When to promote
The essence of a Shed is the relationship between a group of men who have practical interests. Getting that group together will need a bit of effort. But when is it best to do that?
If the initiator calls people together when there is nothing but possibilities and a lot of work ahead in particular looking or premises is there a risk the group won’t hold together while the various issues are tackled? It can be tempting for the initiator to try to get as much resolved as possible before trying to recruit a group so that there is more to offer.
We agree with the advice of the Australians which is to gather a group as soon as you are able to describe what shed can be and to engage as many as possible in the tasks before you. The difference will be that the Shed – the relationship between a group of men – is built in the sharing of the work and the inevitable trials and successes. There have been many examples here of groups gelling around the Shed idea and really enjoying being together and doing things long before they could find a physical base for themselves.
Ways to promote.
In many cases, especially in smaller communities, the initiating person(s) will recruit via word of mouth from the people they know. Networking is about optimising your contacts and their contacts and getting the idea spoken about. The following have been used:-
Tell local women – men don’t readily accept they have unmet needs whereas their womenfolk are not so inhibited. They are also a bit more aware of the people in their community and a little more able to approach them.
Send a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, responding to to an article about older people or whatever.
Get a notice in any club or organisation’s newsletter saying where you meet. Try especially for the Council of Voluntary Service locally as their newsletters go to all the voluntary organisations in an area who may then copy it to their members. You will get more cooperation from those with ‘common cause’ with you.
Use Facebook/Twitter, anyone may pass the idea on to the right person.
Business card size flyers are more likely to be kept, read and even passed around. Full colour double-sided can cost as little as 1p each. Hand these out in shopping malls, betting shops, folk clubs, barbers, pubs before midday, woodcraft fairs etc.
Print bright yellow t-shirts with a slogan ‘Give us your men’ on it and walk around town (Gosport)
Speaking up at someone else’s public meeting, or better still on a local radio programme, will literally ‘reach an audience’. (BBC regional radio audiences are mainly males 45+)
Newspaper articles reach large audiences. Go online for guides to writing press releases.
Create a website and get it linked to as many others as you can. For a low-cost web designer you can advertise for free on Student Gems www.studentgems.com In one case this produced 23 keen youngsters within 3 days.
With all publicity you will need to be aware that some men will reject the idea instantly because they think it has to be for people with ‘problems’ and men generally don’t like to recognise their needs. This ‘ I’m alright mate’ attitude can be adopted by men almost regardless of their circumstances.
The Shed’s image can also be undermined by the press in particular who will want to portray a Shed as a project to ‘combat loneliness’ which is enough to put any man off whereas many men may simply be looking for access to a workbench, some tools and maybe to learn from their peers. You don’t need to be lonely to want to get out more, do more, fix something, make something, or even to rub shoulders with other guys. We are sociable people if it’s on our own terms.
The public meeting
If publicised through the means above these can attract a lot of people (e.g Earley a suburb of Reading had 39 men, Gosport 37) and from these the steering committee can be formed or endorsed. A successful meeting began not by talking to the guys but by prompting them to say what they miss about working. This engaged them, demonstrated their common needs and allowed the speaker to show how those needs can be met in a Shed.
Maintaining the interest
Some groups find that people will hear about it and come along to a group meeting but not feel they can do anything to help create the Shed or are simply not people who sit easily in a group. They would like to be future users/members but only when the facility is open. Those coming will naturally want to find out about other Sheds (by visiting, viewing videos, getting another Shedder to come by etc.); get to know who is in the group (discussions, social activities, BBQ’s) help search for resources (sources of materials and tools, industry contacts, public authority/voluntary sector contacts), publicise the idea (design and print, speaking to press, etc) and looking for a venue (see ideas in ‘finding a premises’ section)
The guys at Halesworth Shed have been meeting every week for a year in the local club when it is quiet on a Saturday morning whilst working on getting a premises. Sword Shed (Dublin) found that men would come back to discuss common issues – they called it philosophy – such as discussing topics like ‘Life is hard’ or ‘Women’.
You will need to record who is a member. Sheds have adopted different aproaches varying from a simple register through to more formal approaches. For examples of forms click here.