The SCA distributed a Harassment and Bullying Policy this week. Opinions are flying on the internet as to whether this is a good thing and what it means to the SCA. I know one thing that it means – the SCA is showing signs of growing up, and that’s a good thing. Nitpick the details of the policy if you want, but the fact that this policy now exists is an important step forward.
Sentimentality about what the SCA used to be and idealistic views of how it should be are not how you run a nonprofit. What you do as an individual in the SCA is your hobby and be wistful if you want. However, the SCA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports your hobby. There is a big difference, and it’s something that many people in the SCA do not want to recognize. They like to think about the SCA as if it’s still a party among friends without the need for rules or an organizational structure. It hasn’t been that party for a long time, and people need to stop thinking it is. It’s harmful to the organization’s health and needlessly disillusions individuals.
Even an organization based on chivalry and largely volunteer labor cannot thrive without some of the standard things required by a membership based nonprofit that relies on earned income. They include:
– Timely and comprehensive communication with its members
– Responsive feedback mechanisms
– A method of reviewing the effectiveness of the staff and management
– Support for its regional officers.
The SCA is still struggling with the first three for many reasons that aren’t what this post is discussing. This is about support for its regional officers. Harassment and bullying cannot be tolerated in an organization if it is to be welcoming and successful. In an organization as odd, full of personalities, and hierarchical as the SCA is, this is particularly challenging. I’ve been one of those regional officers. They need real tools that they can use to solve this kind of problem. Sending a peer to talk to a person who is repeatedly inappropriate isn’t a solution. Peer pressure isn’t one either. A policy that backs up an officer is a real tool that they can use no matter who they are or where they live.
Change is a scary thing for many people, but look at it this way. I’ve included two photos of fighters from the beginning of the SCA and now. Imagine someone has been actively fighting for all those fifty years. Their armor has changed due to research, improved skills, and increased expectations. You know what else has changed that you can’t see? Probably their jock strap and cup. If you’re following my analogy here, yes I am comparing the corporation and its policies to a jock strap and cup. They are the not so pretty underthings that support the SCA. What individuals and groups do is the pretty armor.
The resources available to and expectations of a nonprofit have changed, and the SCA is not the same size we were fifty years ago. Time to change the documents that support us and take advantage of modern materials. It’s a lot better than taking a shot to a fifty-year-old cup that’s being held together by duct tape.