ACHIEVING CRITICAL MASS

In the science of atomic energy,
"critical mass" means the amount of material in one place at one time
that is sufficient to give off enough energy to keep the nuclear reaction going
without the addition of any additional energy.
A self-sustaining process has begun,
which can continue indefinitely.

When I was almost the only person
running the Minnesota Free University
way back in the 1960s and 1970s,
we had achieved critical mass:
No advertising beyond our printed quarterly bulletin
was needed to keep everything running smoothly
year in and year out.
The Minnesota Free University operated from 1966-1986.

People knew where to send their course descriptions.
People knew the nature of the organization
and they responded well to the offerings.

All of this happened years before the Internet was invented.
And I was able to operate as the editor of the FreeYou,
the quarterly bulletin of the Minnesota Free University
even tho I did not have a telephone!
All courses were submitted either by US mail or in person.

Of course, back in those early days of alternative adult education,
there was almost no competition.
Now there are literally dozens of organizations
offering learning possibilities for adults.

In my view the Experimental College of the Twin Cities
has not yet reached critical mass.
Large amounts of energy must continue to be put into the organization
just to keep it running from term to term.

One reason for this continual need for organizational energy
is what I call: disappointment.

About half of the classes offered on the EXCO website do not succeed.
This leads to disappointment for both those who offer classes
and for those who attempt to attend them.
People get the impression that EXCO classes do not work.

But, of course, some classes are quite successful
in terms both on the purposes of the facilitator
and the goals of others who participate.

I had had both kinds of experiences myself.

Disappointment with past experiences
means that EXCO must re-create itself for each term.
There is little momentum carrying forward from the last set of classes.

Luckily, EXCO does have dedicated band of organizers
willing and able to keep pushing the organization forward.

However, once EXCO achieves critical mass,
it will be able to operate smoothly and easily
because everyone who knows about EXCO
will know how all of the wheels turn
to make new classes appear every month.

Expecting some classes to fail is part of the process.
The people who know about the classes
are always going to be selective,
attending those classes that appeal to them
and ignoring classes that do not spark their interest.

And this is always the way it should be:
Let the people decide what classes they will attend.
Often there is no way to predict whichclasses will succeed
and which classes will not draw enough people to make a viable group.

Please add your comments, responses, suggestions, & questions.

Yours,
James Park, EXCO facilitator

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:) James Park e-mail: [email protected]
1829 Third Avenue South #218 | phone: (612) 871-PARK
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404-2185
Museum: http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/
Bookstore: http://www.existentialbooks.com
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