Think about it – could you describe your Friends of the Earth group with a season?
- Is it still in first bloom, full of the new life of Spring?
- In the prime of Summer, its deeds coming to fruition?
- Experienced and still vigorous, yet living somewhat autumnally off its previous glories?
- Declining and either hoping for renewal or stuck in midwinter?
Chances are, you probably can, at least as a top-line. And while the reality as lived by any one group is a lot more complicated, you can infer a lot from this simple typology. My group only got started last week, for example, so it's a pretty safe bet it's a Spring group.
At this point, I do have to doff my wizard's hat to the source of this metaphor. Ars Magica, a role-playing game of medieval magic and considerably storytelling nouse, uses the seasons to classify fictional wizard communities according to age, literal and spiritual health.
Seasons and relaunches
The idea of a group rebooting the seasonal cycle and moving back round into Spring with new blood and new energy is appealing. I will say this: the time to think about a relaunch for most groups is the onset of Autumn – when the group has yet enough vibrancy to do so with some staff support.
Some groups can stay in autumnal mode for over a decade, still doing great things with essentially the same people. But recognising the signs of decline - ageing, diminishing interest, involvement or relevancy, the departure of key personnel - is key when deciding to invest time and effort in a relaunch while you can.
The best groups follow a kind of permanent agricultural revolution, with new talent, new coordinators, inspiring new campaigns every few years. The Birmingham group's paid internship for its Campaign Support Worker effectively institutionalises this system. Not quite eternal midsummer, but a good way of making sure they are always jumping forward into Springtime.
Even a wintry group can still be stirred to do mighty works – in Ars Magica the wizards of winter covenants were much feared and respected on those rare occasions when they stirred. But their ability to make themselves anew, to relaunch, is much less consistent than in Autumn, because their numbers, their culture or the time they have no longer support it
It's not impossible, but it does need more thought, more resource and potentially more staff help.
So, what season is your local group? Comments below please!
Postscript: I do not have a wizard's hat.