We are a week into August, and all week I have been pondering different directions to go with this month’s reflections. I have decided to stick to my original plan, which was and is to celebrate our 4th Charter Anniversary this month. We received our charter from Climate Reality via email on August 25, 2017; and as most of you have heard me say too many times, we only started with 5 members. This week, the Opt-In list has 278 names. [For those of you who have not heard the term, the “Opt-In” list is the official membership roster that is maintained by Climate Reality. It has the names of those who filled out the form to join the chapter on the organization’s website. We get a weekly update every Friday.]
There are several things to say about that number: 278. One is that there very well be fewer than 278 people on the list; because for some reason, some names appear more than once on a given list. There appear to be a few glitches in the software. The second is that, of course, we do not have anywhere close to 278 active chapter members. Over my four years with the chapter, I have seen people come and go. Some of the reasons that people leave are easy to understand: People move away. People discover that climate activism takes more time or more energy or more of something than they have to give or want to give. People want to be active on their own, perhaps via the work they do professionally, but have little need to participate in the local chapter. Other times the reasons remain a bit of a mystery. Some people who have been active for some time suddenly just disappear. They stop showing up, don’t return calls or emails - just vanish. That is of course on top of the people who sign the national “Join a Chapter” form who we never hear from, even after our membership team makes repeated efforts to contact them.
All of that notwithstanding, the ranks of our active membership have continued to grow steadily over time. I think we are learning more and more about how to get new members connected and involved; and I deeply appreciate the efforts so many of our members have made in our “buddy system.” If you want to take part in that ongoing effort to make personal contact with new people on the list, please let our membership chair Karen Dyer know. We can use you!
One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that climate activism is not a “one size fits all” enterprise, especially if we are talking about the all-volunteer kind of activism that our chapters are built on. People are different. They have different priorities, they bring different gifts to the work, and they are motivated by different kinds of activism. Recognizing this has led in our chapter to our growing set of local working groups. Just this week, I found some confirmation for our thinking about these differences between individuals in reading an interview with the co-editors of the book All We Can Save. Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson said that when someone asks her what they can do about the climate crisis, she asks, “what are you good at?” She then asks what part of the crisis they want to work on and finally what brings them joy. The intersection of those three answers is where the individual should be active. Here is her diagram depicting this model for activism”:
Our chapter’s organizational model has attracted quite a bit of attention. Earlier this year, I was invited to speak to both the Austin and San Antonio chapters about what they perceive to be our very successful chapter. Just yesterday, I spent well over an hour taking about chapter organization with the Steering Committee of the New Orleans chapter. In preparing for that visit with New Orleans, I put together a few slides listing the leadership roles we have created here in the DFW Chapter. That begins with the 11 people now on our Executive Committee. To that I added the annual Elections Coordinator and the 3 named editors on our website management team. That is already 15 individuals taking on responsibility for what I think of as chapter maintenance. It takes a lot of work to keep the wheels turning in a large and growing chapter, and we have been fortunate to have so many people willing to take on these roles. Very few chapters seem to have this many people committed to building a chapter. Some new members seem to assume that somehow Climate Reality does the work to keep local chapters going, but nothing could be further from the truth. It all comes down to local members stepping up and showing up.
What is perhaps even more impressive is the number of people in leadership roles in our working groups. There are 17 people serving as either Chair or Co-Chair of a working group, and to that we can add the 8 people who have taken on the role of District Organizer in one of the US Congressional Districts in our chapter’s territory. That brings the total number of members in leadership roles to 40! This is more people in leadership roles than any of the 3 chapters I have met with seem to have on their active member list.
There is another idea behind this approach to chapter organization that goes beyond the model of activism depicted above. It is that “Responsibility Equals Retention.” The sooner we can find a role for new members, whether in a leadership position or some other role on a committee or in a working group, the more likely that new member is to stay engaged with the chapter. If you are reading this and still are looking for such a role in the chapter, please contact me. I would very much like to talk it over with you.
Right after we celebrate our Charter Anniversary, we will move into our fall election process. We will be electing a new Executive Committee. I already know that some current members do not plan to stand for re-election, so those positions are wide open. In other cases, even if the current office holder wishes to continue, consider running if it is a position that interests you and that you have the skills for. We always prefer to have co-chairs when possible; and we always want new voices and new perspectives. Nominations will open as of our September chapter meeting. Then in our October meeting, candidates can present their qualifications and ideas to the chapter. As soon as that meeting ends, we will be distributing a ballot on line. Voting will be open for 3 weeks. The results will be announced at the November meeting.
I strongly encourage all chapter members to consider running for a leadership position on the Executive Committee! I have every reason to expect that we will see another influx of trained Climate Leaders from the October virtual global training. That will put us well over the 300 members mark on the Opt-In list and give us over 150 trained Leaders. If we put our voices and our actions together, we can be a force for change in north Texas. I can’t wait to see where we will be on Charter Day #5!
Roger Knudson, Ph. D. Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Miami University Chapter Chair, Climate Reality Project Dallas Fort Worth Chapter (859)866-3962 Pronouns: He/Him/His