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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.