Don’t Throw Away Your Shot: proposal-writing for the SCA in five Hamilton quotes

There are a lot of things to get outraged over, including in one’s hobby. In the time of Coronavirus, that all seems to be more magnified, as we’re all stuck at home, with very little chance of meeting our friends and chosen family. It’s tumultuous both in and out of the Society, and with several things outside of the Society informing choices within the game, it’s even more critical to be aware of how to clearly communicate with the structures that form our Society.

After all, it’s easy to complain from the safety of our social media pages and within groups – if that’s your aim, cool. Sometimes a person needs to blow off steam. However, if your hope is to try to influence change from your own personal social media page, it might be more difficult to get things started.

But, if the choice to make change is one you’re willing to undertake, and to see it through, well, that I can help with. The list I have is not exactly complete, but for anyone who is interested in attempting to enact change, this is probably your best bet to do it.

So, I bring you Auntie Konstantia’s Starter List of Making Things Happen Within the Society.

Step One: Inform yourself on the current policies.

“Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

There’s a few reasons for this. One, if you are not aware of the current working procedures of a group in the Society, or you are new to the Society and you see a problem, it helps to come at it from a more educated angle.

Do you have to know everything? Absolutely not. Does it mean that you might not get the answers you’re looking for? It might. There might be a reason why certain helmets or swords aren’t used, or why a procedure for accounting or a particular kind of documentation might be preferred. Educate yourself to better be equipped to explain why your idea might be better. Chances are, someone has looked at the problems and tried to fix it. . . and made the situation worse, or better yet, was actually successful in fixing the problem. Still, it is almost always better to educate yourself on the problem as it applies to current procedures.

This is a time to remain humble, as you may encounter knowledge that you don’t particularly like or agree with, but because of a lack of resources, it binds another party from doing the action you desire most. This is also not a time to dig your heels in, either, as that may cost you allies, or worse yet, keep you from finding the information that you need for Step Two.

Step Two: Come up with a plan that includes your change to current policies and the steps needed to make said change.

“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Go through a cost-benefit analysis. Lay out what the problem is, explain how it needs to be fixed, and with the data you have from your information-gathering step, communicate your plan. Now, keep in mind that the Society is a volunteer organization and that resources may occasionally be spread a bit too thin, and that your plan may involve more people at any one particular time that may not have the right skills, abilities, knowledge, or even just people-power. It does mean that it may not be the right time for your particular plan, but still, write it up.

If you realize that your plan requires a petition to the Board, this is the time for you to get those signatures. Also, remember those who have signed as possible resources. (and if you sign a petition to the Board, this is a good time to remember that you’re volunteering here.)

Step Three: Email your proposal to the officer, to the Board of Directors, and possibly the ombudsman for that sector of the Society.

“The art of the trade/How the sausage gets made/We just assume that it happens” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Be prepared that your proposal may take time to actually implement, or that there’s just not enough infrastructure in place to actually enact the change. If that is the case, please be patient, or better yet, ask how you can help.

It’s also a great time to start helping the group you want to work with to enact these changes, especially if it requires research. If you know things, this is the time to be the Subject Matter Expert, or, if you’re not the Subject Matter Expert, work on getting more information and continue to educate yourself on the subject. After all, we are a volunteer organization, which means that things will not get done unless we have volunteers to do them. So, please, volunteer.

Step Four: Wait.

“I’m willing to wait for it.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

To borrow from St. Thomas Petty of the Breaking Hearts, “the waiting is the hardest part.” There may be reasons why the Board hasn’t gotten to your plan, or they themselves are looking at their own set of information gathering missions. This can take time.

So, what does a person do? Keep learning. Work with the team your plan affects the most. Keep fighting. Keep working. You’ve done a large part of legwork if you’ve gotten to this point, but having those extra perspectives aren’t a bad thing. The Board of Directors moves slowly in many other organizations – not just ours. If there are numerous proposals to discuss, in addition to the rest of the business that the Board has to handle, it may get moved to additional meetings.

Remember, the Board of Directors is not the enemy. They’re here to help make the rules into a safe experience for everyone and that might mean balancing other issues, too.

Step Five: If changes are enacted by the Board as part of your plan, please be on the front lines to help support those changes.

“History has its eyes on you.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

This goes without saying. We’re a volunteer organization, and it is patently unfair to make a suggestion without willing to help in some way, especially if the suggestion requires monumental changes. If you know something, someone, or some place that can assist, this is your chance to make those resources available. Sitting back after making your suggestions is akin to someone who would rather make pronouncements time and time again, instead of someone working alongside others to enact change.

I cannot stress the part enough about being on the front lines to fix a problem. After all, pulling from Hamilton: “winning is easy; governing is harder,” meaning that even if you have popular support to fix the thing, it is harder still to find people to help labour, especially if the particular problem is a lack of research or knowledge on a subject.

Konstantia, what about if the Board decides to not go through with my plan?

That’s a good question. Again, sometimes, the Board might make a decision that you’re not fond of. I get you. I’ve seen it happen, and well, I get that it’s frustrating. It is frustrating. There may be reasons why the Board made their decision the way they did. It could be infrastructure (or lack thereof), it could be an overall lack of interest across the Society, or it could just be that there wasn’t enough information to make an informed decision. It happens. Dust yourself off. Here’s what you can still do.

Save drafts of everything. Tweak your submission, work towards ways of making the problem less of a problem, and keep looking at the processes that need changing. Talk with people who might also be seeing the same problems. It’s possible your submission might affect issues within the Society that are greater than we have infrastructure for. Heck, try running for the Board yourself! You may hear those other perspectives, too.

Of course, this list is far from being a full list. But, if you feel strongly about fixing parts of the Society that need to be fixed, I encourage you to start at step one on this list, learn why a process exists, and to start working on your plan.

The Society can be an absolutely vibrant, wonderful organization, and when many of us have a heart to fix the ills of both society and Society, going through the proper communication channels gives those ideas a better fighting chance to fix those ills.

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