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K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.

Running a Small User Group - Remember, It's Not Exclusively Yours

I'm going to conclude this series on running a small user group with a topic that came up for discussion earlier in the week. A friend of mine, and a member of Midlands PASS, made a remark that whenever the officers of Midlands PASS talk about the group, we call it the group.  We don't act like it's our personal possession. We don't take the attitude that if we weren't around, there would be no group. In our minds, the group belongs to the community at large. We have the privilege of serving. Sometimes it's hard. This is especially true when we have a lot of work and family obligations and making it out and supporting a meeting is another hit against our time. But despite the effort we put in, the group isn't ours exclusively. It belongs to everyone who makes up the group.

That line of thinking hopefully keeps us from prima donna attitudes. It also drives us to look at those in the group and make our best effort to provide speakers and a meeting setting that meets the group's needs. I know the moment we start thinking of the group as ours, as in the officers', we will start serving the group differently. We'll start looking at the group to serve our needs or goals, not vice versa. And that defeats the whole purpose of a user group in the first place.

I know, because I saw this first hand back when I was part of a Commodore users group back in the 80s. The group was formed and driven by one individual whose primary purpose was to acquire more commercial software. That got old, fast. We talked about trying to do more to expand the group, including having teaching sessions, etc., so folks with Commodores learned how to use their computers better (and thus found more value in them) and those who didn't own Commodores learned that they could get use out of a personal computer (this was back in the day when such a belief was not so widely held). He wasn't interested in such things. He paid some initial lip service to the idea, but it was clear within a couple of weeks that he wasn't going to give any time to that sort of thing in the meetings. And since he wasn't interested and since he believed as president of the group he drove what the group did, the group never got past his goals. As a result it died a rather rapid death after a promising start.

So it's important to remember that the group belongs to the group. If you have a leadership capacity in a group, keep that in mind as you strive to serve. The key word there is serve. You're there to serve the group as a whole. If you start looking at the group to serve your needs, that can quickly alienate the members of the group to the point where there is no group. Certainly it cause some folks who might have stepped up to help the group to shy away. And that puts all the load on you as the leader to sustain the group. That's not something any one individual can do for too long. We all need help, especially running something like a user group.

Comments

Posted by John Sterrett on 31 December 2009

Brian this is a great thought.  I think this is one of the reasons why the membership increased this year for the local Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP.

Posted by Anonymous on 1 January 2010

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