had. We’re holding it on Saturday from 9:00 to 2:00 pm. Are you coming? Yes/No”. A bit more interesting? It also provides a call to action that most importantly encourages people to make a decision. This maybe a poor example, but you get the idea.
So what are the questions we need to ask our members to build up our understanding of their needs? Make the first questions in the group the easiest to answer to get the interest up right at the beginning? Then ask the hard questions after they have committed to taking some action.
Let’s look at some examples…
1. We are interested in revitalizing our club so that it becomes more interesting and better suits your needs as a member. Are you in agreement with that Yes/No?
2. Our numbers are diminishing and we feel that it might be because we have fewer and fewer options available for our membership in terms of things to do with the club. Do you agree or disagree? Yes/No
3. We own a great repeater that has amazing coverage, but it is getting long in the tooth and is a great candidate for upgrading. We could do this and therefore make it more state of the art in terms of both coverage and functionality. Would you agree that we should look at upgrading our repeater to bring it up into the 21st Century? Yes/No
4. We have found ourselves in a less than perfect place for our monthly club meetings. It’s cheap, but not ideal and doesn’t lend itself to presentations that are important to the club in terms of membership activities. Should we look for another place that would suit our needs more fully? Yes/No
5. One of the greatest networking opportunities we as hams engage in is a hamfest. The Glacier Waterton International Hamfest was the annual event held in Canada and alternately in the USA every third weekend of July. However, because of the problems they ran into over the years of finding a suitable venue in Canada as well as the hastle of commercial vendors having to cross the border, it became cumbersome and now is only held in East Glacier. Companies like HRO found it simply too difficult to cross the border. We have the opportunity now opening for us because we have our own Canadian vendors willing to come to the Hamfest here in Canada. Would you like to see us open discussions with the hamfest organizers and get us back on track with the hamfest and truly make it international again? Yes/No If so would you be willing to work with a committee to see that happen? Yes/No
6. Having the opportunity to visit with fellow hams at their QTH is always a great event. We have many of our members that have agreed to open their shacks to visits by others. Would you be willing to participate in this too? Yes/No
7. A flea-market is another terrific opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to sell off and buy the treasures that we all have gathered over the years and replace them with new ones. Would you be interested in participating in an annual flea market here in the Lethbridge area? Yes/No
8. We are always looking for new members for our club. The sign of a healthy club is the continued growth it experiences. One of the least represented areas of possible growth would be in our younger generation. There is a notion that they are only interested in their smart phones and gaming, however there are groups in schools that are into robotics and other technical hobbies that would be prime candidates for amateur radio. The focus on competitive sports pushed by the schools and organizations only draws the energetic ones. There are far more of the others that hunker down at night with video games and those are the ones that we want to attract. Are you in agreement that we should focus our efforts on that vast resource by printing up posters for the schools and then set up demonstrations for this group to show what amateur radio is all about? Yes/No Are you interested in helping to show off your equipment or doing posters up for this type of activity? Yes/No
So these are just a few of the questions we would like to ask of our membership. There are many more and we will be listing them and identifying the best way to ask them to get the maximum feedback we can get over the next month.
Are you willing to become involved in the revitalization of our club? If so, what would you be able to bring to the table that you think would be a new and innovative thing for us to do? If you have comments, please let us know. In the meantime, we are going to put our questionnaire together and get it out to the members.
Tom A. Buchanan – VE6ARG
Contact us by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org | Snail mail: SAARC, PO Box 1024, Raymond, AB T0K 2S0