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“What even is a Wholesome Society?”. This was the most common question I recall answering at our very first Welcome Fair in 2019. I have since come up with a quick-fire reply to that question.
Wholesome Society aims to create a space for people to interact aside from the hectic social environment traditionally found at university.
This answer was usually followed closely by, “Okay… but what do you even do?”. That question was trickier to answer…
Wholesome Society has now accumulated over 500 Instagram followers and is close to reaching 250 members on Discord. However, it wasn’t always easy to explain to members and the Student Union why our University needed a Wholesome Society. I use Lord of the Rings references to help better understand our aim as a society.
Wholesome Society started with the recognition of a much-needed change, rather than a succinct development plan. In early 2019 three of my closest friends recognised that there was a desperate need for new settings in which University students could meet. It seemed like every society, from Sports Clubs to niche Activity Groups, met regularly for pub socials, crawls or parties. Together as a committee, we aimed to offer a less hectic alternative to this.
The Student Union was not so convinced. We received a rejection on grounds that “the proposed society tends toward a social gathering group rather than a society”. To this day, the alleged difference between a social gathering group and society still beats me.
Any emerging society that finds themselves in a similar situation, here is my personal advice for drafting your appeal:
- Reply asking specifically which of the 10 conditions resulted in your rejection. In our case KCLSU replied to us stating we were rejected under condition 8: “It is unclear what your activities or aims actually entail and how they will benefit KCLSU members”.
- Focus on explaining why you fulfil this condition to make the most of your 500-word appeal.
- Lastly, manage your time wisely. While the application deadline is in April you will receive your rejection in the middle of exam season in May and only have 7 days to appeal.
A successful appeal later, Wholesome Society was ready to properly start its journey.
The Two Towers
Looking back on our first-year events seems like a distant dream now. Infamous Wholesome Soc and Chill meets, full of arts and crafts, cookie decorating, board games and Mario Kart with countless members in one room are now impossible to imagine. Christmas Karaoke with instruments provided by the lovely Ukulele Society or calming Matcha Tea making with Japan Society were some of the countless ways we tried to improve the wellbeing of our members throughout the course of the year. Luckily these events are all still documented on our Instagram highlights to relive.
After each event, we left a scrapbook for comments and feedback at the door. Seeing it filled with thank you messages from members who had made new friends was heart-warming. The most important thing we learned that year was to consistently communicate with society members both before and after events. We tried basing our ideas off of in-person feedback during events, as well as seeking new ideas on our social media to keep things fresh.
These Two Towers, direct feedback on events and member suggestions for future ideas, helped us find a united vision for our society. Given that we were not based around one succinct hobby or activity this was essential to solidify what our society defined as “Wholesome”.
Then everything was disrupted. In March 2020 we decided it was no longer safe to run in-person events. The summer ended and we decided that for Term 1 we would only operate online in light of the pandemic. With the help of some amazing people, we set up our Discord Server and promoted it on our social media just before our Virtual Welcome Fair. We were overjoyed by the positive responses and the vast amounts of members joining.
Our main takeaway from this past term is that the instantaneous nature of hosting online events is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, new ideas and events can be implemented quickly and advertised effectively. This is especially true if you have everyone on the same platform, as we do on Discord. On the other hand, it is much easier for people to make last-minute decisions on whether or not they wish to commit to an event. Given that we don’t charge for our events minds can change up until the second we start.
As mentioned earlier, Wholesome Society does not have a singular purpose. This sometimes means that ideas we think will be received incredibly well, can quickly become void and have limited attendance. We often find ourselves going back to the drawing board to find new events to fill our schedule with. These days we get to change up and advertise events far more dynamically.
Formerly, given that members had to take into account time travelled to and from campus, we had to announce events weeks in advance. Now if we change up the schedule because we don’t think something will be well attended, it is much easier to do so. We’ve even seen a recent trend of members planning their own events days in advance, requiring us to do little more than advertise on our social media channels.
Much like during our first year, seeking consistent feedback from our members has remained essential to hosting our events. Polling on Instagram and Discord have been crucial to ensuring we understand what events our members want to participate in. Being unable to use much of what we had learned about the type of events our members enjoyed in-person has been a setback, however, given the dynamic nature of running an online society, this is quickly overcome.
We are kicking off Term 2 with a post-exam Among Us evening (a tried and tested event) and are looking forward to the many new events we come up as a society. In a few months, we’ll have reached the point where our society has run online as long as it has in person. No doubt the longer we operate online, the more experience we will have with what works and what doesn’t. It will be interesting to see how things change once online and in-person merges once again.
If you are interested in shaping this future as part of the committee contact Wholesome Society at firstname.lastname@example.org! Discord Link – https://discord.com/invite/nSdXsF6 Instagram – @kclwholesomesociety
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