Helen Chamberlain – Manifesto for Head of membership
by Helen Chamberlain
Introduction and Motivation
Hello! I’m Helen and I would love to be the new AHS Head of Membership. I’ve just graduated from Durham University with a masters degree in physics, and am moving on to work and study in the NHS as a medical physicist. I’ve been involved with the Durham AHS society (DASH) since 2013, and attended my first national AHS event in early 2015. I’ve absolutely loved my time being involved since then, and have endeavored to be part of as much as possible!
I would really relish the opportunity to hold this position as the AHS is something I am really passionate about. I had a pretty intensive Catholic upbringing, and as a teenager struggled to find faith despite trying really hard, even to the point where I became the student chaplain of my secondary school. On leaving for university I became less and less sure of what I wanted or believed in. I was unready to call myself an atheist as it seemed too negative at the time, and it was only through becoming involved with DASH that I found what I was looking for. I wanted somewhere that gave me a sense of community, but which was populated by similar minded people; people who rejected supernatural claims, who believed that living things were important and humans working together could achieve great things and who enjoyed debate and discussion. I want every student to be able to have the opportunity to find a space like this – so any student from any background can find a space where they are free to explore their own ideas and beliefs without any prerequisite ‘dogma’ attached. This is why I want to be membership officer; to be a part of helping the AHS as a national body grow and develop to eventually include every place of higher education in the UK, and to ensure that each university society receives the best support possible to enable it to flourish and grow.
Experience and Skills
I also firmly believe that I have the requisite skills required to fulfill this role to an extremely high standard. Whilst at Durham I have been the president of DASH in arguably its most successful year ever, with increased membership, attendance numbers, number of events and visibility around the university. I also have acted as publicity officer for two years, have built a new website, created a new exec and officer structure and forged strong links with other university societies. This is as well as being active in other societies, including acting as social secretary of my college choir, filling the prestigious role of communications officer of both the local St John Ambulance Unit and associated university society and volunteering extensively in the local community. I also engage with local humanist, skeptic and atheist groups to whom I have given several talks to during the last year. This, on top of what has been an incredibly intense degree! I am highly motivated, very approachable, friendly and incredibly organised. I am comfortable with using pretty much any form of software, be it databases, online organisational tools, social media or editing software. I’m also good at communicating with a wide variety of people and am good at working in teams – something truly essential in this role.
Tasks, Aims and Ideas
Some of my tasks, aims and ideas include:
- Working closely with the full membership team (President, New Societies Officer and Society Development Officer) to ensure all societies feel well supported and are getting the support they need to flourish. This will include; providing a dedicated point of contact for societies to contact at any time, regular updates from the AHS to the society and vice versa, easier access to AHS resources (better sign posting to existing resources). I will effectively act as a one top shop for questions, and will be able to help on the day, or point the way to the most appropriate person or resource.
- Encouraging different societies to work together: to create links between different AHS groups and local humanist/skeptic groups (where possible) which will enable them to grow, share speakers and events, share best practice and run larger regional events if they want to. This will also help foster a national network of groups, ensuring that all groups feel part of the national community no matter what part of the country they are based in.
- Providing additional support to established and developing societies: in the past, established and developing societies have sometimes felt left out on a limb. This has led to previously successful societies ceasing to function and some societies feeling unsure about who to reach out to for support. These societies ought to be in a prime position to grow and help promote the organization on a national level, as well as to help reach out to smaller local societies. As such, it is important to maintain a constant dialogue, ensuring each current exec knows where they can get support and to provide resources and encouragement to ensure their longevity.
- Maintaining the current rate of growth: working closely with the New Societies Officer to promote the creation of new societies. Ideas include introducing mentoring schemes (where possible) so new societies can get help from both the national network and other local societies, as well as ensuring each society can get access to a ‘quick start up pack’ with suggestions for events, speakers, ways of getting funding, basic publicity materials and a comprehensive list of contacts. These resources exist, but it would be good to have a more accessible bank of material.
- Increasing the voice of societies on a national level: to work with the other executive committee members and officers to promote the reestablishment of the newsletter and other exciting initiatives such as blogging, vlogging and society showcases. This would both enable the national organisation to grow and gain publicity, as well as providing individual societies a chance to showcase their latest achievements. This could be in the form of a dedicated “News from” column and individual blogs, vlogs and podcasts facilitated by increased communication between individual societies and the national organisation.
- Supporting societies in increasingly common situations where societies are censored or where no platform policies are overly restrictive: to have an easy to reach contact in the event of an emergency, to have a well established and easily accessible action plan in case of problems, to provide resources to help preempt problems and suggestions on how to manage events in order to avoid and handle possible problems. To assist the exec/officers team in the creation of a ‘spiked’ style database which details known and previous issues at universities across the country, and how they were resolved.
- Encouraging societies to engage in national campaigns such as non-prophet week, campaigns for rights of apostates/blasphemers and the promotion of freedom of speech etc.. We can achieve far more if we have a coherent national campaign, and the membership officer can easily keep in contact with and disseminate information to constituent groups, including useful resources to ensure societies are not left to sort it out themselves to reduce pressure on individual societies.
- Encouraging societies to network: promoting sharing best practice, ideas and showcasing events. This could be achieved with a more streamlined facebook group or a separate email for society executives. All national events could also be collated onto a google calendar, and a google drive could be used to share examples of publicity material.
- Continue visiting societies: This appears to have been one of the most successful methods in encouraging the growth of new societies and supporting existing ones. By having a face to face chat, societies are able to easily voice their individual concerns and share both positive news and worries. It also ensures all societies feel included. By splitting this between the members of the membership team, all societies could be visited in an efficient manner.
Hopefully this has given you a fairly comprehensive view as to why I should be the new AHS Head of Membership. In short, I am capable, I am friendly and I will be able to implement a number of initiatives to ensure ALL societies can access the support they need and to help achieve the aims of the AHS; “We want to see a thriving atheist, humanist or secular society in every institute of Higher Education in the UK and Republic of Ireland, networked together, with a shared voice in public life, whose members can contribute to and be part of the wider national and international movement”. This is what I believe in and want to see, and I hope you give me the opportunity to work towards this! If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me at the Sheffield Societies Training weekend!
“You are literally the keenest person I have ever met. In a good way. ” – quote from a colleague and friend. I am super keen!