Nuking your division
I want to take a couple of minutes to talk about commitment in the Toy Soldiers. This may be a bit of a controversial subject, because when we join we are told there are no requirements for being a Toy Soldier. Which is true. But unfortunately, this often ends up leading to apathy and attrition. While there are no requirements, people want to be involved, and believe they are a contributing part of something. This post will address some thoughts on how to make people feel more involved and get others interested in joining us.
When I led the 1123rd Fibonacci Division, one of my biggest frustrations was with dealing with the high levels of apathy. I’m fairly confident that Risa, Cae and Techie will back me up on that. Of course, part of the problem was the large amount of area the 1123rd covered, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
When I started (or rather, restarted) the 661st, I decided to implement some ideas I had come to believe regarding group dynamics, to see if I could make some “improvements” to the standard model. Some of the ideas I got from the way mega-churches run small groups, other ideas I came up with on my own but they’re probably not anything new.
First, theory. I call my idea the nuclear theory of growing a division. The concept is fairly simple. In a nuclear reaction, you have to have several things in order for a reaction to occur. You have to have a certain amount of material, a “critical mass.” Any less than this and nothing will happen. And you have to bring that mass together into a tight space; spread out nuclear material just sits there.
I assumed, and I think rightly, that group dynamics were similar. I decided that what I needed to do to get people involved and active locally was to get enough people together to start with, and then keep bringing them together until a reaction occurred.
So, first step was recruiting enough people. I didn’t know how many people it would take, but it seems about half a dozen really committed individuals was a good start.
Second, I needed to bring them together. Have regular meetings. We decided on monthly meetings locally, as less than that and people would lose interest, but more than that and people would get bored and/or burned out. In each meeting we discuss upcoming events, personal missions, uniform and propaganda creation and brainstorm ideas for new ways of interacting with our community.
It actually took me several months of me setting at a table in a coffee house by myself, before others started to show up. But now we have half a dozen or more at each meeting, and not always the same people (although there is a core that’s always there now).
Third, keep everyone in the loop on what’s going on, message them and remind them of meetings and events. People forget. And people like to feel you want them to come, that they’re important to you. Thank them and laud them for participating.
Fourth, brainstorm ways of getting more people interested. These can be Tactical Training Days in the park or whatever. We’re still working on that locally, but it’ll come.
Another thing I’m trying to do with the 661st is getting involved in the community. Finding a local charity and making them a pet project, for example. People want to be involved in their community, and this gives members the feeling they’re doing something important and worthwhile, not just “having fun” for its own sake. It also gets the group seen by the community as a club that’s doing some good, and may generate interest in new membership.
Now what if your group’s area is really spread out? Well there’s no rule that says the whole division has to meet in the same place. If you find someone who wants to be a part of the division and are in an outlying area, encourage them to hold meetings of their own, and maybe report back to the division leader. Nuclear reactions shoot out particles that zap other nuclei, and they shoot out more particles, etc. So encourage local groups all over your division if your division is large. People will more readily come to a meeting around the block than one they have to drive an hour to get to. We’re currently looking at starting a new meeting in Hesperia, which is near Victorville, a good 60 miles from Lancaster, the center of our Division. And we’d like to find some members willing to start up meetings in Santa Clarita, 40 miles in the other direction, eventually.
Do you have any group-growing ideas? If so, feel free to share them here; I’m no expert, I’m just sharing what’s worked here locally so far.
@Dr. Mystery said:
Actually, not Hesperia/Victorville. The meetings will be in Lake LA, covering Soldiers from Littlerock, Pearblossom, Llano, Juniper Hills and Phelan.
Just a quick correction, but otherwise a great post, Johnny.
Which is just as well; I don’t think we have anyone out in that area either.
Another thing I’m trying to do with the 661st, which I forgot to mention, is getting involved in the community. Finding a local charity and making them a pet project, for example. People want to be involved in their community, and this gives members the feeling they’re doing something important and worthwhile, not just “having fun” for its own sake. (I just added that to the article.)
Fantastic ideas! I am pretty much a lone wolf Soldier out here in Illinois, but it’s hard to recruit people by myself. And me best piece of propaganda has gone missing. :(
Voltor, you are your best piece of propaganda. Go to the store or around town in your uniform and when people ask about it, hand them some prop. Set up a place, a day and time of the month you can be at regularly and tell people that’s where your monthly meetings are. When people start to show up… bam, instant division.
Tis some great information here, and just what I am needing to see given I am working to build a division out in the Pac NW and could use some insight into making it work. Thanks so much Sky Marshall YJ!!! Any other insight from other members…please feel free to shoot my way.
Before I throw my opinion out, I think it’s best to get out in the open that I am not a political scientist, nor am I an economist, or any sort of well educated soldier, I am a student who is being educated, and I have dealt with apathy for many years, both in and out of school. When it comes to apathy, I view it as a silent killer of movement and creativity, in a movement for change, those who don’t care can bring change to a slow.
Apathy occurs when we as people forget what we want, Apathy is the hole left when desire is lost. Those apathetic soldiers have lost the drive, they don’t feel like they make a difference. We have to keep in mind that many apathetic soldiers may have given it there all, and given it all up. They think because they see no immediate change, that change will no come to them. I am not in anyway trying to rally the “little guy” or the “oppressed soldier”, I am simply speaking from experience, study, and observation. What we need first and foremost, is a way to reach the apathetic, and despite what many believe, reason is not necessary, even if what gets the soldiers to drive is a wild fantasy, and the chances are near non-existent, the point is not to reach this, it is to give them a drive.
I do not advocate to lie to the people, I do not advocate filling the minds and hearts of men with wild dreams, but our entire organization is founded on one wild dream. If we can offer a drive to the people, and give them reason to return. I don’t believe in using mild ambitions, or moderate interests, I believe in using true desires to motivate the people. A Utopian world is a true desire, and should be the chief desire of every soldier, but it is not the desire that the individual wants. We need to show the soldiers that by achieving our goal, we can achieve the goal of every man, woman, and child in the organization.
Apologizes for sounding like a political rally, writing has been the only thing I can do since a young age. I understand we are aimed at fun, and I hope my odd personality won’t make people concerned. I’d like to say more, but I’m running short on time. Alright, rant’s over, let’s have a beer, brothers.
The ‘core membership’ mantra sounds a lot like the guiding principles we used to build the hackerspace in Albuquerque; and I think that as a disruptive culture, Toy Soldiers can learn a lot from Makerspaces, even if you’re not technology-focused… we are a bunch of non-normative social groups trying to get together and keep our movement going.
So without analysis, I present some of the notes that have been collated by other hackerspaces:
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