Tango Consumer or Carer?:
This week an organiser outlined with brave honesty the stress and pressure that goes with running a successful event and how this can take its toll on organisers from anywhere up to 12 months before and after the actual event. Additionally, there is a constant fear of either losing large sums of money and/or not delivering on their shared vision. This post, by Stephanie of the Manchester Big Pop Marathon, brought it all back to me; the horrors of organising and why I finally stopped in 2013.
The key reason for much of this stress and fear is the lack of early registrations by leaders who join as late as possible, or, only after being pressurised by the organisers or followers. The negative impact to followers on long waiting lists has been known for some time so all of this has sparked a wildfire of discussion on Facebook. Ideas have been put forward to try to find a resolution, some of which, might even have a positive impact.
I feel, however, that some ideas to try to twist leaders arms by offering discounts, threatening with late fees or, as one idea seemed to suggest, stipulating that a leader must register with another leader, are missing the point. I don’t believe that €20 – €30 is going to change anyone’s mind as it is a triviality, in real disposable income terms, to most tango dancers. Punitive registration will likely push leaders to other events that don’t enforce this new policy and the behaviour will continue unresolved.
My Own Behaviour as a Leader and Registering:
I live on an island so I don’t have the luxury of taking a train to the next city at any time I choose. Therefore, I cannot decide to join an event at the last minute or even with three months notice. Airfares alone would be punitive. So I am happy to say that I always register early and commit early. Even so… I have asked myself “if I lived in Berlin for example, would my behaviour be any different to the average leader?” and the truthful answer is probably not.
I wondered what this makes me?
The Accidental Tango Consumer:
I realised that this would make me what I call a ‘Tango Consumer’, a TC for short. I will stick to defining TC’s from the leader’s perspective as this is mine. Many followers act as tango consumers too, but this is a smaller issue given the imbalance in numbers of followers versus leaders.
So back to the TC, a TC is a person who fundamentally believes or accidentally treats a tango event like it is a professional service offered in exchange for their money and participation. A TC treats tango organisers like they are a business. The event is a service they are paying for and they expect, in return, an excellent event with all the trimmings. Therefore, when viewed this way, registration and how late one registers is something the ‘business’ should be able to deal with and is not given any consideration by the leader. Personal feelings do not come into play as the TC is dealing with a business. It’s not personal. It’s simply a transaction.
I do believe though generally, this behaviour is not intentional, some leaders are unintentionally acting as tango consumers because of a lack of awareness about the impacts of late registrations on everyone else.
If you are this type of leader then you are ‘consuming tango’. The problem is, Tango is not a commercial enterprise. Tango is a community where some of us willingly volunteer to step forward and organise events for others. This organisation takes an incredible amount of personal time, effort, risk and cost. By treating these events like enterprises, you unintentionally fail to show respect for the individuals who organise them and the entire tango community that has already given you so much.
So this is why we need Leaders to address one simple thing; their issues with committing to and supporting events. If anyone had their brother’s wedding six months from now, they would make themselves available and plan accordingly, so excuses like schedule etc do not stand up to strong examination.
Let’s call this Leader with no commitment issues a TCL: a Tango Community Leader. These Leaders understand they are part of the wider tango community, and they are aware they have a responsibility to give back to tango a little by caring. They demonstrate this care by, wherever possible, committing to events as soon as registration opens, either as a couple or single. By doing this and reducing the strain on the organiser’s, who are often a personal friend or valued dance partners, they are saying: I care enough about tango to support your event upfront and commit to it early. I understand I have a role in nurturing the greater community by doing this.
Imagine if all leaders were asked the question: When did you register? Are you a TC or a TCL? Imagine if leaders were asked this as often, and as casually, as they are asked ‘do you prefer milonga or vals?’
Being defined as a Tango Consumer is certainly not a pleasant thing and I am certain the motivation to change could grow. But how does one change a culture?
A Mad Idea:
From mad ideas, practical solutions are born. I needed to run this past someone who knows about the internet and websites as a sanity check but here it is:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ‘Caremiles for Leaders. Just like Airmiles in a way.
The premise is simple.
There is a tangocaremiles.com website where Leaders who want to demonstrate that they are not Tango Consumers but are caring members of the Tango Community can sign up. They enter their name, facebook ID and country. Each Leader has a unique Caremiles number.
When you read the leaders profile on Caremiles, you see across the page.
Their name, country, number of events attended that year and miles earned that year. Then two more columns; total events attended and total caremiles since signing up.
The number of events and miles are not filled in by the leader; these are completed by the organiser who wants their events to be part of the Caremiles Initiative.
So Organisers of marathons, encuentros, festivals, weekends, whatever you want to call them have on their registration form for leaders a box to enter their Caremiles number.
The agreement works like this:
For the Leader.
- You register within the first two weeks and pay the registration when asked: 5 Caremiles
- You register within the first six weeks and pay the registration when asked: 1 Caremile
For the Organiser:
The organiser commits to enter on your Caremiles profile the event attended and the awarded caremiles. These points go against your annual and cumulative total. The Organiser also advises before registration that priority will be given to participants of the caremiles scheme and suggests participation.
This Caremiles scheme is for all leaders.
What will happen in a short time, let’s say, a few years, will be different sorts of leaders.
Leader A: Five events in 2019 – Caremiles 25 – This leader is a good community member.
Leader B Five Event in 2019 – Caremiles 5 – This leader is solid.
Leader C Five Events in 2019 – Caremiles 1 – This leader has commitment issues 😉
The rosy future. Daring to dream:
After a few years, the long term behaviour of each leader will be obvious and Organisers can then consider whom to invite first to events or even offer a discount to Leaders with high points. Your Caremiles Status might be the deciding factor between you and an equally wonderful Non-Caremiles leader about who gets in.
And hopefully, as all those followers who have sweated on waiting lists and only got in last minute, will start asking leaders: Do you have Caremiles? The ethos will spread and maybe one magical day the days of Tango Consumers will be a distant memory.
The Possible Model:
I am sure there will be some issues with this. Leaders will surely have to sign some data protection release to enable this sort of activity under EU data laws. Also, the Organiser must commit to the protection of such data. I suspect there will need to be a nominal annual subscription of €5 maybe to cover website hosting, servers, upkeep etc. But Caremiles can be “Not for Profit” if we got every leader in Europe and used these profits to address and educate further the imbalance in tango leaders or give it back to the Leaders in the programme in the form of free subscriptions for the following year etc.
Anyway, I am sure there are many issues, but it’s an idea and maybe it will get more people thinking and talking, like Stephanie’s brave post did for me.
Am I a TC or a TCL? That is the question