Setting up an Interest Group
Interest Groups are the lifeblood of all u3as. Anyone can start one at any time. You don’t have to have been a member for years either – existing and new members are warmly encouraged to start new groups, which could be a secondary group for an existing one that is full or on a brand new topic. (you can ask to go on a waiting list for a full group, but why not consider starting your own? Popular topics always attract lots of interest!)
Do I have to be an expert?
Interest Group Organisers do not need to have some knowledge in the subject they wish to run; some groups do indeed have an expert ‘leading’ the group, who freely gives of his/her time and knowledge, which is a wonderful thing! However, one of the key principles behind u3a is that members learn from each other.
The important thing is to gather enough people willing to help find out about the subject and share their findings. Thus it is perfectly possible to start a group on a subject you know nothing about but wish to find out about!
Indeed, Group Co-ordinators should not expect to shoulder all the work required to run a Group, nor deliver all the material for study. All members should be prepared to help out with roles or research, as seems fit and appropriate and agreed by founding members.
It might help to think of co-ordinators for the group rather than one ‘Leader’, with the group running on a co-operative basis. Ideally, the responsibility for coming up with plans and programmes and delivering them would be shared. New groups would discuss and decide at the beginning how they want to operate, how frequently it would meet, what its purpose is, and how to share in the running of the group. Responsibilities could, for example, be rotated from year to year. They might include:
- booking meeting rooms or sports facilities – click here for a list of venues
- coming up with ideas for the year
- doing research
- looking after any finances, (not onerous)
- organising an advert for new members on the website
- organising a programme of events/places
- taking it in turn to make a presentation or undertake guided tour
Groups do not even have to run ‘forever’! – it is perfectly possible for a new group to decide they will run for a year, say, then review at the end if they want to carry on or not.
How to Set up an Interest Group
Our interest group organisers are ordinary members of the u3a who have simply volunteered to organise a group – the u3a wouldn’t exist without them!
If all the groups you’re interested in are full or there aren’t any that interest you, perhaps you have an idea for a group not yet set up…then it’s simple just start a new group. We currently have more than 1 group of the same subject, for example 2 cinema groups, 5 book groups, 2 Italian, 2 wine, 3 walking groups etc.; so it’s perfectly possible to start a group whether it be a new subject or an existing one. Here’s how:
- Tell our committee what group you would like to start. You’ll be given advice to help, such as possible venues if needed. Send an email to Rainaldo, firstname.lastname@example.org or to Liz, email@example.com
- If you don’t want to hold the group meetings in your home and need a venue – click here for a list
- We will then place an advertisement for you in our monthly newsletter, as well as on the website and on the PowerPoint banner at the monthly talks held at The Apex.
- Then simply sit back and wait for the emails from members eager to join up!
Also you may not have an idea for a group but perhaps a particular skill or expertise you could offer for a “short course” – perhaps 2-4 sessions or a one-off session. Our members are keen and eager to learn new things. With over 900 members our skill/knowledge base will be huge. Please share the fruits of your knowledge!
Your committee is here to help in any way we can, from publicising any proposed new interest group to helping find somewhere to meet.
Tips for Starting a New Interest Group
- The majority of groups meet in members home/s which naturally keep numbers small
- Some meet in free public venues, such as Oakes Barn (upstairs where they have a lovely room), at The Apex (usually upstairs), meeting room at Abbeygate Cinema, in local cafes and even in pubs.
- A few groups hire a room, sharing the cost to cover the hire across the members of the group (very affordable). We can advise on this. Click here for a list of venues
- The simplest form of an interest group is the discussion group – no preparation required. The range and style of how you run the group is wide and entirely up to the group. Some groups do presentations, others trips or simply just discussing a selected topic.
- As a Group Organiser DO NOT feel you have to run everything on your own. The u3a is collaborative and all in the group should help run it and decide it’s format and direction.
- Share out the admin (if any) such as booking a venue, someone else can collect the monies if a venue is hired and so on.
- If you’re worried about a long term commitment, you needn’t. A group doesn’t have to run forever, Or you can just let the group know you’ll be the organiser for x-months and allow someone else to have a turn.