Yesterday in our Oversight meeting, we were talking about POCA Tech and Cortney launched into an a cappella rendition of Tracy Chapman’s Talkin' bout a Revolution. “And finally, the tables are starting to turn…”
That was definitely the best part of the whole meeting. I love Oversight meetings in general, but unquestionably they’re better when somebody’s singing.
Over the last four years I’ve described our collective need for POCA Tech in lots of negative terms. “Our clinics can’t find enough good candidates to hire.” “We’re trying to create living wage acupuncture jobs, but we can’t pay people enough to repay $100K or $200K in student debt.” “When the word finally gets out about what life after acupuncture school is really like, nobody’s going to go except people with trust funds, and how many of them are going to want to work in POCA’s clinics?” And, when I was feeling most gloomy, “This movement has no future if it doesn’t have its own acupuncture school.”
The tables are turning, right now, because I don’t have to say any of that anymore. Instead I can say, “We are training our own workers, drawn from the pool of POCA patients, volunteers, and receptionists.” This is 100% true, starting on Friday; that’s who’s in our first class. I can say, “The cost of an education at POCA Tech lines up with what graduates can expect to earn in their first couple of years working at a POCA clinic.” I can say, “Our students know exactly what they’re going to be doing after they graduate; they’re being trained for jobs that have clear job descriptions.” And best of all: “POCA Tech represents the future of the community acupuncture movement.”
You guys, we did it.
OK, that’s not quite accurate — we’re doing it. We’re turning the tables. We’re turning this whole thing around. We’re making acupuncture and acupuncture education work for ordinary people. One definition of “revolution” is “an instance of revolving”.
Which brings us to the part of the turning around that we’re not done with yet, and that’s accreditation. POCA Tech has to get accredited for our graduates to get licenses and serve the communities that are waiting for them. We’re already working on our Eligibility Report for ACAOM, even though we can’t submit it until this time next year. As far as I can tell, there are three important categories of working on accreditation: plugging away at the bureaucracy (like the Eligibility Report) a little at a time, every week; running the school so we have something to accredit; and raising money.
One of things that ACAOM has to approve for us to get accredited is POCA Tech’s “financial stability”. We asked ACAOM what that means, exactly, and ACAOM said to ask our CPA. Our CPA said that the most generally recognized standard of financial stability is having 6 months worth of operating expenses in the bank as a cushion. That means, sometime over the next three years, POCA Tech will have to accumulate about $150K in reserves: money that we never plan to touch except in a dire emergency.
Under the heading of “you guys, we did it”: we collectively raised over $83,000 to get POCA Tech open. And now we’re open, with about $40K in our savings account. Launching an ACAOM-compliant acupuncture school for $43,000 has got to be one of the bootstrapping achievements of the ages. Even our critics have to admit that we are scrappy, resourceful, and determined as hell.
How are we going to get over the next hurdle of proving financial stability? We’re gonna do it like we do everything else: fractally, in a mirror of how our clinics work, in lots of little increments. We’re calling it the Sustainers Campaign.
Just like POCA clinics depend on their regulars to keep acupuncture accessible, POCA Tech will depend on its Sustainers. Sustainers make a convenient, ongoing monthly contribution — which means POCA Tech’s tiny administrative staff and volunteer Board of Directors can confidently set a budget without having to hound everybody for donations. Sustainers represent stability — with a contribution of $5 or $10 a month.
Becoming a Sustainer is an easy and efficient way to support POCA Tech. We deduct your designated contribution from your account until you let us know to stop or change it. $5 or $10 each month is a lot for some people and not a lot for others — but regardless, it’s a huge, huge deal to POCA Tech.
Melissa Tiernan originally came up with the idea, and then Elizabeth Bruckner thought of it too, and in the time between those two events the POCA Tech Board agreed it was what we want to do. So as of today we are launching the Sustainers Campaign. You can sign up here.
In gratitude, our Sustainers are going to get regular updates via email about how POCA Tech is going, every month, every module. Baby pictures of the Revolution. Snapshots of the tables as they’re turning. I’m going to be keeping a diary for us, basically, and the Sustainers get to read it if they want to. We’ll also have a page on the POCA Tech website where we thank our Sustainers by name (and no, it will not be divided into categories based on the amount of the monthly donation, because that would not fit into the fractal). We want as many people as possible to be part of the Sustainers Campaign.
I am really looking forward to this part of my job: talking about the revolution, documenting the tiny details of turning this thing around. I’m looking forward to collectively enjoying and appreciating this act of love. Please join me, comrades.