By Varnit Grewal, Director of Internal Affairs, University of Waterloo Chapter
A consistent failure that the University of Waterloo EWB chapter encounters is poor retention. It is a common trend to have many members join at the beginning of the term, and have a significant drop in attendance two to three meetings in, sometimes going from 50 members to five. Due to the strong coop program at the university, there are two separate EWB clubs that run off stream from each other at UW; when one set of students is at school, the other set is on co-op, and they swap every term. It is well understood that the coop program is a large part of why the club has such poor retention, as it is difficult to get students motivated about projects that only last four months at a time, and get the members to return after a four-month hiatus. Getting past the challenge that the coop program presents has been this chapter’s biggest and longest-running failure.
Last term, the chapter focused a lot of energy on getting the members connected with each other, and the executive team, as quickly as possible. The idea is that if the members actually feel they are part of a community, they will stay in touch over their coop term, and motivate each other to return to the club the following semester. The executive team is working hard to provide the environment needed to nurture fast-paced member bonding.
This most recent term, we have held events such as a board game night, where members came out simply to get to know one another and have fun. These sorts of activities have had some impact, as the club still has 1520 members close to the end of the term. The next step is to provide online environments, through Slack and Facebook, for relationships to continue to grow over the upcoming work term.