Michael here. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about our development as an organization, and our work in creating value for our community and people everywhere that will benefit from freedom of form.
I’m really proud of the people in our organization, and I never cease to be amazed by the resourcefulness and excitement of our broader community. Through 2018 and earlier in 2019, I had many moments of doubt, if I’m honest – would our organization survive and grow? The statistics for new companies failing are…eye-opening, to put it nicely. Thankfully we’re starting to pull away from the razor’s edge, and building a sustainable and accelerating organization.
I’m a firm believer in our mission and I’m honored to serve our organization and the broader community of people supportive of freedom of form. Having seen first-hand (first-paw?) accounts of people’s experiences with species dysphoria, and seeing them experience hope rather than being disregarded or ignored, this experience is shaping up to be some of the most rewarding work in my life. I can’t wait to see where we go next!
So – please check out just some of our recent progress!:
- Ran an online, professional-oriented networking event (July)
- Held an in-person event at IndyFurCon (August)
- Released 3 podcasts in the past few months (most recent in August)
- And, last but not least… we’ve made our first employee hire!
Generally speaking, we’ve been discovering just how much we can accomplish on a small-ish budget that directly and indirectly contributes towards our mission. Inspiring people, helping career development, linking people and resources together, fill gaps in knowledge, and of course act as an advocate for freedom of form.
1. Networking event
In July, we held our first networking event to help people make professional connections with one another. It was a bit of a risk – can you even hold a serious event in a Discord server? As it turns out – yes, it was a solid success! We linked someone at a large US biotech to a student on the job market; helped get career advice for a college student picking their major; and even put together a few people with IT experience!
The event was also a great chance to test our format – having small rooms for multiple separate discussions worked quite well, and we’ll work off that template moving forwards.
We will certainly have more networking events going forwards. Discord is likely to work well again. Alternatively, we might consider hosting a meeting (or set of meetings simultaneously) with Zoom. These events are way easier for people to attend than in-person events, and based on what we’ve seen so far, they’re likely to rival in-person events for overall usefulness as well.
At IndyFurCon, our Treasurer, Matt, and President, Michael (yours truly), introduced technical concepts, social considerations, and the strategies our nonprofit is deploying. We had the opportunity to meet several new people there, including a biotech-trained lab technician in the midwest, and a biological engineer based in Italy. And we had a great discussion that once again ran about 20 minutes over time (eek!) – until we were kicked out by the next panel. This, despite having left a good amount of time after the PowerPoint presentation for discussion. Hey, it’s a good thing! We’ll try to schedule a longer time block next time. :3
In addition, we anticipate posting a video from the IndyFurCon panel when we receive a video from someone who helped film the event. (Unlike Anthro New England, this filmographer used a real camera and a tripod).
Our Vice President, Dan, has been leading the creation of podcasts. We see the podcasts as helping inform and stimulate debate. So far he’s put together 3, and these can be listened to on our SoundCloud (and these are also embedded elsewhere in this website). The podcasts so far cover everything from identity and social considerations to technologies we think will be useful for transformations.
The most recent podcast is technology focused, and is a discussion between Dan, SvarOS, and Aleks. Please give it a listen here!
4. Hiring an employee
And now it’s time to talk about our shiny new employee, Ramon. He has been volunteering with us for at least a year or so, and has been doing a fantastic job of keeping things like our website, internal portal, wiki, G Suite, and Discord server chugging along smoothly. His exceptional work ethic and knowledgeability are second to none – and we need more of his time to help us develop new capabilities!
Improving data reliability. Deploying Discord integrations (correctly and safely). Integrating our various web assets into more of a scalable system. Helping deploy meeting software, such as Zoom, and managing events on those platforms. Establishing and managing community code base in Gitlab and Github. Providing more expansive services to our community. Managing volunteers contributing to these online assets.
If that all sounds like a lot – especially in the sense of making sure systems are correct and scalable – it’s because it is!
You can only ask so much from one volunteer. So, we’re starting out with Ramon working on a part-time basis. As his duties grow and evolve, we anticipate adding hours.
We firmly believe this is a wise investment for our organization to efficiently create value for our community and increase the chance of success for our mission. Employee hours that specifically benefit our goals (e.g. supporting the Wiki, programming efforts, or the Discord) will likely be counted as Program Services (after consulting with experienced accountants), whereas employee hours spent on basic systems (e.g. data backups and services for corporate administration) will likely be counted as Overhead Expenses or similar.
Depending on how this turns out, we may make another part-time hire (or more) in the coming quarters.
Michael Norsworthy, PhD
President and CVO, Freedom of Form Foundation