Well, after Matt Solberg sent a clarifying email and I attended one of the Q&A sessions available to volunteers, I feel like the BRA is a much more comfortable solution to the alternatives.
Does it look familiar? Probably, because if the posts on social media were any indicator, everyone expressed that they felt the same way.
Now I had the privilege of hearing about this change in a marketing team meeting, so I can easily understand why every volunteer who simply heard about it as it blew up on Facebook and in the news, reacted in even stronger ways.
Here are the things I learned that helped me take a deep breath and see the bigger picture, and I’m hoping that it will do the same for other volunteers (or attendees) who have been frustrated by this whole kerfluffle.
Let’s start with the second email/press release sent out (see the bottom of this post), the fact that Matt stepped down from the Board of Directors of the Blue Ribbon Army (even though it was an unpaid volunteer position) showed that he cared enough about the perceived conflict of interest to try and make this solution an easier pill for all to swallow. Additionally, with the sources on how conventions are beginning to have legal issues over staffing practices similar to Phoenix Comicon’s it’s clear that these practices cannot continue, regardless of how favored they may be by convention organizers, or their volunteers.
From the meeting itself, I had three important takeaways.
First, that paying to join the Blue Ribbon Army, just to have the opportunity to volunteer for the con seems less infuriating with one, of a few, examples brought up.
Specifically, Girl Scouts. If someone wants to be a Girl Scout (or more specifically if a parent wants his/her daughter to join Girl Scouts), then you have to pay to join, and part of what you do is volunteer time and energy for the organization, whether that’s helping at charity events, or just selling cookies. As a former Girl Scout, I know that this is true.
Now, Matt stated that “There will be people who won’t join the Blue Ribbon Army, out of principle, or finances and I can respect that.” And I can too. For me the Girl Scout comparison helped, but there are others who won’t care and still hate that they’d have to pay to join.
Side note: If it’s about finances there will be scholarship options available, but the donation and application process have yet to be finalized.
Second, that the Blue Ribbon Army volunteer selection is only one possible solution. The other option is paying volunteers as employees. While many volunteers and attendees (and random opinionated people on the internet) think that paying people to work for the con is a better and more fair option than charging people a fee to work for the con (or so the BRA option has been perceived). That comes with a host of pros and cons.
- Pros: Employees would be paid (Yay)!
- Cons: “Major restructuring” (as per Matt Solberg) and a HUGE reduction in staff, as one person with an eight hour shift would take the spot of two individuals who had four hour shifts. Additionally, you run the risk of less passionate individuals who are more interested in getting paid than being a volunteer of Phoenix Comicon. Also, with Arizona’s recent increase in minimum wage that would (as Matt stated during Thursday night’s meeting) affect staffing.
Finally, one thing that Matt also explained (at more than one of the meetings) is that because He, and Phoenix Comicon are no longer determined to go the Blue Ribbon Army route. he stated that the “original decision was to be working with the Blue Ribbon Army” but that’s changed “until we give everyone a chance to weigh in”
At some point in the near future they will be reaching out to current volunteers (i.e. people who volunteered at the 2016 convention) to poll their opinion “in a way that can’t be hijacked”. This would likely takes place just after the first All Hands meeting of 2017, on January 14th. Even with the volunteers’ votes considered though, Matt said that it would still be up to Phoenix Comicon to make the final decision.
So, regardless of which option Phoenix Comicon goes with, the times they are a’changin. The BRA option would mean (to quote Matt Solberg), “everything pretty much stays the same”, but that won’t be the case with the paid model, as it would result in major restructuring. Unlike how I felt a week ago, I now hope that decision is for Phoenix Comicon to staff their volunteers through the Blue Ribbon Army.
The final decision will be out before the end of January, likely no more than a week after the All Hands on the 14th.
Have thoughts on the possible Phoenix Comicon staffing solutions, let us know with the poll or leave a comment.