This was a good weekend for freethought in Vancouver.
On Saturday morning about 7 people donated blood, which was a slightly smaller turnout than a couple months ago, but on the positive side, we didn’t have anyone get turned away this time. In combination with several other members who weren’t able to make it on the weekend but are going on their own time, CFI Vancouver should reach its goal for donations this year – something few Partners for Life ever achieve!
If you donate blood regularly in BC, consider joining the CFI Partners for Life team, and your regular donations will count toward our goal. Just follow these steps:
- Go to: www.blood.ca/partnersforlife
- Click "Join Partners for Life"
- Click the "Members" puzzle piece
- Click "Sign me up to donate with my team"
- Fill in your information using your Partner ID number CENT011678 (four letters, six numbers)
After the blood drive, we had our most successful Book Club yet. At least 24 people packed into the back of a luckily quite empty coffee shop to discuss Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion.
The discussion was quite lively, covering everything from the idea of religion as child abuse to the legitimacy of philosophy.We didn’t all agree on everything, but that’s part of the point.
While discussions between 4-10 people are easily managed and are rarely monopolized, managing a discussion of double that size presents unique challenges.
We started off fairly lax, letting the discussion flow as it would, with people jumping in when they were assertive, but within a few minutes, and as the crowd grew, it became apparent that we needed to moderate a bit more.
While we didn’t interject strict rules, we did have to cut a few people off, and began to favour people who put their hands up to speak, rather than he who was most vocal (and it was typically the he’s). We also favoured those who hadn’t spoken yet, and tried to interject a new discussion question whenever the conversation seemed to be heading off the tracks. I think in the future it would be better to lay some ground rules down at the start of a discussion like this, and keep them consistent for each book club.
We had considered splitting into smaller groups, but the mood of the group seemed to be such that no one wanted to miss out on any potential insights of anyone else, so we stayed large.
The danger of the anarchist-run book club (not to be confused with an anarchist book club) is that the conversation is dominated by 2-3 people while many of the equally (or sometimes more) intelligent attendees will be too shy to speak. This is vitally important to keeping new members, especially the under-represented groups who deserve to have their voices heard as loudly as everyone else’s.
One final tip I have is that while people tend to drift in (up to an hour late), it’s good to start roughly on time, but to also have everyone introduce themselves, and then potentially force new arrivals to also introduce themselves. This way, everyone is guaranteed to say at least one thing to the group, and maybe some names will stick out. If you’re good with names, this is a good way to direct the conversation (e.g. I think Jane had something to say next…), otherwise just point at people.
I’d love to hear any other tips people have for managing large discussion groups.
Finally, yesterday’s BC Humanist meeting was quite successful, with about 20 people coming out on a Sunday morning to discuss potential differences in conservative and liberal morality, as proposed by psychologist Jonathan Haidt. It was quite interesting, and I’m excited to see the demographic slowly begin to shift at the meetings.