Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

Being an Officer

Paperwork: How Much and In What Direction

I heard that I was characterized in a play once as someone who threw papers around and told people to fill them out in triplicate. Someone who hadn't worked with me must have written that play.

Reports to superior officers are overdone and overrated in the Society. If you're doing your job, your superior officer should be able to tell without you writing and saying so. If you're not doing your job, you can make your superior officer believe you are by writing and saying so, but at the cost of your honor.

When each officer reports to his superior, the information is flowing from people who know less to people who know more. Somewhere in a filing cabinet there's a big set of reports. If this flow is reversed, information goes from more experienced officers to those at local levels.[1] When you do need to send something, instead of sending a dry report of what's already happened, consider these ideas (some more applicable to kingdom level officers than local) which would make all lives involved easier:

Seneschals could maintain up-to-date sets of laws, incorporating changes as they come up and make sure all local seneschals and anyone with a need to know has a copy at all times. (This suggestion would work best at kingdom level, but an enterprising local seneschal might arrange to be the deputy in charge of it.)

Marshals could maintain copies of armor and combat rules, patterns for armor parts, lists of where to buy rattan, where the best tape is available cheapest, send lists of authorized fighters to local marshals so people can be reminded to renew, etc.

Heralds could maintain a constantly updated order of precedence a "who's who" list (alpha listing with all awards after each name) and awards lists (lists of awards, with the membership of each). These could be sold or given to people who want to learn names and titles, or who want to recommend people for awards. If people's emblazons (the pictures, not just the words/blazons) were made available in printed form it would inspire people to make wonderful personalized gifts for each other, too. (Some kingdoms are putting approved awards in the newsletters, so that people who collect newsletters will have the recent ones.)

Arts and Sciences officers could maintain lists of sources of supplies and information for publication in the local newsletter or other distribution. People could be encouraged to teach limited series of classes, and those could be publicized somehow. Fun little contests could inspire projects - best use of vines on a scroll, shortest period song, finest new hood, galliard marathon (get extra live musicians). I'm just making these up as I type. Let your imagination run wild.

Treasurers could make publishable financial reports with explanations of how funds are being raised, what they're intended for, and ways the populace can help out. (Historical notes would be very interesting. People could be made aware of progress by information like "Our barony has $3,935 dollars in savings this month. Ten years ago we had $75 cash and had just printed and mailed out the whole month's newsletter for $10."

Chroniclers could solicit art, calligraphy, filler trivia, quizzes - things from people in the group who haven't had work published before. One of the neatest things chroniclers can do is publish articles on the history of the local group so that people who collect newsletters are collecting group history in more ways than one. If it's put in the form of a quiz you really get people's attention, and the answers can be long explanations of who, what and why.

Chirurgeons could publish useful articles on SCA-specific topics, first aid, what not to do, troublesome plants and animals to watch out for at various sites in the area, etc. Information on what foods keep well for two days would be a great service to the realm. (There have been many such wonderful articles from chirurgeons over the years, but some were useful only in the region in which they were written. One of New Mexico's own anachronisms, bubonic plague, isn't found but in a few places in the local mountains, so there's no sense describing the symptoms to everyone in the Eastrealm.)

If a Kingdom or local group wanted to, all that information could go into one book to be printed once or twice a year for the benefit of the populace in that area. Atlantia has done something similar and perhaps other groups have too.

Many of the preceding suggestions above have to do with what could be put on paper which looks like a report but is much more useful than a report. If all you want is to slide through for a while without being removed from office, to hold the position without doing any work, just ignore all the ideas in this book. I hope, though, that you'll want to go past being an acceptable officer all the way to being an exemplar.



[1] One of my readers, who has been a laurel for over a dozen years, pointed out that if the information desired is what's going on at a local level, then I'm wrong; the locals are the only ones who know, and the kingdom officer doesn't know. That's true, and I think kingdom officers do need to know. I object to kingdom officers who demand prompt regular reports, who show no mercy or sense of humor, and who never send anything to a local officer except "you are a bad boy" letters. When local officers receive direct and personal word of new armor regs, arts contests, new policies which affect them, etc., rather than having to read it in the newsletter when it's two months old, then those with the most information are sending it flowing to those who can most directly use it. If information is to flow only in one direction, then I think it should be from the top down. Two-way information is always preferable.
Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
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