January 21, 2009 Meeting Minutes!

January 21, 2009 Free Ride Meeting Minutes
Feel free to add whatever!

REAL QUICK! Recently, a Point Park student contacted Jessica about doing a documentary about Free Ride. We decided that now is not a good time to have someone do a video on us, so this will not be happening.

In this meeting, we evaluated the ideas we came up with in smaller groups (one about Earn a Bike, the other about employing a co-op model/moving volunteering to its own night) over the past week. Towards the end, you’ll find the working proposals along with concerns expressed by the group. We’ll decide on these proposals during next week’s meeting.

We summarized and evaluated what the EAB meeting came up with:

1. We want to reduce staff burden by limiting EAB enrollment
– put a cap on the number of people who can do EAB.
– make the requirements stricter.
2. We would like to see education as more of a component in EAB.
– encourage EABers to use Monday drop-in classes as a formal resource.
-create in-shop learning aid tools – bike component displays, create a form with a picture of a bike on it so that staffers can circle problems an EABer needs to deal with.
3. Additional changes to our structure will be implemented slowly – no large schedule changing, no additional hours at first until we see what’s working and what isn’t.

** By the end of the EAB meeting, we had not overcome any hurdles but thought that reducing EAB enrollment along with a focus on education was a good way to begin. EAB/volunteer coordinating could move out of open shop, but as we’re staffed now it’s not feasible to make a huge leap. It’s better to start small.

Q: What’s the path from small steps like what we proposed above to larger changes?
A: – for now, we could run Monday night sessions, see how they go, and use that experience to see if we need a night just for EAB.
–  we could start an EAB-night committee at some point, but we’re not sure if we’ll be ready to do that by March. About 6 people at the meeting were interested in working on a committee to transition EAB to a separate night.

Q: What does staffing a separate EAB night entail?
A: – a higher level of staffing.
-you would need to be a trained instructor. We do not have a training program for that right now. We only have 4 people (out of 15 present at tonight’s meeting) who have taught classes at Free Ride.
– about 12 people at tonight’s meeting said they’d be interested in staffing a separate EAB night.

– putting a limit on the number of EABers could make a big change when coupled with putting emphasis on education and re-directing people to drop-in classes. It’s possible that EAB would not need its own night because we would no longer be strained.
– the Monday classes, which would cost $10, provide a structure which would repeat every three weeks. Two topics of six would be covered each week. If we had a separate EAB night, people would have all kinds of problems with their bikes so a variety of subjects would need to be discussed in just one session. It could potentially be unorganized.
– we should look at how many EABs we turned out this summer to figure out an appropriate EAB limit.

Next, we summarized and evaluated what the Co-op structure/separate volunteer night meeting came up with:

1. We want a co-op structure with 2 levels of membership – members and collective council members. We want there to be requirements and responsibilities for these tiers.
– by creating a lower membership level, we would create small step to becoming a collective council member. This might give people a sense of belonging to Free Ride.
– the separate tiers would also communicate that the shop is run by a community of people, and there are expectations of you if you want to use the shop.
– members would pay small fee or volunteer have access to open-shop.
– membership is geared more for people with their own bike who want to use the shop (maybe for EAB, membership can be free?)
– this system should address the imbalances present. It will lessen the burden on staffers. It is more respectful to users in a sense because we ask them to contribute to something that has already been built.

Q: What is the transition process? How do we do this?
A: We need to be clear about the expectations of shop users. We will have to communicate the new structure on the website and in the shop. We need a good tracking system.
-Some of these expectations of shop-users may already be there, but not communicated formally.
– the membership system needs to be simple in order to work, and we need to make sure it doesn’t add complexity for staffers.
– we need to keep it cheap for people.
– we should find out what other bike shops who use a co-op model are doing. What is working already? The bike co-op in San Francisco has a co-op-style model.

Q: Does this go against the “free” in Free Ride in the sense that we’re limiting access? A: If our current system isn’t sustainable, then we’re not exactly limiting accessibility or cutting off benefits. We can’t claim to have benefits that we can’t actually provide. Using the co-op model will give shop-users a stake in the shop by engaging them more.

PROPOSAL: Employ a co-op structure with 2 levels of membership. YES

2. We want to reduce the staff/user dichotomy to empower more people to use shop on equal footing.
– we have created problem for ourselves by telling people we will help them every step of the way, but now, we should vary the way people can learn from our shop.
– we’d like to have teaching stations and other educational tools besides asking a staffer for help (emphasis on self-directed learning).
– documentation of how things work in the shop could help people pick up volunteer tasks better.
– make tools more accessible and easier to find
– have a reference guide for repair manuals to point people towards the best place to find a solution.
– make a map to show people where things in the shop are so that they feel more empowered to use the shop.
– we might need to make a communication committee.
– the first proposal in this section reinforces this idea of making it easier for people to get involved.

– the difficult/necessary part of these proposals is that there are situations where we will have to restrict people and they will go away frustrated. The way to sustain this project is to give members more control. If we diversify responsibility, more of our needs will be met.

** A problem to keep in mind: It’s hard to ask people to be part of a community when that community isn’t very diverse racially. We need to acknowledge that we need to make sure all kinds of people feel welcome and relatively unrestricted. What are we missing? (We did not address this issue directly but it’s something important to think about)

3. Remove the volunteer coordinator position from open shop. Have a separate night for it. Implement new systems for in-shop education.
– the volunteer night will be for bigger projects which are hard to do during open shop.
– EABers will no longer come to open shop to try to find tasks
– people can still volunteer as mechanics during open shop, but we may need to find a way to make it clear to others who is volunteering and who is not.
– we will have to create a system for coming up with volunteer tasks if we’re going to do this (maybe during regular Free Ride meetings)
– we need to be creative in restructuring our weekly schedule to fit volunteer demand and open-shopper demand.
– a potential problem: having volunteering happen on a different night might mean we’ll be turning away potential EAB people who would have been interested in volunteering that night… they might not come back.
– discussion of steps for how volunteers can start carrying out big tasks needs to happen before march.

** Would we be into extending our closed-time? We asked the group and people didn’t seem into it.

4. Create a committee task force for documentation, member training, and communication.
– this committee would set up a system of communication and make sure tasks are done in a timely way.
– responsible for documenting what all committees do, so that anyone else could pick up the shop and run it.
– document Free Ride’s history so that mistakes aren’t repeated.
– we’ve been bad at communication/documentation in the past because we haven’t made it a high priority.

** We have lots of committee ideas. There maybe should be a limit on how many committees a person should be on.

** We should have a break-out group on communication/documentation (keep in mind that we already have an Inreach/Outreach committee which hasn’t been well-populated) so that changes we make during closing can be properly communicated to the public. A time/place for this break-out group will be decided via e-mail.

**** Working Proposals to be decided on next week ****

1. No large schedule change, limit EAB enrollment, encourage drop-in classes and self-directed learning tools.
– the limitation should be reasonable because EAB is in high demand and important to community.
– we need to make sure limitation is communicated openly and clearly to the public.
– amend proposal to include the idea that moving EAB to different night may be appropriate and that we are willing to work on that in time. (Subsequent changes to our system will be done incrementally.)
– how are we going to do a transition? Gradual shift or in a certain amount of time will we all of the sudden change it?
– we need to be clear to the public that we are going to limit services provided by staffers in open shop, because right now there isn’t a clear reason for people to go to drop-in classes. We need to be explicit about open-shop not being a place to get serious mechanical help.
– regulating EAB # is good, but will this really alleviate big structural problems? This proposal may work better in conjunction with other proposals.

2. Co-op model: introduce member level with a low bar of responsibilities and a collective council level.
– administrative overhead to enroll people as members.
– benefits and responsibilities of members need to be simple.
– member cost for users needs to be low -no higher than a few dollars.
– likely problem: some people may want to pay to use, but then volunteer their money back.
– some of us are not comfortable until more details about this are heard.
– worried about excluding people.. can we have a transitory member tier?
– we could get taken advantage of by people not fulfilling their responsibilities (but, this is the only way to really start the co-op model)
– this model needs to be very straightforward and easily-enforced without a lot of leeway – is that possible?
– we need a good documentation system for membership and recording volunteer hours. People would expect us to help keep track, but we need a system that is member-sustainable. This could be a big task for documentation committee.
– may be big barrier for people who want to casually use the shop, but would help out if they could do so easily without dealing with member duties.
– it’s possible we might not even need this proposal if the other proposals provide enough change so that people are empowered.

3. Replace one of the open-shop nights with a volunteer night and remove the volunteer coordinator position from open shop.
– it may not be appropriate to replace a shop session. It needs to fit into what we offer.
– we may have a back-up of people wanting to start EAB and it may slow down the EAB process if people can only volunteer one night a week.
– there is nothing in the proposal which explains how we can have volunteers do more useful things than what they are doing now.
– not replacing an open shop night with this may demand too much from us. This night is supposed to make us more sustainable.
– Jami is really into staffing a separate volunteer night.
– we need a system for having things to do on volunteer night. The white board is a solution, but we need to figure out stuff that works.
– is having a separate volunteer night sustainable? Will we still have worthwhile tasks for people to do in say, 6 months?

4. Proposal: Move volunteers out of open-shop to its own night. YES.

5. Set up a communication committee.
– it’s important, but do we have people for it? New people need to ration themselves out.
– how is it different than the in-reach and out-reach committees?
– don’t know what all the committees are yet, so wouldn’t know which ones interested in.

** Payment of staffers: dependent on what happens with our new organization. We’ll discuss this later.

Just to recap, the two proposals that went through tonight were:
1. Employ a co-op structure with 2 levels of membership.
2. Move volunteering out of open-shop to its own night.

What’s next!
– sub-committee meetings for this week – EAB and co-op model meetings will be arranged by e-mail and proposals will be discussed further.

In the next meeting we will…
– go over proposals.
– figure out who will replace Shaun (accounting/finances)