Tuesday, February 16, 2010

17 days of glory

I just got off the phone with Marly's Yarn Thing podcast. With my fellow Ravelympic moderators Chris and Jenny, I talked all things Ravelympics for about an hour.

It was a laughter-filled, chaotic conversation marked by much information and many anecdotes. We were even joined by Jess and Casey, Ravelry's founders.

At the end, some of us talked about what makes the Ravelympics special: its spirit of teamwork, its lighthearted competition. My answer would be a bit more about me (so I kept quiet). For the Ravelympics I am part of a small team managing an organization with more than 10,000 members. That's roughly the same membership as the American Academy of Religion, on whose board of directors I sit as part of a much, much larger management team.

Yet if one were to measure the involvement of the membership in the organization -- their productivity as empowered by the organization -- their identification with the organization -- the Ravelympics would knock the AAR out of the park. Yes, it's short-term. But it's also stunning. Very few of those affiliated with the Ravelympics will fail to participate actively. Most will produce multiple works in their affiliated disciplines. Hundreds have taken on leadership roles in ad hoc suborganizations.

If my real-world academy could approach half this level of engagement, we'd be the envy of every scholarly organization in the world. It's something to ponder as the AAR moves into its second century: how to be a resource to its members, spark their creativity, and earn their loyalty.

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