The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



Helping Your Fellow Skeptics at the Grassroots PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brian Thompson   

Just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking about grassroots organization at the SkeptiCal conference in Berkeley. While our database of grassroots skeptics' groups shows that it's easier than ever to find like-minded critical thinkers in areas all over the world, there are still plenty of gaps to fill. In the U.S. alone, there are over a dozen states with no such organizations at all. There are plenty of great resources and role models for established groups looking for a way to spread skepticism to the wider culture, but what about those of us who are starting from nothing?

To help those people, the JREF is creating a definitive guide to creating a skeptics' group from scratch. How do you find fellow skeptics in your area? Where are the best places to meet? What sorts of things can your group accomplish? We'll answer all these questions and more. But we aren't interested in reinventing the wheel. With so many successful groups already in existence, there's a huge knowledge base from which to draw tried and true methods for making sure your grassroots organization runs smoothly.

This is why I'm calling for input from leaders and members of local groups to help flesh out this guide. It's easy. At the bottom of this post, you'll find some frequently asked questions about starting a skeptics' group. If your experience gives you some insight, please send your answer to me at brian@randi.org or leave them in the comments below. Just be sure to include your name and the name of your group. Answer as few or as many questions as you like. In the next few weeks, we should be able to compile more good information for burgeoning skeptics than is currently available anywhere else.

Some skeptics' groups are purely social. They're a community of like-minded people who gather in pubs, parks, or homes to discuss the issues important to them. Some are primarily educational. They host lecturers or provide science-based resources to their local schools. Some are engaged in activism. They protest the sale of homeopathic products at their local stores or sponsor vaccine clinics to help parents who might be led astray by misinformation. And several groups combine all these functions into one. No matter what kind of skeptics' group someone wants to create, this guide should be a valuable resource.

Thanks in advance for participating in this experiment. I look forward to hearing from fellow skeptics willing to share what they know.

Grassroots Skeptical Organization - Frquently Asked Questions:

1. Why start a local skeptics' group?

2. Where do you find other skeptics in your community?

3. How do you start a student group on a high school or college campus?

4. What should you look for in a venue for group meetings?

5. How do you attract a wide variety of people to your group?

6. What are some good activities for skeptical families?

7. What are the best blog services and social networks to use for your group's web presence?

8. What are the best ways to draw in non-skeptics who might be interested in your group?

9. What are the most effective or rewarding activities/events in which your group can participate?

10. What are some pitfalls you encountered when organizing your group?

Once again, please send your answers to brian@randi.org or leave them in the comments below. Just be sure to include your name and the name of your group. And thanks in advance to everyone for participating in this exciting project.

 

Brian Thompson is the field coordinator for the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Trackback(0)
Comments (1)Add Comment
Louisville Skeptics, and how we got here
written by laurliemt, May 14, 2012
Grassroots Skeptical Organization - Answers by LaurieT from Louisville Area Skeptics (Abbreviated)

1. Why start a local skeptics' group? I had been a long-time fan of Phil Plait's writing, CSICOP, the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Skeptics Dictionary, and the JREF. But all the other skeptics in the world seemed to live far away from me. Starting in 2008 I began to meet quite a few skeptics in real life, but I had to travel to CFI or Dragon*Con, etc., to do so. In my travels I met the incomparable Michael Blanford, who had started a skeptics group in his home town of St. Louis. I told him I felt like moving to St. Louis so I could have a group nearby. He hinted that it might be easier to start a group in my own town. What a concept! He really inspired me, and within weeks my husband Rob and I had scheduled our first meetup. It was important to me to find the folks in my community who had similar interests. I knew they must be out there, but I didn't know any way to get to know them other than starting our own skeptics group and getting the word out. It worked! Nearly three years later and we have a thriving community here in Louisville.

2. Where do you find other skeptics in your community? We use meetup.com to organize. It has been invaluable. Meetup automatically notifies its members when a new meetup is created that is of interest. There was already an atheist/freethinker meetup in town, and many had listed skepticism or science as an interest, so they got our announcement. The internet, google, our website, and meetup make it very easy for people to find us.

4. What should you look for in a venue for group meetings? I have been searching for 3 years for the perfect venue, and I haven't found it. I am looking for a pub or restaurant that has a separate meeting room that is:
a)free
b)quiet
c)large enough to hold 75-100 people
d)has av equipment such as a projector and sound system
e)that will allow people to order separately and run their own tabs.
This wish-list is hard to come by.

5. How do you attract a wide variety of people to your group? I have relied heavily on Meetup.com. I now have two groups on meetup, one called "Louisville Area Skeptics" and one called "Louisville Science Cafe". I use both to advertise our Science Cafes, which are monthly talks from a professional scientist, but I only use the Skeptics one to advertise our social events we call Skeptics in the Pub and our special events, such as workshops and SkeptiCamps. It has been successful in getting the word out to a wider spectrum of people who either don't understand or don't identify with the word "skeptic".

7. What are the best blog services and social networks to use for your group's web presence? As mentioned, I rely heavily on meetup.com. To become a group organizer, you have to pay a fee, which right now is about $70 per 6 months. But it is worth it and I recoup this with donations. I also have a website with basic information, a calendar, and a link to the meetup. I also have a facebook page, that I use to announce the meetups. I try to always ask new members how they found us, and the majority say meetup, but several have said google or facebook.

9. What are the most effective or rewarding activities/events in which your group can participate? Since starting this group I have become very passionate about science outreach. It is important to me that I provide a conduit between the public and actual scientists. Science cafe gives them a free, local, casual opportunity to meet real scientists. This is ridiculously rewarding to me.

10. What are some pitfalls you encountered when organizing your group? The hardest thing has been finding a really perfect venue, as mentioned above. I have learned a few tips through experience: make sure to check and double check with the venue that they are actually ready for us; get the speaker's cell phone number and give him/her mine; have the speaker bring their power point presentation on two flash drives, or on a laptop and a flash drive as a backup; arrive early enough to set up the a/v equipment and trouble shoot, etc. I've only had members get upset one time, and that was after an email "discussion" broke out between a couple of members that spammed all 300 members with tens of emails in one afternoon. I stepped in and put a halt to it, but not before a couple of people unsubscribed. Since then we have set up a forum, but no one has needed it. For the most part this has been a fairly straight-forward, smooth ride!

11. Would you recommend other people try to start their own group? I absolutely would! I was reluctant to do it at first because of the time commitment. But it hasn't been that bad, and I do most of the work on the computer, with very little running around necessary. I have met so many really interesting, friendly people with a similar world-view, and we have enjoyed teaching each other new things!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy