Pretty much everywhere I have lived I’ve given some of my time to help my community. I don’t remember where I learned this from, maybe it was a Boy Scout merit badge? I can credit my dad, (Scoutmaster) and my late husband (Academic) for support in the endeavor. It always felt like the right thing to do—wether at a nature center, on the town conservation commission, or an academic organization board. I like the fact that not all of our time has to be taken up by economic activity, and that you meet different people outside of your normal circle.
My current work on the board of directors for the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) combines my needs for service work as an academic and my passion in life—the environment. It doesn’t take a lot of my time and it is usually pretty satisfying. I am not always on top of my work, but I am not always on top of my work in my job either. You do learn to work together with people to make something important happen. That is if other people also volunteer their time.
There is a model for these kinds of organizations, one that many modern food coops have adopted where the new member pays a fee to be part of the group and then….well… it depends. Some people volunteer their time. The rest of the members reap the benefits. In the past, food coops used to require that all members work each month. Some still do this but the majority of them that I’ve seen around New England don’t.
I wonder how requiring people to take part if they want to be a member in other organizations would work? I’d guess that you’d have an active association and get lots done, but it would probably be smaller.
In any case, if you are part of an organization and you’ve paid your membership dues but haven’t stepped up to actually contribute, maybe it is time.