I won't bore you all with statements or florid promises. I simply want to thank you for the support for the Order and what you've done for us as an organization. Most people predicted we were "a nice idea that wouldn't go anywhere." I'd like to think we've proven otherwise. And it's certainly all thanks to you.
Thank you for the questions. It has been an honor to serve as your President for the second full year of our existence, and I hope you will honor me by allowing me to continue to serve in the third.
"What do you all think the goal for the Order next year should be? Establishing ourselves with panels at conventions? Building a reference library of costume info? Organizing our own event/workshop for the group?"
In my opinion, the Order needs three things in order to continue to grow and succeed in the area of event presence.
1. The establishment of the Order as a presence at various events:
While I am the kind of person who will always choose a smaller event over a larger one, particularly if a worthy cause is involved, the reality is that if we are to continue to be noticed and taken seriously, we need to continue to get our feet in the door at major and high profile events, both in the US and abroad. We made some progress in that regard over our first two years, and I believe that we should continue to push this in the third. This is not to say that we haven't been trying with events that don't include us as yet. Obviously Gallifrey One would be a priority in this area, but we can't force them to change, no matter how much we'd wish it were so.
Why is this so important? Because it gives us more influence in the fandom, and more influence in the costuming and prop building community at large. When you host tables, people tend to listen. When you take part in panels or are invited to put them on, then people tend to listen. One of our major goals has always been to make this hobby, in general, inclusive rather than exclusive, and to use that energy for good. I believe we can achieve that, but only by playing the game, jumping through the hoops, and shaking the right hands. However, and I want to be clear about this before going forward, I don't believe we should do so at the cost of our integrity as an organization.
2. The Establishment of Materials for our Tables at Events:
I have said before, and will say again, that this Club needs a full color binder of costumes and props to put on display at every event where we're given space. Brochures wouldn't be bad either, and swag certainly doesn't hurt. Collectibles are awesome, too. Go to any convention floor, and you'll be able to see it: tables that have only a poster and a bowl of candy, no matter how well intentioned, rarely draw the same attention as, say, the table with the Dalek and the Action Figutres. Furthermore, when people ask about our group and want to know what -they- can do, it really helps to pull out that "big book of dreams" and say, "Well, guess what? Here are just a small fraction of the costumes and props we build and display as a group. We'd love to have you.,"
3. Increased Inclusivity at these Events:
The reality of the situation is that we need to provide materials and assistance to ensure that -every- Sector, not just Bad Wolf, not just Skaro, has the chance to grow, to gain members, and to become influential and important as members of the local community. I believe that creating a set of standard procedures for table display, and ensuring that -all- individuals within a Sector, not just the local officers, play a role can really help in this regard. We can also promote the various Sectors by nominating and electing their members to national offices, by highlighting their accomplishments as a Sector, and (this is most germane to the question) by including -every- Sector in planning Panels for national events like Comic Con, Dragon Con, and the like. The Georgia based members should play a prominent role in proceedings for Dragon Con, but the panels and events they host should involve members from throughout the wide swathe of territory covered by the Order of Gallifrey.
Addendum: I would also very much like to see more Order of Gallifrey hosted and planned events. We've already talked about doing our own thing at Disney Land, but not everybody can go to Disney Land, and that includes folks local to the park. I want to see more social activities (tea parties, bad movie nights, game nights), and yes, like most of you, I'd like to be able to one day see, a Doctor Who Con hosted and planned by the Order of Gallifrey.
We have some amazing people within our membership, from every level of experience to every type of socio-economic background. I believe diversity is our strength, but unlike most politicians, I'd argue that "diversity is our strength" should be something more than a catch phrase. We ought to play on that diversity and use it to make this not just a costume and prop club, but a social organization as well. I don't know about all of you, but part of this is hugely helpful for my social anxiety. It's much easier for me to socialize with people I know share some of my interests than to go into a situation blind. I would like to see our other members who deal with such issues on a regular basis feel that way, too.
"Thinking along the same lines as Brian, what direction do you see the Order moving in for the next year? Should we concentrate on building existing sectors, building new sectors, or simply growing as an international organization? What do you see the role of the President and other national/international officers being in the building of sectors?"
Wow. That's a doozie. At the risk of writing (another;) ) Thesis, I'll try to address this as succinctly as I can, because this is a huge (and very valid) question.
So, in what direction should we move?
The unpopular direction, but one that simply must be taken, period, is moving towards a completed Charter. I know, believe me. I know it's boring. I know it can be legalistic. I know that it can lead to (unintentional) acrimony. But the lesson we've learned from other prominent costuming clubs is a simple one in regards to Charters: If you don't have a Charter, you don't exist, as far as most people are concerned.
"Wow, that's harsh!" You may well think. And you know what? Yeah.. you're right. It's incredibly harsh. But it's the reality of the situation. BBC is aware of us, but if they don't have a Charter they can refer to, any thoughts of their blessing, and any thoughts of their getting us involved in official stuff are completely out the window. The same applies to many events. In order to qualify as a "Club" you have to be able to demonstrate that you have a set of rules that govern and define you as such; otherwise, you're just a bunch of "enthusiastic fanboys and fangirls" trying to score a table at an event. And then, there's the very long range outlook: do we ever want to become recognized as a non profit? Do we want to -really- push that 'doing good for other people' aspect? Because if we do, we've gotta have that charter.
I have established a Charter Committee. I have talked about the subject ad infinitum. But I can't -force- anyone to want to discuss the Charter, and I can't force anyone to write it. At the same time, I -can't- write every section myself. I mean, I could, but what good would that do? If this is truly a democratic organization, then allowing one person's vision to form every sentence of every line of our bylaws isn't necessarily a great idea, even if I may think that I'm a relatively clear minded, democratically attuned, person from time to time.
So that's the boring bit out of the way. But I needed to say it. Because, really, it's important.
Let's talk about the meat of your question.
You ask if you think we should concentrate on building sectors or on building an international organization. There are two basic mindsets one could take in regards to this. Focus on one of them, or focus on both. And there are good reasons for both.
If I may, just a little example from the history of the United States. It may be a bit weird, but it is germane to the subject. Third Parties in United States Politics often fail not just because of institutional bias and not just because they don't have money or funds to compete, but because they tend to over-extend themselves. Instead of trying to build support locally, they tend to overreach themselves. "We're going to run a slate of candidates for the Senate and the White House, and change the political landscape!" Yes, you're certainly going to run those candidates, Third Party, but without local support, you're going to fail. It has happened countless times in American history - some of them very recently.
Therefore, logic might dictate that we take a step back and work on establishing our local presence. If we concentrate too much on the "big picture", we get half a dozen new Sectors with two members each and end up with a presence at the Doctor Who Experience but nothing locally.
There is, on the other hand, the opposite problem: focusing -too- much locally. There is an organization in Star Wars Costuming; I won't mention its name, but they do a lot of Jedi Stuff. About ten years ago, they were big news, because they were doing things in Star Wars costuming very differently, both in style and approach. It worked out well for them, but for one problem: the group was too decentralized. Members popped up all over the country, and this group was happy to have them, but they utterly refused to intervene locally outside their own founding jurisdiction (which, I think, was in the DC Area. Could be wrong.) So, essentially, you have this wonderful, well intentioned, grass-roots group formed in the DC area that is set to really set Star Wars costuming on its head, with lots of new members, but it begins to retract almost as soon as it expands, because by recruiting people all over the country, all over the world really, but then saying, "ok, you're on your own when it comes to local stuff," they had essentially created a club of orphaned costumers overnight. People invested in costumes and lightsabers and then had nowhere to go with them, because this particular group simply felt that it wasn't within its responsibility to try to help the other groups get things situated. Now, I'm told they are very much in danger of folding. Commonwealths are wonderful ideas on paper; they rarely work, in practice.
So, where does that leave us?
I believe that we can do both, but by concentrating on supporting the Local Sectors and helping them grow. This will, thereafter, spread the word, which will attract more members, which will grow more Sectors, and things can sort of develop from there. I believe we need to pay attention to and take part in national and international events that we may have access to, even if we don't have local Sectors in those areas (Dragon Con, for example)... this only helps us in the long term. At the same time, however, we should work as hard as we can to get the Sands to the point that they are a recognized presence at Phoenix Comic Con, or the 'Run becoming a household name for New York Comic Con attendees.
How can we do that as national officers?
As I mentioned in previous posts, I think that means, in part, ensuring that members of every sector are involved in planning an event. Yes, it is true that San Diego Comic Con is an event local to Bad Wolf Sector. However, it's also an event that draws attendees and attention from all over the world. Why then shouldn't our table duty rosters, panel plans, and event plans (like dinners, for example) involve members from all over our world? Both from areas with Sectors (Gallifrey Sands, Skaro) and areas that don't have them (the UK)? A panel shouldn't necessarily just comprise members from one specific group of our population. Gaslight Gathering is a big event in San Diego. This year we were invited to host a panel. We did. But why couldn't Bad Wolf have made everyone in the Club aware of it and offered slots to people from say, Skaro? That's the kind of cooperation I'd like to see, and to actively encourage.
So, while I am not opposed to local events, and in fact, I strongly encourage them, I also want to see a more open nature to these events. "Hey, guys, every third Tuesday of the month we have a bad movie night at the Alamo Draft House. If you're in the area, or would like to make a trip of it, please let us know. We'll be sure you get in." "Hey, guys, we've got an invite to go to New York Comic Con, and we have six table passes. We'd like to reserve three of those for non Demon's Run members. If you're willing to help, we can get you in." That sort of thing.
Ultimately, as President, I cannot force these things to happen. But I can create incentives for them to happen and -strongly encourage- things to happen. "I've just received word from Comic Con. They need a Missy. You folks in Kansas have an amazing Missy. Would she be interested in traveling to Comic Con? Maybe we could get together and help her afford the room" that sort of thing.
One thing that would be a huge help for myself, and for other national officers, is that I would like very much to be invited to online groups, chats, and mailing lists created for local sectors. I don't think it's too much to ask. If we're all on the same page, we can help spread the word, and I can then easily tell people, "Well, you know, Medusa Cascade is doing something kind of cool with Sylvester McCoy's birthday this year. Has anyone thought about..." etc. I don't think Sectors should hide this information, or compete with each other, because we're all part of the same, national organization.
Some of you may have heard that the participation by certain costuming groups in Star Wars Celebration VII was something of a disaster this year. There's a reason for that: our local equivalents of Sectors hoarded information, including table passes, refused to work with other members of their international groups, and generally made a mess of things. One group, in particular, really failed at Celebration because one cliqueof friends, specifically one in group within the larger group, had hoarded all planning and information for themselves until the last possible moment. As a result, what could have been a great opportunity was wasted. I never want to see this happen in the Order of Gallifrey. We can avoid it by refusing to establish "favorite" Sectors and by encouraging growth of each Sector while at the same time inviting all members to participate within the activities therein. Its a tough challenge, but I believe we're up to it.
As a step in that direction, I did create the "Privy Council" facebook group for national and local officers, and I still stand by it as an excellent means of getting information out, but communication only works if it goes in both directions. I'd like to see efforts like this grow in the next few months.
"And he will have other names in the end.... Beast, Storm, Valeyard..." - Yog Sothoth, the Great Intelligence