What do a college football team, Xbox and Boy Scout have in common? Badges.
For too long, the method of inciting action among our members ignored the carrot in favor of the stick. Chapters or members must do this or that or face expulsion or the closure of their chapter. Chapters or members must do this or that or lose recognition from their university.
I’ve often suggested that the “basic” standards of each fraternity and each fraternity/sorority community at a college or university should be whittled down to those pieces essential to that organization’s existence and the particular niche any individual chapter would want to fill. With recent changes to my own fraternity’s annual accreditation process, we tried to incorporate some of those ideals.
There is; however, a significant lack in understanding of those who guide the Fraternal Values Movement as to what gets our members going. Men don’t join fraternities, in most cases, because of the values; they join because of the other men, because we as a species are genetically designed to seek groups to affiliate with.
Successful nations are those who have the buy-in of their citizens. Successful companies are those who have the buy-in of their customers. Successful non-profits and political campaigns are those who have the buy-in of their volunteers.
If we’re all going to settle for being jack-of-all trade organizations aiming for a loosely defined “better,” than perhaps we can focus on specializing within our ranks.
People enjoy recognition. Every kind act is completed with the subtle intention that the favor be returned later or to build trust when the information is shared with the community. Please note that I don’t consider that a bad thing, it’s okay to perform acts with the intent of improving our relationship, image or trust with or among others.
Many fraternities offer specific badges and pins for completing certain programs or holding a certain rank. I think that with the advent of social media and the limitless capabilities provided by modern web design, we need to make our recognition system more social.
If you have ever used Foursquare (or Swarm) you know the addicting quality of earning badges. Checking in to the same place multiple times gets you a “x2” or “x3” badge. Walking around with a Fitbit will earn you similar digital badges as will overcoming certain obstacles or completing certain missions in most modern video games.
Humans love to complete things, they love to ascend, but they also love to have a token for their troubles.
The value of this opportunity comes with a few significant benefits that our standards processes can’t compare with.
It’s Encouraging Without Threat Of Force
Few students feel the genuine urge to host take part in an alcohol seminar, but perhaps more would if it added to their badge count. The fact is that members and chapters will likely be more enticed to compare their collection of badges with other chapters, and the number and type of badges can be limitless, especially if the system is digital.
Badges could encourage chapters to cooperate on philanthropy events, reach certain donation levels, engage alumni into their philanthropy events or to host multiple events throughout the year. There are four simple ideas for one category of modern fraternity life.
The fact is, it’d likely build more trust between students and their respective organizations or communities if we rewarded them for doing good work. It’s not an award or trophy, it’s a simple recognition, a certification of a job completed that is roughly equal to the quality of job completed. The higher the quality of performance, the more rare the badge received is.
It’ll Do Wonders For Reporting
Alpha Sigma Phi can state with authority that 1,000 badges were awarded to men who completed more than 40 hours of service and 500 badges awarded to men who completed 100 hours of service. It’s an easy way to not only keep track of member performance, driven by their own desire to acquire the badges, but to instantly publicize and track performance over the course of the year.
Organizations may end up having a better idea of when certain events are taking place or when a badge is more likely to be acquired by more men and can tailor their communication and coaching based on that data. It’s real time information.
I mentioned my fraternity’s new assessment, part of our collecting data throughout the year is to get a better glimpse of this than requiring chapters to submit a packet by June 1st. Automating such a system and incorporating an element of reward is likely to provide an even more accurate picture.
If anything, we in higher education are damn good at taking the fun out of being a good person. Our demands for values-congruent 18 year olds tend to sound like angry lectures more than they are words of encouragement or words worthy of a student’s excitement.
A badge or achievement system is a phenomenal way to build loyalty among ones members and allow them to have some fun doing it. It allows national organizations to set the tone of what qualifies as a high caliber men (there can even be rankings as time goes on. . . think about every Eagle Scout or Black Belt you know).
It will allow some men and women to be recognized for a regular and outstanding commitment to service, and others for a regular and outstanding commitment to educational programs. Most importantly, this type of system, if incorporated well into one’s college years, can include badges that can only be acquired as an alumnus/alumna.
We want all 200,000 members of fraternity XYZ to be true lifelong members right? Give them obvious goals to work for. Make it fun to stay in touch with your organization.
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