Monday, December 14, 2009

Create your own community!


An oft heard complaint is that the poly people one runs across in an online environment, or in real life, aren't the type of poly people that one wishes to connect with. An addendum to that lament is that the existing events or groups just aren't that interesting or desirable, or that they're clique-ridden or closed to newcomers. To that I say: Go forth, and create thine own community!


How does one go about doing this, one may ask? Well, I'm glad you did, for in these few simple steps, we'll take the journey towards creating your ideal poly experience together. ;) Speaking from my own background, when I first began to look at this idea, one of the main factors holding me back was that it's way easier to be dissatisfied with something than it is to effect change by doing something about it. In short, I was reluctant to take a leadership role, put myself out there, be visible, create a target for someone else to be unhappy about my ideas. Frankly, when I started to pull together the discussion group I host, I got some flack for it. There was concern that it would cause a schism in the community, that I would dilute what already existed, and certainly, no one was going to drive all the way to the suburbs of Vancouver to participate! Considering that we get 20-30 people consistently hauling their poly butts to the 'Couve on a monthly basis, and that the other groups in the area have acutally seen a bump in their attendance, this would appear to be false.

So step number one is to get over that worry. Really. This isn't a popularity contest, there's plenty of room for many different ideas, groups, events, locations, and concepts, and yours is just as valid as anyones. Your concept may have a broad appeal, or a more nItalicarrow draw, but that's what you are interested in finding out, right?


Step number two is to figure out what you want to create. This sounds simple, until you realize that most of the ideas spring from the, "Here's what I don't like/don't want." perspective. Don't play a zero-sum game! Stop asking for what you don't want, and clarify what it is you do want. This may look like a blog that appeals to a specific portion of the poly community, like "kinky, polyfidelitous quads" or be somewhat broader, like a meet-up with no fixed agenda other than to provide face time to those who self-identify as polyamorous. Really look around and determine if there isn't an already-existing version of what you want to create. It can be just as satisfying to plug your energy into what is, rather than starting something from the ground up!


In my case, I'll use the example of the monthly discussion group I host. I wanted to have a more structured environment to discuss specific issues that would be of interest to more poly-experienced people. I didn't see that available in the community. Although there were several thriving discussion groups and meet-ups, there wasn't anything that provided the depth I was looking for. I decided that I was willing to moderate such a discussion forum.


Step number three is to handle the logistics. Figure out when, where, how many people you can accommodate. Being largely creatures of habit, picking a consistent day, time and location will greatly increase your attendance. Online, this can be a bit more loosey-goosey, although several of the online communities have specific days and times that have hosted discussions, for a more live and interactive feel. Try to see if you can set things up so that you aren't in direct competition for another event within the community. Pick a different day or week to run it in if possible.


Step number four is setting up your format. This is where you get to do the creation process. For me, that looked like setting up a list of potential topics to cover, deciding that I wanted to create a discussion outline for each meeting, and coming up with a basic introduction spiel to run through as I open each session.


Step five is execution! I started off by letting the larger community know what I was looking to do via things like craigslist, tribe.org, okcupid and the local poly mailing lists, and letting the RSVP's roll in! From that point, it was answering questions, assimilating any feedback received, and fine-tuning the format as issues and improvements became apparent (Note: This process is never complete, so stay flexible!).


That's really about all there is to it. You may find that in the area you live, certain formats are going to gain more grassroots support than others, so if you try one thing, and it falls flat, that's OK. Find the next idea that sparks your interest and run with it! If leadership isn't really your thing, see if you can find someone willing to handle that end of things if you take the reins on organization and logistics. Find the mix that suits you best, and if it doesn't exist, create it!
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