It has come to my notice that British Naturism has carried out a National Survey of Clubs. Or rather a survey of its members about what they find attractive in clubs. I would just like to take a moment to applaud BN for doing this, as it is long overdue.
Back in the early 2000s, I was part of the Executive Council that proposed and even helped a little to design the questionnaire for a previous attempt at this, but after Duncan Heenan and I left the EC there was no one to champion the need for a members’ survey and it was quietly dropped.
What I found surprising about this latest incarnation are the results and I’m left wondering what they might herald.
In an article for BN magazine, Tania Lang – the creator of the survey – explained some of the background. Briefly, for those not part of BN, in the Autumn 2014 Diogenes Sun Club wanted a better understanding of what attracted its members to the club and proposed a survey, but they needed the help of BN’s main office to send the survey out to all its members. It was then suggested that the club and BN work together on a wider survey to assist other clubs to understand their members. The survey was launched in November 2014 and was available online or as a paper document. The aim was to get as many responses as possible, regardless of club membership or not.
On the face of it, this was a reasonable thing to do as it gave a more accurate answer by creating a larger dataset. However it might not work that way, as the Government found out when it tried to expand an IT system created by HM Prison Service to manage the prison population to cover the whole of the justice system, so anyone caught up in it will have only one file. Its failure to deliver became national news and cost the public purse millions. Of course, this is nothing like on the same scale but the principle is the same.
The article listed the most important facilities as judged by the respondents and, as Tania said, it is not surprising that sunbathing areas and an outdoor swimming pool was mentioned among them. Other facilities that made it onto the list are: a lounge or quiet area and areas to pitch a tent or park a caravan. The ‘most important’ list was expanded with things such as the friendliness of other members and the ease of joining, as well as an all inclusive membership fee. These are not resources to help members to enjoy their time at the club, but add to its ambiance and could influence a prospective new member in their decision to join or not.
Naturally the article also listed the least important facilities and these included courts for volleyball, badminton, tennis and Miniten. A Gym and TV room were also listed. Doctors have remarked how we are becoming more sedentary as a society and these findings seem to bear witness to that. Another item on the least wanted list is ‘inter-club sports competitions’ and yet as I write this Diogenes Sun Club is promoting its inter-club Boules competition on Facebook.
So we come to my dilemma. Apart from indicating that naturists are no longer the active people we once were, it seems to be saying that we are not as social either. According to these results, a club could be a field with somewhere to swim plus a hut to make tea or coffee in and to hold socials, nude or otherwise. So my question is, is naturism fracturing, with the members of each club wanting it to go its own way instead of unifying under the British Naturism banner? It seems to be from Tania’s article.
What we don’t know from this article is, how many people responded to the survey or what age range did they fall into? It could be that most of the responses were from the older members of the community and therefore skewing the results.
To be fair, questionnaires are tricky things to compile and the analysis of the results by two different people can come up with two very different answers, so I can just as easily be wrong as right. The thing is, with surveys of this kind you must have a clear understanding of the question you want answered. In this case, a club wanted to find out what attracted it to its members. Expanding it to embrace all members without understanding the question was not the right thing to do, as the Government found out to our considerable cost.
I do hope they try again. It’s hard but well worth it. They just need to understand the question asked.