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Four Aspects of Amateur Radio
Service + Safety + Science + Social
As my local amateur radio club finds ways to engage more hams, I’ve been thinking that when we focus too much on one aspect of radio, we leave behind the folks who are interested in other aspects. I’ve concluded there are four main aspects to ham radio and I visualize them as the four boxes on a simple 2x2 grid.
Those four boxes are: service, safety, science, and social. Amateur radio is a service, so the service box contains activities like providing radio support for a bicycle race or a marathon. For safety, I’m thinking emergency communications support including ARES and relaying messages.
Amateur radio is also about experimentation, and sometimes those experiments expand the science of radio. In the social corner, amateur radio provides much-needed networking between individuals through on-the-air exchanges, club meetings, and other shared events.
My point in this simple categorization is that when we invest heavily in one box, other aspects of ham radio may get left behind. From a club leadership perspective, it’s important to remember to bring along the entire club, even if, from time to time, one box gets more than the other boxes. Sometimes people get left in the corners, out of the main focus of club activities.
After these thoughts gelled in my mind, I remembered contesting. I think I would put that activity primarily in social even though the contacts are usually very abbreviated. (Although there is a strong case to be made for emergency preparedness, too!) I know from my own radio play that contesting can yield new and interesting relationships with other hams.
Of course, my thinking assumes that you want your amateur radio club to appeal to the broadest spectrum of amateur radio operators…and maybe even their families. If your club is organized around a singular purpose such as emergency comms/support for your local community in a disaster, then my thoughts may not apply to your situation.
Oversimplified? Sure. But perhaps this thinking is useful to those of us who want to see our amateur radio clubs help experienced and new hams to find ways to enjoy our amateur radio hobby and build strength and resiliency among club members. Let’s not forget about those people in the corners.