Friends of the Bees - this is a dynamic, ongoing discussion - which translates as 'I am still thinking it through even as I build the site'!
My vision is: a kind of dispersed, anarchic, non-pyramidal, loosely-structured, campaigning, non-organization, based on a wide network of inter-dependent, self-managing, local groups, which feed information and ideas to each other via the Natural Beekeeping Forum and whatever other means they choose or devise. Think of the BBKA and turn it on its head (if only...) so instead of the centralized, elite-led, top-down, do-as-we-say approach, we have a de-centralized, co-operative, ideas-led, progressive, dynamic, evolving force, inspired and energized towards 'improving the world for pollinators' - which means, of course, improving the world for everyone and everything - so a movement rather than an 'organization'.
The model I have in my head is that of 'open source' software: think Linux, not Microsoft or Apple - think of thousands of geeks writing code in their bedrooms and sharing it freely with the world and somehow coming up with software that is as good as or better than that produced by highly paid programmers in profit-driven corporations. This is Open Source Beekeeping - and, of course, it is also about Open Source Growing and everything that implies: testing and teaching different ways to grow food and to reclaim the whole food production system - literally from the ground up. We need to regenerate and localize our growing methods alongside our bee husbandry.
Friends of the Bees is 'non-denominational' in that we do not promote a particular beehive or a particular method or philosophy and we have no Book of Rules and definitely no 'gurus' (aka prima donnas). Anyone can make a contribution.
Am I sounding idealistic? Good, because I think we need an ideal to work towards.
How do we create such a thing?
It's already happening. Local groups are being announced on the forum almost daily. They are all part of the network and may or may not need some guidance as to how to organize themselves and link together - that's something that will develop organically, I think.
I see campaigning as a central part of our activities and vitally important to make our presence felt as a body, rather than just a loose set of individuals. Effective campaigning and lobbying takes time, planning and a coherent message, which is where we need to harness the energy of those people who are moved to act in that way. This could result in a hierarchical 'committee' structure, which I dislike and I think is generally deprecated among progressive movements these days.
So how do we engage people who want to be 'in the thick of it' and enable them to contribute fully, without the danger of them leading FotB up a garden path of their own choosing? To put it bluntly, how do we keep that Chandler fellow in check and stop him sounding off about stuff that we haven't approved? And how to we rein in the Brighton Bee Liberation Front and stop them fighting with the Brighton Front for the Liberation of Bees?
In other words, how do we build in some form of representation - democracy, even - into the system, so everyone gets heard and nobody becomes a dictator?
That's where my ragged edge is right now: I don't know all the answers. Or any of them.
Do we just let it evolve organically and anarchically, trusting that whatever happens will be for the best? Do we start with a scaffolding and try to get everyone to arrange themselves on it?
And to bring it back to 'what can I do - how can I get involved?' I think the guiding principle - and I forget who first said this - is 'Think Globally, Act Locally'. Get together some people and start a local group. Call it 'South Bumbledown Friends of the Bees' if you wish, or something of your own choosing. Using the 'Friends of the Bees' phrase in your name requires no affiliation fees and no obligations, beyond a willingness to participate and share in the spirit of Open Source Beekeeping, and identifies you with the movement as a whole while retaining your local identity.
Use the forum - www.naturalbeekeeping.org - as a resource to share and advertise your presence. Make a web site for your group if you wish, or not if you don't.
There are no rules, remember?
By becoming a focus for 'helping the bees', we can broaden people's world view and get them to see what needs to be done to bring the planet back to sustainability. This is about bees - and it is about a lot more than bees.