In response to the my previous post about the lack of communications: most of this can be solved with greater transparency of all actions taken behind the scenes. I’ve spent enough time “in the loop” at various times and for various projects, and I know that some things cannot be made public until details are finalized.
But at the same time, when radical changes are proposed to a competition model that has more or less been the same for over a decade, people don’t like surprises or to be caught off-guard. While a literal democracy does not have to be initiated in FIRST, just holding public forums explicitly for ideas for new competition models and starting a forum on the FIRST website would help a lot.
Another thing that would really help is if the powers that be ultimately showed some way that they are actively listening to the people of FIRST. Because while a non-profit organization does not mean that this is automatically a democracy, it does mean that we are all volunteer participants. We all choose to be here. And there may be a lot of people who may just as easily choose to leave the program if they don’t feel like the organization is actually listening to the people of the program and [re]acting appropriately.
Even if they may not like every decision, if the FIRST community ultimately feels like FIRST and FiM are actively listening to them and acting based upon their feedback, this will yield good public relations.
Actions like the Presidents Circle help improve this credibility. I have not been involved with the President’s Circle, so I don’t know exactly how much weight their ideas and feedback carry, so I’ll leave that for someone more enlightened to fill in. But at the same time, some of the teams that struggle to continue with FIRST ever year aren’t the teams that would usually end up in the President’s Circle, and a voice of an important part of the FIRST constituency is lost.
Another thing that would help is if FIRST or FiM had an official “idea box” of sorts. As an added bonus, have them post all the constructive criticisms or potential flaws presented with their own ideas on how they would tackle such ideas or improve their pilot program. That way it shows the everyone that feedback from the community is actively making its way up to the top. They also cannot be “canned” answers, as that might actually worsen the public relations. They have to be targeted responses that directly acknowledge the problem and address it head on.
Related to this, Dean’s letter to Michigan could have helped, but it lacked a lot of details. For a very short summary, it was good. But when it actually came to acknowledging and attacking head on the roadblocks which may prevent the new pilot model from succeeding, Dean’s letter was relatively scarce.
Yet another thing that will VASTLY help in the credibility department is a rigorously defined set of goals for the pilot program. Changes this big should not be made on a “let’s-change-this-and-see-what-happens” approach. A well constructed, quantifiable series of goals would be the best., and they should be made public. The people of FIRST that have to deal with all these changes at least deserve to know honestly whether the new pilot is actually working as well as it was hoped to, or if there are a lot more details that have to be worked out.
And last, but not least, they need to copy the style of IFI’s response to all the questions surrounding Vex earlier this spring:
Post a very long, very informative page on the internet that acknowledges all the questions, and address them one by one. IMHO, the Vex FAQ page listed above was a very good piece of public relations for IFI/Vex Robotics, and a similar one may be very beneficial for the FiM pilot.
// Although if some kind of voting system were to be established, I would be a fan of one team = one vote. Just like in our democratic republic, it doesn’t matter if you are a multi-billionaire like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or if you are just some average Joe, when it comes to the ballet on Election Day, you have one vote that is equal to everyone else’s vote.