Judy Larson is from Lemmon, South Dakota. She shared this story about the STP.
I spend a lot of time with community development folks. The grumble factor often comes around to STP—Same Ten People—meaning these folks feel like they and 9 other people are Atlas, holding up the world. Or at least holding their community up from sure and certain ruin. It always makes me bristle when I hear that.
My usual toss-back is “are you building your people?”, meaning are you taking the time and effort to notice people’s strengths, get them the training and tools they need, learning what assets (skills, network, finances, and/or knowledge) that they have to offer and asking them to help with that particular thing? Are you nice to them? Is it fun and productive to volunteer for the events in your community? You get the picture: it’s like workforce development, only volunteer development; acting as a good “boss” or leader.
But this past weekend, I realized that I may be wrong about that. Or at least there may be another reason that folks get mired in self pity about their STP problem. Maybe it’s a SBP/E problem—Same Boring Project/Event. Maybe no-one besides 10 of you thinks that your idea is worth showing up for. And that’s ok. But you and your posse of 9 can expect to do all of the planning/setup/cleanup and everything in-between. And yes, other people may attend or take advantage of it if it benefits them personally (or financially). But they aren’t on fire about your project/event.
To solve STP, maybe consider solving the SBP/E issue. The amazing duo of Deb and Becky at Saveyour.town call this the idea-friendly method. Let people gather their own crowd around their own activities without feeling like everyone else in town needs to be on board. And if no-one is interested in making it a 2nd (or 42nd—traditions can die and it’s ok) annual event, that’s just fine.
Here’s what happened that made this all click in my head:
The Border City Bash, a youth BB tournament, was held in our town.
Also, an amazing Gun Show that drew over a hundred vendors.
AND Placemakers held the Smoke and Ice Festival at the skating rink.
ALL ON THE SAME DAY IN A TOWN OF LESS THAN 1200 people!
And each event had at least 10 people (I’d guess the Border City Bash had more like 30) who volunteered their time and efforts to make this past weekend happen. Why? Because some people are passionate about youth basketball. And some are passionate about gun shows. And some are passionate about winter placemaking/hockey/fire/hot chocolate. And there was a pretty big component of folks that were volunteers for one event, but attended and enjoyed another event even if it wasn’t their #1 passion for the weekend.
Several businesses stayed open extra hours (they were staffed—not everyone was at the 3 events all the time) so that people could enjoy shopping in town and the stores could move merchandise and gain $$$. One of these deserves extra kudos—the Thrift Shop is staffed with volunteers and was open special hours for shoppers to get the full Lemmon experience while they were in town for the 3 events. So that’s probably another 10 people who were volunteering. And nobody is more passionate about their mission than those folks who keep the Thrift Shop running like a well-oiled machine on a zero budget, with all of the benefit going to the local nursing facility. And then they showed up at the nursing facility on Monday to serve pie—what a fabulous group of people!
STP’s, if you really want to do a big project that takes more than 10 people to get it done, try giving up a little control and partnering with another group of people who have an idea and their own load of passion to go with it. We are humans, control and complaining comes easy to us. But maybe if we can back down from our need for control, we can make that T mean “same Twenty people” and then “same Thirty people” and then, well, then maybe we can realize that we aren’t the only ones who have good ideas or can get things done. It doesn’t have to be done “our” way. It doesn’t even have to be “our” idea. We don’t need to get credit for any of it, and can just put on our dancing shoes and enjoy the music and help clean up the chairs at the end of the night.
****I want to add a special shout out as well to the volunteer ambulance and fire crews—a force of 10 or more would have showed up in minutes this past weekend to be there for you when you needed them most, even if it meant someone else needing to step in to do the volunteering they were ALREADY doing—coaching, cooking food, taking tickets, etc.
The photos in this article were taken my Lisa Donahue.