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As part of the reorganization, the Board brought in a consultant to help the Society work out the new structure for the central administration. The consultant asked all the people participating in the process to imagine themselves in 2003; the Society of the day is wildly successful, and someone writes (between admiration and envy) to ask for its recipe. Herewith my answer, in the hope it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy:
The key to the Society’s success is ENABLING INDIVIDUAL EFFORT. We have a huge
network of interlocking branches, whose members all share a joyous unanimity of
interest in historical re-creation. The SCA, Inc. concentrates on maintaining an
organizational framework wherein participants have equal access to abstruse solitary
researches and to mass activities involving thousands of people working together. The
structure is there to provide information-access for the researcher and channels to
share the results of the work, and to provide venues for group activities and guidelines
sufficient to make those activities run reasonably smoothly and safely. The participants
ride that structure and use it to display their own talents and resources and
resourcefulness, which collectively form an inexhaustible power supply for the
The last decade got off to a rocky start. Top management had to learn to do deliberately what had been accomplished in the early years of the Society by a mixture of luck, inadequate communications, and ineptitude—that is, to maintain a steady platform for the organization so its membership could get on with its real work. Director Tim Moran captured the essence of the task in October of 1992, when a guest at a Board meeting demanded to know what effect “all these changes” then being proposed would have on the membership. He replied that it would make their lives easier—less paperwork, less bureaucracy, and more information and support services available to them. We’ve worked to make that real ever since, in the face of ever-present temptations to add paperwork and controls in order to protect the organization from the downside risks of allowing scope for individual initiative. Eventually, we found a balance between freedom and follow-up, in a matrix of central-management jobs that allow the incumbents to put the Society’s interests first for enough time to get those jobs done well, and support services that allow the officers to concentrate on the constructive work of their offices....
Besides the question of supervision, we had to work through a sorely ambivalent attitude towards money. Unlike most organizations and businesses in the latter part of the 20th century, which take it as a matter of course that goods, services and labor are all measured and exchanged via currency, the Society grew up around the belief that the organization was “fun”—and it was therefore a privilege to work for it and an imposition to charge for what it did. This belief was basically well-founded—the Society was and remains great fun to be associated with—but its operations eventually reached a scale where the personal benevolence of its officers was not sufficient to maintain it. Our innovative fund-raising and compensation programs are now the envy of the nonprofit community; we raise money from thin air without being beholden to any outside agency, and make use of it without either embarrassment or greed....
2004 insight: I’m too far from the management of the Society these days to know whether any of this came true. If it hasn’t yet, it’s still a worthy aim....
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The West Kingdom History Website was created by and is maintained by Hirsch von Henford (mka Ken Mayer).