HOW TO START A COMPUTER CLUB by Nan Bosler

news on a tablet, laptop and phoneI often wish I had a local computer club, a  place where I could both gain and share knowledge.  On occasions my iPad or laptop has a problem and I am not sure if it is my misuse or an actual technical glitch.  Of course one can get help from a ‘genius bar’ but this is costly and often unwarranted. 

When I have sought help there has been a minimum of a week’s waiting for an assessment.  I can’t live without my laptop for that long. My source of help is by telephone to one of my adult children or occasionally to my teenage grandchildren.   I use my devices to read the news, stay in touch with friends, banking, crosswords, apps to book hotels, check the weather, television guide, google information at least twice a day, and of course to write Fifty Five Plus.3d man squatting and confusing with red question mark

However, I would love to be autonomous and learn new tricks, short cuts, graphics and the ability to trouble shoot.  Nan has started computer clubs and she shares her knowledge with us.  Although it sounds like quite an undertaking once up and running it would be a great meeting place to learn and to enjoy the company of like minded  ‘geeks’! 

Nan explains how to form a computer group:

Are you and a group of friends meeting regularly to share a common interest? Perhaps members of the group are really enjoying swapping information about gardening, playing bridge, doing needlework or learning how to use a computer or the tablets and iPads that are so user friendly, when someone in the group suggested that you should form a club to learn more about using technology. It seemed a good idea but no-one was really sure how to go about it.

The first thing you should do is to enquire, probably from the Community Services section of your local council or from your library, if such a club already exists in your community. If there is a club or group get the contact details and follow up the opportunity!

If you have confirmed that there isn’t a seniors computer club or group, a Broadband for Seniors Kiosk or a Tech Savvy Seniors program in your area I suggest that the next step is to contact the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA) either at cdo@ascca.org.au or 02 9286 3871 and talk with them about the possibility of starting a computer club.

ASCCA has prepared a guide to help groups form a club. The Development Kit is available, without cost, on their website www.ascca.org.au just click on Club Development Kits. These guides will be useful to help you start any type of community organisation or club.

BPerspective Support Signefore you go any further you need to make sure that there is enough interest to support the club you are thinking of starting. Those of you who made the suggestion to form a club should now plan to hold a community meeting to ascertain if there are others also interested in learning how to use the popular modern communication formats of the 21st century – the computer or mobile devices such as a tablet, iPad or smart phone.

You will need to book a venue. The person you spoke to at Council may be able to give some assistance to find a suitable and affordable (much better if it was free!) place to hold your meeting; you could also consider a church hall or other community space. Contact ASCCA again to see if it is possible for them to organise a speaker or send you a video to show your audience. Once you have a venue and date contact your local newspaper and put up flyers in shop windows. [How to write a good press release to gain a journalist’s eye is a topic for another day.] There are more details about holding your public meeting in the development kits.Computer 6

Should your audience show interest and be prepared to participate in a new cub either as a student, tutor or supporter I suggest the following actions.

1. Form a steering committee who will follow the guidelines in the development kit to form your club. These can always be amended to meet the particular needs of your community. Once the committee has completed the ‘tasks’ that are needed before the club actually starts running another meeting is called and the organisation becomes a reality.

2. I strongly suggest that the person chairing the meeting asks if those attending would be happy if a donation box was made available for anyone who wished to contribute a small amount – maybe $2 – towards the initial costs of the committee – i.e. postage, printing, phone calls.   It must be optional! A few dollars in kitty makes the task easier for your steering committee. We all know how much it costs to send a letter these days.

3. A date is set for another meeting to be held after the committee has completed their initial tasks. It is important that everyone leaves this meeting with the name and contact details of a steering committee representative and that you have compiled a list of those attending and their contact details. (Note those who have email addresses as they may be future trainers!)

Your steering committee will need to consider whether the club will become an incorporated organisation or be set up as a club or group under the auspice of another organisation which is already incorporated such as a Retirement Village, a Senior Citizens Centre, the local U3A or a Neighbourhood Centre.Mature students learning computer skills

What’s the difference?   Well an incorporated club will become an autonomous organisation. You will have to budget for various costs associated with incorporation, find and pay for accommodation, and prepare a constitution. It is no longer mandatory to have Public Liability insurance to enable you to incorporate but it is recommended that you do have the protection of Public Liability Insurance!   ASCCA’s guide will help you with all of these topics.

If you are forming a club or activity under the auspice of, say, the retirement village where you live then there is a second guide on the ASCCA website to help you. It is wise to speak to administration first to ascertain if they would approve of a club such as the one you are suggesting. Then form you committee, follow the guidelines and get your club going. Your budget won’t have to be as large as for the incorporated club as you won’t have to become incorporated, or take out insurance as your Auspice will cover you. It is also likely that you will have minimal or no rent to find either!

If you live in a Retirement Village talk to someone in the office and ask if they could download the ASCCA Development Kit if you aren’t able to do it yourself.   Your local Council will also be a valuable resource for you. There you will be able to gain information about a possible venue for your new group, and I’m sure that they will be able to get the guide from the Internet for you.

The ASCCA Development Kit will take you through the first steps of forming a club but it will also help you get organised to run the club. There are sample job descriptions for office bearers, and hints on how to run the business part of your meetings including a sample agenda and sample minutes.   It sounds as if you have swapped your fun meetings about your chosen interest for a lot of work. No, certainly not – the committee meetings don’t have to be very long but they will give you a sound foundation on which to build interaction with others who share your interest, an ability to apply for grants to further your club’s interest and a certainty that your group is ‘organised’.Computers 3

Two final points. The steering committee members are only appointed until the club is actually formed and then an election will take place to elect the Management committee. Of course those on the steering committee can stand for election but there may be members of that committee who were only prepared to get the club started but who don’t have time to continue as committee members.

Secondly ASCCA’s assistance does not mean that you are obliged to join the organisation. That will be a decision for the club to make at a later date.

Nan Bosler