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Guilds (SCA or Medieval)

I wrote:
>> Well, I would have said it another way: "the problem is that the SCA 
>> guild doesn't correspond to anything medieval."  

To which Tadhg responded
>     Whoa, hoss! Speak not in absolutes! 

>     There are undoubtedly more bad examples than good examples of 
>     functioning guilds. But I have seen some very effective guilds on 
>     a local basis--especially armoring and brewing. The local guilds 
>     have worked to fulfill their roles: (1) provide a service or 
>     commodity, (2) train new persons in the necessary crafts, (3) 
>     provide a framework to recognize an individual's accomplishments, 
>     and (4) promote individuals within the ranks.

Tadhg, you totally missed what I said.  I said the SCA guild isn't
anything medieval.  You say "Speak not in absolutes!" and then
proceed to say a lot of things about how SCA guilds work.  I am
already aware of this stuff--you have done nothing to touch on my
point--the SCA guild doesn't correspond to the way a medieval guild

As you say, some SCA guilds are effective (although not many).  But
their effectiveness usually comes from the efforts of a very small
number of people, and they are effective only because of the TEACHING
of these people--the transmission of skills.  Guilds in the real
middle ages were mechanisms to restrict transmission of knowledge,
(and therefore to increase its value) not to spread knowledge.

You make four points about SCA guilds: 1--provide a service/commodity,
2--teach, 3--framework for recognition, 4--promote individuals.
Few SCA guilds do (1); Medieval guilds had a very different focus,
which I would describe as "1--monopolize a skill/commodity/service".
All SCA guilds attempt to do (2), and it is the most worthwhile
thing about them; Medieval guilds had a focus I would characterize
as "2--restrict teaching to a very small group (us)".  All SCA guilds
seem to worry overmuch about (3) and (4) (which are really the same),
and this, too, is a modern (4-H club) focus, nothing to do with
medieval guilds (where a Master was someone with a certain amount
of wealth and status in the community, not someone with a certain
level of skill in the craft).

So again, Tadhg, I say: SCA guilds do not correspond to Medieval
guilds in any major particular.

The issue of whether SCA guilds "do anything useful" is a totally
different one.  Please do not connect my criticism of the overuse
of the SCA guild structure (and its general lack of success) to a
criticism of your brewers guild, or (mentioned in another thread)
Arachne's Web and the Atlantian Kingdom Embroiderers Guild.

However, I would think that even these relatively successful groups
could benefit from a little re-examination of themselves, based upon
these questions that I promulgate for any SCA guild:

a. Why choose a "guild" structure?
b. What does this structure buy you?
c. What disadvantages does it have?
d. Are there any other structures that would work as well, or better?

Note that I, myself, started the Atlantian Archer's Guild some six or
seven years ago.  It was a typical example of the SCA guild.
-- it started with significant energy and enthusiasm
-- it had an internal hierarchy
-- it attempted to foster teaching of the art
-- there never was a medieval guild anything like it
-- it ran for two years with energy, then faded out over two more years
	with less energy, as the original leadership burned out or took
	on other projects
The energy and enthusiasm was centered around a very few people.  The
internal hierarchy (as an "advancement" or "recognition" method) was
of great interest to some of the participants, but retained meaning
only as long as the guild had energy, and faded with the guild.  Those
who were most interested in the advancement spent energy on that, rather
than on keeping the guild alive and energetic, and so passively assisted
in the demise of the guild.  The guild had at one time up to forty or
more members, but after the initial energy of the founding officers ran
out, so did the guild.  Only three or four of the members ever worked
actively towards supporting the guild, and when they ran out of energy
the guild faded to oblivion.

Note, however, that the death of the guild was not a crippling wound
to the art it supported.  Archery was given some promenince
by this guild, and even when the guild started failing, archery was
still doing fine.  In retrospect, the guild had two very interesting
effects upon practice of the art of Archery in Atlantia.  When the
guild started it brought archery into the public eye in Atlantia
in a way it had not been before, and some of the teaching efforts
were very useful in spreading archery in our Kingdom.  However, after
three years or so, the guild was no longer the method for spreading
archery or publicizing it, and in fact had become a burden--if any
energy was spent to maintain the guild, it is not clear that energy
was usefully spent.  By dieing when it did, the guild actually served
Atlantia better than it would have if it had maintained any sort of
control over archery in the Kingdom (which it had certainly started
with--all of the most active archers in the Kingdom were part of the
guild when it started).  And now, seven years after it started, Archery
in Atlantia has far surpassed the efforts of the guild, and is doing
fine by itself, and some of the more prominent current archers never
participated in the guild when it existed, or only just as it was
failing (and doing little good).

So, enough case history.  Let's get back to my four questions, and
apply them to the Atlantian Archer's Guild I created, with the help
of Sir Aelfred, Duke Baudoin, Lady Gillian Clayshaper, Lady Tessa
the Huntress, and Lady Shoshonna d'Oliphant (last three all disappeared
for 3-5 years).

a. Why choose a "guild" structure?
It seemed like a good idea at the time.  In retrospect, the idea

b. What does this structure buy you?
It kept the original officers in charge.  This was bad.  While we
were active and participating, we would have been in charge anyway;
once we started losing energy, we were still in charge, so the guild
went down with us.  Another structure might have reacted better to
the evolution of the ruling class.  You want to have the people with
energy ALWAYS being the people in charge.  Anything that prevents
that will tie the lifespan of the structure to the lifespan of the
energy of the original founders.  Which means that the group will only
be functional for one SCA generation, on average (2.5 years), although
it will probably choke and bumble along for another generation.

c. What disadvantages does it have?
In addition to what I mentioned above, another disadvantage was the
hierarchy.  Many people focussed on the hierarchy rather than the true
reason for the structure--teaching and fostering archery.

d. Are there any other structures that would work as well, or better?
Anything more flexible would have been better.  The only advantage of
the guild structure was an initial sense of identity.  This sense of
identity served well for the first year or so, but was tied to the
lifepulse of the group, and started to fade quickly.  Part of this
was because some people started to use the hierarchy for their own
purposes (to start an extended household, basically), and this
reduced the sense of identity and unity.

As I see it, there are two primary virtues for any group that might
want to form an SCA guild: Sense of Identity and Teaching Structure.
Having a sense of identity makes it easier to focus your energy and
the energy of others.  Having a teaching structure is the only way
to be ANY use at all to the art you share.  Everything else is fluff
at best, or folly at worst.  This most certainly includes any sort
of "guild" hierarchy, or internal recognition.  When the hierarchy
works well it is bells and whistles, but not otherwise a burden; when
it works poorly it becomes a source of dissent, contention, and
unnecessary internal politics.

So there is no need for a "Guild" for most purposes.  Any structure
that fosters the two virtues I mention will work, and the more 
unnecessary fluff attached, the poorer the long-term chances for
the group.  And sometimes the failure of the group will attach its
bitter stigma to the art that group originally formed to support.
This did NOT happen with the Atlantian Archer's Guild, thankfully.
However, it has happened to several other SCA groups, including
the Fatima (East Kingdom Order created for those who make garb
as a service, basically.  Failed eventually in bitter wrangling.)

I draw your attention to the Colleges forming within/separate from
the University of Atlantia.  These seem to follow the guidelines
I mention above very well--they are a structure for teaching, and
only for teaching; they have a sense of identity; and they have
very little else to screw them up.  Although they may succeed or
they may fail, I would expect that they will succeed for some time,
and when they eventually lose energy and fail (as most thing do)
they will have done significant service to their different causes,
and when they fail I doubt they will do any damage to their cause.

Further, it is even possible that they will be flexible enough
that in the long run some of them may become self-supporting, and
be able to weather the evolutionary process of changing leadership
without the whole group becoming too bound to one leader or set of
them.  This is the objective for every special-interest-group that
tries to set up an SCA guild, and the only one that I know of that
has ever succeeded in this has been Arachne's Web, and they are a
special case due to their multi-kingdom structure.

I hope this discussion will be of use to someone, or at least of interest.