There’s a bit of a fracas currently occurring around the selection of James Carville and Karl Rove as opening keynoters for the 2012 ASAE Annual Meeting. To me, it raises a much larger question: how does a member change the direction of the organizational ship, if s/he’s not happy with where it’s going?
And the “rabble rousing” portion is vital, because you have to figure out how big your cohort is.
But you have to move on to campaign stage, or you just get mired in complaining.
There are two key questions any protest group must answer:
- What do we really want? (aka, What would fix the problem or compensate for the harm?)
- What are we willing to give up to get it?
Then you have to calculate your “n” to figure out how many supporters you need before it’s worth the institution’s time to pay attention.
So using the Carville/Rove situation, let’s look at some examples:
Small “n” resolution: Let’s say the group of displeased members wants, in the future, for keynote speakers to be selected by a representative group of members, or at least for that group of members to provide a list of choices or to vet ASAE’s list of choices. Since that would come at virtually no cost to ASAE, the group of members wouldn’t have to risk/threaten much, and the “n” required to support the proposal in order to get the institution to pay attention would be relatively small.
Large “n” resolution: Let’s say the group of displeased members wants ASAE to provide an alternative keynoter or at least space and promotion if the disaffected group secures an alternative keynoter (maybe someone like Gwen Ifill?). That’s a significant cost, in money, hassle/logistics, and damage to reputation, so the group would need a large “n” that’s willing to threaten/risk something fairly major, like paying for the keynoter themselves, or canceling registrations and demanding a refund, in order to get the institution to pay attention.
But in the end, what each person has to ask her/himself is this: how much does this mean to me? Am I willing to die on this hill? And then put up, or shut up.