Friendship Force members and clubs around the world are doing spectacular work all the time! Look here for news, stories and information on upcoming FFI events worldwide.
I love to garden. Well, to be more precise, I love the idea of gardening. Growing up in rural New England, in the far northeastern corner of the United States, our growing season was short. At the end of each winter, with increasing anticipation, we looked forward to putting seeds into the ground. Growing wax beans, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash was part of what we did each year as a family, and with the end of growing season always looming, there was never enough time to complain about weeding or the heat of summer.
As an adult, I carried the nostalgia of that gardening experience to our home in Georgia. But instead of a small manageable garden, I wanted a ridiculously large garden. Unlike the garden experience I remembered from my youth, the growing season was long. So long, in fact, there were two growing seasons in Georgia. And unlike a little warmth at the peak of summer in New England, Georgia consistently delivers an endless supply of sweltering hot days with little to no rain. While I remember plucking just a few pesky weeds with my family, my ambitious 40-foot-by-60-foot Georgian vegetable kingdom was constantly invaded by armies of neighboring grasses, weeds, and wild herbs. Needless to say, I was tempted at many points to give up on the project as each day’s labor slowly began to replace once fond memories of gardening with calluses, soreness, and frustration.
That was until I discovered the miracle of drip irrigation, the efficiency of a gas-powered tiller, and the necessity of friends and neighbors with decades more experience to help guide us – and to help pull weeds at the end of a rainstorm! With the need for a garden out of my system, we’ve moved on from the 40-by-60-foot second job and are now satisfied supporting local agriculture at the farmer’s market (where I can also drink coffee and eat samples in the cool shade!). If there was one big take-away from the experience, it was this: You need the right tools for the job or you will only burn yourself out.
Friendship Force is not a garden, but the growth we hope to see and aim to achieve requires that we have the right tools. Over the years, clubs have experimented with different recruitment methods (think FF Taupo’s successful technique) and adopted new approaches to welcoming younger members (think Associate Members in Nara) with great success. Many clubs have developed their own specialized welcome brochures and training materials, and some regions even have their own websites and encourage online interaction amongst their members. These approaches are fantastic examples of the kind of innovation that will propel Friendship Force forward. But could we do more?
As I study these kinds of club successes, I’m constantly perplexed by one question:
What is the single most important thing that world headquarters could do to amplify and support these efforts at the local level?
Is it greater press coverage of the work we are collectively doing to promote greater understanding? Is it shiny new marketing materials available in multiple languages? Perhaps it’s an easier way to create clubs through a streamlined process that uses both the power of the internet and the power of our seasoned leaders within FFI? Maybe it’s creating different membership types, like many of our clubs have already done, to make it easier for people to be a part of what we’re doing?
Unfortunately there isn’t just one thing we need to do, it’s all of the above. And depending upon where you are in the world, your one thing is likely different from the one thing needed on the other side of the world.
Strengthening worldwide membership and building new clubs requires that we invest strategically in all the tools mentioned above. This 40th Anniversary Campaign goal aims to equip FFI with the right tools to be more impactful in our club development efforts worldwide. With standard recruitment materials at your fingertips, better technology, access to universal trainings, and defined processes for regionally-specific media engagement, we can amplify the work you all are doing in your communities.
Perhaps in these ways we can help make tending your garden in your part of the world a little easier.