Posted on February 26, 2009

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This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series How to Start a Polyamory Group
Original photo by Zvon @ stock.XCHNG

Original photo by Zvon @ stock.XCHNG

In our previous article, we discussed different methods of seeking out other like-minded individuals with whom to form a polyamory group. 

The next step is to establish the purpose for the group and the direction that it wants to take to achieve its vision.  The process of creating a group’s collective vision is important because it will determine how decisions are made for the organization in the future.

 

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement is an expression of the group’s purpose that tries to accomplish the following:

 

  • Establish an ideal to strive for.  A well written vision statement describes what a group wants for itself tomorrow, 5 years from now, and 10 years from now.
     
  • Inspire members to act.  People are selfish in that they will typically not act unless they know that their efforts will lead to some sort of purposeful result. By providing a direction in which  your group is going,  you are giving a reason for others to contribute. 
     
  • Provide a point of cohesion.  A group vision implies that there’s agreement among the members regarding the ideal that they want to achieve. 

 

 Why a vision statement is important

A group without a vision  is simply a collection of people, with membership consisting of  individuals merely being labeled as part of a whole.  Without a shared purpose, there’s no feeling of ownership,  and therefore there is a lack of accountability on the part of the individual to contribute to the organization.  As a result, the pool of volunteers that keep the group running is relatively small, and typically consists of the appointed leaders plus a handful of others. Attempts by members (and the wide-eyed, newer community leaders) to try and change things typically falls short due to the complacency of the remainder of the membership base. 

This may sound a bit bleak, but I’m guessing that there are some people that are nodding their heads because they are familiar (and frustrated) with this type of experience.  It is an example of the importance of establishing a group vision, and cementing it in a vision statement.

  

How do you create a group vision?

Here are some things to consider when establishing a group vision:

 

  • Where do you want the group to be in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?
  • What do you want the group to be known for?
  • What sort of impact do you want to make, both within your group and in the world at large?
  • How do you want others (both within your group and outside of it) to think of your organization?

 

Ideally you will want establish a group vision statement during the early development stages of the organization. It is easier to reach a consensus on ideas when you are only working with a handfull of people. 

Once the group reaches over 10-15 individuals, finding a common ground that everyone can agree upon can be difficult. At that point, it is easier for the group to designate  leaders to create and direct the organization’s vision. 

 

First the vision, now the mission

Once you have a vision statement for the group, the next step is to construct a mission statement. There are some subtle yet important differences between the two:

 

  • A vision statement is written with existing members as the intended audience. It describes the direction the group is heading towards.
     
  • A mission statement is written with non-members as the intended audience.  It describes the purpose of the group and the actions taken to achieve that purpose.

 

In defining a group’s mission statement, there are 4 types of activities that a group can have to support their vision. I am going to list and detail them below:

 

  • Activism deals with relations between the organization and the outside world.  It not only deals with directing public perception about the group, but also in affecting social or political change.
     
  • Outreach focuses on heightened awareness. This is different than activism in that it deals more with educating the public about a topic rather than persuading them towards a cause.  Sometimes outreach includes solicitation for additional members to the group.
     
  • Internal support deals with meeting the needs of the existing membership. In the case of a polyamory group, it means being able to provide information and resources dealing with the “how to’s” of poly living.  The organization of which I am a part has an email forum, monthly discussion meetings that focus on various subjects, and a lending library.
     
  • Community building focuses on creating cohesion between group members.   This is a process of encouraging members to interact with each other through various social events.

 

Closing thoughts - changing directions

As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, there are two intended audiences: those who are starting new polyamory groups, and those that are trying to nurture the existing group that they are in.

It can be difficult to change a group that intermingles social ties with an organized structure.  Some of the existing members may have an emotional and psychological investment due to their past involvement, and may react negatively to any changes in the status quo (especially if they helped establish the group). Also, depending on your organization’s history, interpersonal dynamics can be tied into the group’s politics.   This means that attempts to change the group’s vision - or establish one where it was left undefined - can lead to unwanted /drama.

While it may feel noble to try and redirect an existing group that isn’t meeting the needs of its evolving membership, you need to be realistic about the feasibility of such.  In other words, don’t burn yourself out trying to move the Titanic ;p. 

One option you can consider is seeking out other individuals that share your ideals and create a second group with its own identity, vision, and mission.  This may be a realistic option if the mission that you want to accomplish is not fully supported by the group at large.  An example of this is if you are focused on building opportunities for polyamory related outreach and activism when most of the members utilize the group for information and support.

If you are able to create a new organization such in a way that that does not alienate yourself from the original group (or require people to have to choose between membership in either organization), you will minimize the potential /drama of doing such.

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4 Comments

  1. [...] bookmarks tagged purposeful Creating Vision: What Do You (As A Group) Want to … saved by 5 others     sasukeitachi777 bookmarked on 02/27/09 | [...]

  2. 11/03/2009

    Hey, thanks for putting together these pages on how to start a poly group.

    I’m working with some east coast organizers to put together a pretty comprehensive “how to start a local poly group” guide. Would it be possible for us to use ideas out of these posts? (We’ll be writing our own version, so we won’t be using the exact words.)

    Also, I would love to run our finished product by you to see if there’s anything you object to, think we missed, etc.

    Feel free to email me direct.

    Thanks!
    Pepper

  3. metropoly
    11/03/2009

    Absolutely - you can use the ideas I present here.
    As a follow up to this series, I plan to provide a simplified “action plan” for those that want to start a polyamory group at their college or high school.

  4. 12/03/2009

    Very cool! Thanks. There’s some folks on the east coast who are starting to think about college outreach. If you want, email me at [email protected] and I’ll connect you.

    Pepper

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