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You need not be a master weaver, a published author, a long term member of Complex Weavers, or be able to use a fancy computer to start a new group. You do need a few basic people and administrative skills, and a topic that will interest enough people for a group. The way you decide to set up the group will determine how many other skills you need.
Although it takes some thought, the process is actually quite simple. Check out the worksheet, Starting a New Group Worksheet
Generally, people think of a topic they would like to pursue as a group and write an informal letter to the Study Group Chair to ask about the feasibility of the topic and (often) some hints on how to set up the group. She'll let you know if the material is already being covered by another group, whether there have been other inquiries about this subject, and send some hints for getting started. The potential study group leader then writes back a more detailed proposal (covering the information below), a short article to advertise the new group in the CW newsletter, and a 3 line overview for the summaries included in every CW newsletter. Once that is approved (usually a simple feat), you may go ahead and solicit members. The membership chair may be able to search the member data base for people interested in your topic. If you get a critical mass, you're in business.
Setting the fees is usually one of the first headaches for the new group leader. Study groups are not subsidized by CW. All of the funding must come from member fees or the chair's pocket. Many of the study groups do not break even. There are no set rules on how to go about determining the fees. The goal of most groups is to break even and it may take them a few years of trial and error before the right fee is found. Doing as much as you can by email will save time and costs, but it is important to include those who don't have it unless the group is advertised as an on line study group.
Allow yourself enough money for postage and copying, including two CW copies (one for the main library, mailed to the study group coordinator, and one for the branch library, mailed directly to the branch librarian). You may request additional copies beyond the two required CW library extras, perhaps to donate to the Silent Auction at Seminar, for you to carry to meetings instead of your personal copy, or to accomodate last minute members if your group allows them. You may estimate that a newsletter will have 25 pages with swatches, a five page newsletter that you will write and copy, and an envelope. Weigh a stack of sample sheets this size and find out the domestic and overseas postage. Add in the copying costs for the newsletter. Leave yourself a bit extra in case the group grows or someone makes 12x18" samples.
The groups are also asked to use page protectors for the library copy. Don't forget the random postage costs for reminder letters, printer cartridges, computer paper, mailing envelopes, gas to the copy center, etc.
Remember that the postage costs for overseas members will be higher than for domestic members. You can either raise the fees for overseas members to compensate, or spread the additional costs over the entire group. Some study groups fees are much higher for overseas people because they include the cost of copying those members' contributions (to save them double postage costs).
Some of the study groups are quite small, perhaps 10 people, and the largest is over 100. Expect membership to increase each time it is posted at length in the newsletter. Some groups have a limit on members or the members are divided into smaller groups for the sample exchanges. For example, half of the members could send swatches in the fall, the rest in the spring. You might want to consider how many swatches people would be willing to weave, or how you will let your members know if the numbers change rapidly. Size of the samples will vary depending on techniques and grist of yarn used.
In most of the study groups people pay for a year at a time. It helps with the planning, and, for something where you only have to contribute once a year rather than to each issue, makes sense. Some groups run over a calendar year (or fiscal year, etc.) and may allow new members only in, January, for example. This format makes it much easier to keep track of when renewals are due. Other groups allow new members at any time. New memberships may run to the start of a new calendar year or for one calendar year from the date of joining. Another option is to have people send in payment for each issue of the newsletter or swatch swap.
It's good to require some sort of participation so that no one feels like they are doing all the work and everyone else is just mooching. It keeps the newsletters lively and involved when a lot of people are contributing. People feel more tied to the group and are more apt to stick with it. Most groups require participation just once a year with the option of contributing more if there are more than one newsletter going out per year. Some allow different levels of participation (for example, everyone might receive all of the articles but only those who send swatches will receive swatches).
A number of groups have only one exchange of drafts, swatches, or information per year. If you exchange information more than once year it gives people an option of which date they will sign up for. You might ask about the timing of other groups' exchanges so that you can offset yours as much as possible. Many people belong to more than one group, and most of us do things at the last minute.
Think also about the consequences for members who do not fulfill their participation requirement. They have good intentions, life just gets in the way. If you have a policy on non participation consequences it makes it easier to enforce or be a bit flexible if you wish. Do only the people who mail in swatches receive swatches? Do you hold on to the rest until they send in their contribution? What will the group do with the leftovers? (Consider donating them to CW for fund raising events!) In this respect, a once a year exchange is much easier to monitor.
Decide whether you want to have back issues available for new or potential members and how much they will cost. Reproducing back issues is a significant pain in the neck. They are available through the CW library anyway. Avoid it if you can, or have people send a set number extra so you have a few on hand if needed.
Online groups are still being evaluated but are subject to the same rules as off lines groups (CW membership, self funded and must provide library copies of all studies conducted). The leader provides and manages the means of communication, either a private webpage or a private list server email group (such as Yahoo, where most of the current on line groups reside). If the group is not advertised as having a required on line component (or entirely on line) the leader must provide paper copies of all on line discussions and activities to members without on line access.
There are few activities more rewarding than chairing a study group. You will have all the benefits of being a study group member: gaining experience in new techniques or research topics, meeting people, learning from others' experience, and trying something you may not have considered before. Additionally, as chair, you will be more deeply involved with the people, more closely acquainted with their work, and perhaps more delighted with their (and your own!) progress.
When a new leader starts or the group ends, the outgoing leader should discuss distribution of material and monies on hand with the SG Coordinator. Options include turning the materials over to the new leader directly, sending them to the Coordinator for distribution, or returning them to the group members directly.
Laurie Autio, Study Group Coordinator 1998 - 2002
You must be a member of Complex Weavers to belong to a study group. Please check your expiry date, or contact the Membership Chair at CWMembership@complex-weavers.org
Back issues of study group newsletters and swatches may be borrowed by any member in good standing, from the Complex Weavers Lending Library. Contact our Librarian at email@example.com
For questions about CW study groups in general, contact the CW Study Group Coordinator at CWStudyGroupCoord@complex-weavers.org