There is a time when we all have to change. Atheist Alliance International has reached that point. Over the years we have become too comfortable and we have taken our eye off the ball. The balance has swung towards establishment and away from activist.
Attending meetings at the UN and addressing conferences in Europe and North America may give the impression that we are achieving things but the payback is minimal, and how much are we helping the emerging atheists in Nigeria, drowning in a sea of theism?
Randomly stick a pin in a map of the world and, chances are, you will land on a country where atheists are excluded, disparaged and discriminated against—maybe worse. Or you will find a country run by religious people, for religious people, where religious dogma sets the standard for public policy.
So now it is time for us to change. We are going into battle. We will focus our resources on helping those who need us most—atheists in places where you are not free to speak your mind or where disastrous policy decisions are made in the name of a god.
We aim to become the ‘go-to’ organization for our atheist brothers and sisters anywhere in the world who have few resources and a mountain to climb. Nothing less will do.
But talk is cheap, so we will spell out exactly how we will change to achieve our goals. We can’t cover everything in one post, but we can give the headlines here and we will follow up with more posts to fill in the details.
Vision and Mission
We propose to change our vision and mission. This needs to be endorsed at a General Meeting but we propose:
VISION STATEMENT: AAI’s vision is a secular world where public policy, scientific inquiry and education are not influenced by religious beliefs, but based upon sound reasoning, rationality and evidence, and where individuals who lack religious beliefs enjoy free speech, freedom of association and freedom to participate in public life.
MISSION STATEMENT: AAI’s Mission is to support atheist organizations around the world by assisting them with; local campaigns, outreach, secular education projects, coaching and promoting interactions among these groups.
The AAI Board
We are beginning to make our board work more like the boards of major companies. AAI board members have functional responsibilities and objectives to meet. We have an annual planning cycle with quarterly reviews. This improves productivity, makes us focus on what is important and helps us make best use of our resources.
The AAI website was first developed more than ten years ago. The platform selected then was fine but it has not aged well as new technologies have arrived. It grew to over 1,000 pages and it became over-complex and difficult to maintain. In the end, maintenance became a hit-or-miss affair and the website deteriorated.
We resolved to replace the website, and we have done so. You are reading this on our new website. We now have an up-to-date platform which is much easier to maintain, more secure and faster. But, please bear with us, it will take another month or two to get it as fresh, attractive and useful as we would like it. We are working on it, and we will get there.
AAI membership/mailing system
The membership system is a similar story to the website. It started well but was overtaken by newer systems. In the end, it needed a lot of manual intervention to work and we couldn’t keep up with the volume of work. To compound the problems, as our membership grew, so did the system’s monthly licensing costs and it became very poor value-for-money.
So we resolved to change it and we have. The new system costs us a small fraction of the old system and it does the important things much better. It is not as feature-rich but we are convinced we will be able to plug the gaps so we will eventually have a very capable system that is very inexpensive.
Again, please bear with us on this. The data from our old system had accumulated errors. We have tried to correct them but it was a mammoth task. If you spot problems with your account, let us know and we will sort things out for you. We will talk more on this in a later post.
In future, every time we spend money, we will make an assessment of what it will achieve for the people we care most about, atheists anywhere in the world whose lives are blighted by religious dogma and traditions. This will mean we will spend far less time and money attending conferences and far more working directly with atheist groups who need our help.
Expect to see a wider range of campaigns from billboards to novel approaches that we are still working out. We will continue to support critical thinking and secular education, such as the Kasese Humanist School in Uganda.
We are developing a model to help us decide where to spend money and on what. It should even help us measure our achievements. This is work-in-progress and we will reveal more in a later post.
Our membership has declined over the past three years. This is something we have to reverse—we have ambitious plans to make a difference for atheists but it cannot happen without funding. So we will run campaigns to attract new members, donors and affiliates. These people are the backbone of the organization. They make everything possible.
AAI is changing. We know what we must do, and we have started. We must have professional quality management and robust systems that help us manage our work. Without this, nothing else will be really effective. After that, we need to grow funding and to target our resources where they will have the biggest impact. And we must never forget who we are working for. We are not working for us–we are working for you.
Stick with us, and let’s do this together.