073. US Parkour Association (part 3 of 4): Funding model, membership voices, and next steps

Podcast episode


Craig: Welcome to the Movers Mindset podcast, where I interview movement enthusiast to find out who they are, what they do, and why they do it. This episode is part three of a four-part series on the United states parkour association. (USPK for short). In this episode, the transition board shares USPK’s funding model, and where the money is coming from. They explain committees, and special interest groups, the difference between the two, and their role in the organization. The board also discusses the importance of USPK even for people who feel that parkour does not need governing, and how to get involved, and have your voice heard. But first, the Movers Mindset community is designed to be used with keyboards and big screens. It’s designed to give you the physical and mental space to read, to think, and to create considered replies. You can discover or come back to content form years past – they’re exactly where you’d expect them to be; I’m interested in discussing everything related to independence, self-direction and human excellence. Are you? Visit moversmindset.com/community.

Craig: I think people don’t understand the complexity that’s involved in running an organization of this caliber. And I think that it’s important for us to talk a little bit about where does the funding actually come from? And where does that money go and how is it managed?

Frosti: Yeah, I can make something very clear straight off that bat. Anybody that thinks that five top parkour companies in the industry came together to make a bunch of money and rip you off, I guarantee you that is not what’s going on. This has exclusively cost us money, each person who’s involved in this initial transition board, is paying out of pocket to host the websites, to create the forums, to pay for the G-Suite. All of that is coming out of our pockets. We each took money and put it in a pot so that we could make this happen, because we knew that a small personal investment, just to plant a seed, could grow into something that is only going to enrich all of our lives, help all of our businesses, and help fortify the community that we’re trying to develop.

Frosti: USPK is a non-profit organization. We are working exclusively, based on the donations of the membership that we’re building right now. And the great thing is, you’re putting money down to pay for something that you want to do. Because you get to decide what USPK does. You’re not paying us to do anything, because I’m not getting paid, you are paying for your future. You’re putting your money directly back into the thing that you showed up to do something about.

Caitlin: The organization is funded by membership dues, both from individuals and organizations. As a nonprofit, we’re required to make our tax returns available to the public, which will be published on our website. We also have made a commitment to transparency as an organization and a group. We will also be making annual budget available and our financial statements. It’s really important for us to have the trust of the community, to know that their dues are being spent on the initiatives that community really cares about.

Craig: Not to sound overly capitalistic, which may or may not be a bad thing. As we have a national governing body, there’s going to be money involved. As soon as we have memberships, there’s money involved. So just how is it actually set up as an entity legally, and like where does it work and where does the money literally go and how does the money get tracked and accounted for? Like give me a glimpse of the actual infrastructure.

Blake: Yeah, so it’s set up as a nonprofit organization. And the goal of this whole project is to be transparent. So, sure, lots of people can think of examples of organizations, national governing bodies, that are not transparent. And I think our goal is to kind of see the mistakes, learn from them, and make sure that we’re not repeating them. There are a lot of guidelines and regulations that go around the organization of a nonprofit, and those will be followed, of course, but the goal is also to make sure that the general population has an idea of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and has a voice as to how we do that. And so the board will be privy to a lot of those things and the general membership will also have a lot of input on how things work.

Craig: USPK has an interesting feature called Special Interest Groups and the SIGs as they’re called work in concert with committees. I’m wondering if you could unpack a little bit about the differences between the more traditional committee concept and this newer ideas, Special Interest Groups.

Mark: Yes. A committee is formed either by the board or someone within the organization to solve the problems the organization has or possibly to solve an external problem, but it’s central to the core of the organization. So people can petition to have a committee and there’s an application process and then that committee can either be a short term committee, hey, we need a way to vote. So we need a committee to create a voting system. And that will be a close timeframe thing. That committee will work on that specific project, which is an immediate needs/challenge for the organization itself. And that committee will come and go.

Mark: There may be other standing committees, for example, one that I am going to be heading up at least in the interim until it gets going is the committee on design and build recommendations. This is one that will most likely be a standing committee. There is one feature that I think it’s really cool is we actually have no such thing as a standing committee. Every committee, even if it gets granted the full term of the longest term for a committee as a year, if a committee gets granted a term of a year, it doesn’t automatically renew it. It needs to restate its case every year to make sure that committees are useful, to make sure that we don’t have old dead things that don’t matter anymore. And to make sure that there’s still a driving factor in those committees and they still serve a relevant need for the group. So I think that’s a neat feature.

Mark: To contrast that, the special interest group is more started by a member of the organization, not to solve a problem of the organization, but to solve a problem out in the world, out in the parkour community world. And it’s interesting because the example I used for the equipment build is one that will, I’m sure go both ways. There will probably be a special interest group specifically for building stuff that runs alongside and hopefully parallel and works hand in hand with the committee. But there may be other special interest groups. There might be a special interest group for people who only like to do parkour in blue shoes on Tuesdays in May. And if people feel that that’s a different enough need, then what is already being represented by the group as a whole or by another special interest group, they could actually petition to have a group of people that do park or only on Tuesdays in blue shoes. I think I said in the month of May, I don’t know. But a specific group or a group with a specific interest, a special interest group could be formed around really anything.

Mark: And again, they need to petition and the board can’t reasonably deny a special interest group. So as long as it doesn’t violate our moral and ethics code, we wouldn’t allow a special interest group that was hateful or discriminatory or anything along those lines obviously. But as long as it’s not against our core values, then we have no reason to not allow that special interest group to operate and carry out whatever that group’s mission is.

Mark: One of the things that I am almost certain will be, if not the first special interest group will be people who are interested in competition in parkour. And I think that there will equally as quickly be a group of people who are interested in not having competition in parkour. And I think that both of those voices and perspectives are very important. And so I’m actually hoping that those will be two of our first special interest groups because I feel that to make a balanced outcome, we need to have both sides or not that they’re just two sides, but we need to have many perspectives and we need to have many voices to form a whole opinion. We can’t form a whole opinion with only one side of an issue that people feel strongly about both sides. So I would see that as a specific example of a special interest group.

Amos: So special interest groups, which we call SIGs, are one of my favorite parts of our structure and by-laws and that’s something, Craig, you brought to the table back when you were helping us design this. I really appreciate that.

Craig: You’re welcome.

Amos: I love the idea because what it allows for is anyone … Because often in big organizations like this, you can kind of get lost in the mix and if you’re two representatives away from being able to affect the direction you can feel helpless in that. And I like the idea that SIGs, anyone who wants, can start a SIG and it can be about something ridiculous. You have the freedom to do so and if a ton of other people are onboard with you and you get that momentum together and you create this group, you can actually speak so directly to the board and have a really strong impact on the direction of the organization. So, that’s the role SIGs play and that’s probably my favorite. And then committees are, you know, probably on average for most organizations help support in various ways, places we see need for example, a build standards committee. Of course, that’s going to be very important to our mission as USPK. So we have a standing committee right off the bat.

Amos: But SIGs are so adaptable that someone who disagrees with one of our committees could create a counter-SIG to combat the information that they’re coming up with and the opinions they are pushing to the board. So, for me, I’m a huge fan of good governance, transparency, and an organization that you just see everyone’s voices taking an effect and yes, that’s very complicated to do. It was easy when I was younger just to like shout about this as a revolutionary of sorts but the fact is now I’ve seen the inside of something like this. There’s so many things you have to balance. It is definitely tricky but I feel like SIGs is a great step in that direction and I’m really excited to see how that unfolds.

Caitlin: SIGs are essentially small collectives of individuals with shared interests. Say you love building things, you’ve done a lot of work there, and you really wanna see building standards created. A group of these people form together, to pool their collective expertise, and to perhaps generate a report, or recommendations, or best practices, that can be available to the community. That can be an adopted [inaudible 00:16:21] standards, even if they want the board to vote and adapt it as a national initiative. Basically SIGs are community driven projects or initiatives. Some are standing, which are established by the board. You know, we have a couple of those that we need to make sure we are hitting on, in terms of larger national goals. There are so many small scale things that are happening on all of our communities and needs to be fulfilled.

Craig: There’s a process in place for the individual members [crosstalk 00:16:50] to create a SIG with an idea that is their own personal initiative.

Caitlin: Yeah, exactly. Even sometimes dealing with regional issues. You know, you wanna get a bunch of your groups in a region together to address a particular need or concern. That is definitely another path in which the SIGs can serve.

Craig: I think that’s a very interesting, an important point and interesting in that, the board is acknowledging that it doesn’t even know what the problems are, what the needs are, what the initiative [crosstalk 00:17:14] should be, so there’s just a super structure in place for the [crosstalk 00:17:17] individual.

Caitlin: I think that, that’s …

Craig: People can put it together.

Caitlin: That’s what we’re trying to come down to. We’re not trying to sit at the top, telling you what to do, or to say these are the problems. We’re asking you, what are the problems and how can we pool the collective knowledge of our larger network to solve your problems, or to help do what you do better? It’s really about … Governance here is less about telling you what to do and more about how to work together better.

Craig: We’ve mentioned special interest groups, and you were just mentioning committees. Can you tell me what’s the role of special interest groups and what’s the role of committees, and maybe how the two compare and how they contrast? Like why are there are these two different things?

Blake: Yeah, the SIGs are really kind of the grassroots level of the organization. And that’s what are going to be tackling the larger kind of issues or questions or topics of parkour as a larger industry and sport. So whether it’s gym build standards or it’s shoe qualifications or specifications or certifications …

Craig: My personal favorite one is I want to create … I want a national archive. I want to create a special interest group which is built around creating an archive, because I don’t trust YouTube and I want to make sure that we have captured all of this material that we all take for granted today, but 50 years from now are people going to still be able to see Speed Air Man and all these things? So that to me is an example of a special interest group, and it come from …

Blake: That’s huge. And we want that passion. And we want to be able to tap into resources like yourself and other people that feel similarly and connect to you around that same topic.

Craig: Because I think that the large … Like as Americans, we get that America is large, but the rest of the world is just like they’re spoiled by being able to just all work together, literally physically together. But if there are, say, 20 people who are interested in a particular topic, it’s difficult for me to find those other 19 people. But through the US Parkour Association, then we can create this infrastructure and the SIGs handle dealing with the money. So how do you hire a library or how do you hire an archivist? And it also solves the problem of the money for those subprojects is from those groups that are working on the subprojects.

Blake: And it’s the people that feel passionate or have a vested interest in those projects that, or those topics, that have … are going to be doing the legwork. And so we’re able to tap into the experts, we’re able to tap into the people that are motivated to do research, and that’s how things are done well.

Craig: So that’s … I kind of cut you off, but that’s … The special interest groups is one part, and then the other side is the committees are the other major part.

Blake: So the committees are what’s going to bring the information from the SIGs to kind of voting and to decision making from a national governing body perspective. And that’s where the final decisions are made, but it’s with a lot of grassroots information and involvement and support that those decisions happen.

Craig: One of the more unique features of USPK is the special interest groups, the structure, the SIG structure and committees is pretty standard for an organization. Can you describe a little bit about what the roles are of committees, which is more typical of an organization and the special interests groups, which is unusual?

Frosti: In forming USPK we knew there was a few things we really cared about, that we wanted to start committees that were basically just assigning people to focus on different issues within the current sport. Everything from build standards, competition, to community building, those are all things that are built into our bylaws as standing committees that we know are important. And we want to make sure people are consistently focused on. How is this being represented in the sport right now? How are these practices being regulated throughout the country? Are people safe? Are people improving the way that this sport is growing? Are they improving the way that people can come into this? We knew that those things were going to be there, but we also knew that people have infinitely more ideas the more you add in. So, the bigger our memberships grew, the more things that people could potentially care about.

Frosti: SIGs were, special interest groups were an opportunity for the membership to say, “Hey, this is something that we care about.” If you get a few people together, and you say, “We all care about this.” Great. Start a SIG and then figure out what you can do with it. It’s everything from somebody wanting to focus on, “Hey, I care exclusively about building blocks for gyms to make the best thing for somebody to train on. I want to know how I can do this, and I want to make sure that people aren’t doing dangerous ones that are getting people hurt. People aren’t teaching bad practice.” Whatever. They care so much about this one thing, guess what? There are tons of people that care about that, too.

Frosti: Let’s get you guys together and see what happens if you guys sit in a room, even if it’s a digital room, but get your heads together and let your consciousness milkshake a little bit, but then you end up with something really unique that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Because all of those conversations would be living in a vacuum by themselves. Just within your gym. Just within your local community. Just with your team, or just with your friend. They never get a chance to expand outside that. When you take away something that separates us, and you give an opportunity to bring us closer together, I think you open up the floodgate of possibilities.

Craig: Frosti, I’ve heard people say that, “I don’t care at all about any kind of large scale organization.” And I think those people are missing a key point about the value about being involved in the thing which ends up organizing all those viewpoints. And I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on how do we convince people who have that opinion, “I don’t care about organization.” How do we convince those people that they should actually participate?

Frosti: I would say it’s a similar conversation you have with somebody who chooses not to vote because they don’t care about who’s President. I would say to that person, “Yeah, you don’t care until you care.” And usually, at that point, it’s too late to do anything about it. If you don’t care right now, that means you’re happy that things are going well, and you like the way things are, but they’re not gonna stay this way. Things are going to change, they are changing right now, and if you don’t take this opportunity to become involved, to start caring about where things are headed, then you’re going to lose your opportunity to have a say, and a voice come time for things to change.

Mark: I think that it can be very easy as an individual practitioner to not feel connected to a governing body or not feel connected to a need for a governing body. I think that if I’m 14 years old and I’m basically out a training with a bunch of my friends and enjoying that training and exploration, then I don’t really want to be governed and I don’t suspect that anybody in USPK that’s what we want to govern is to tell you what to train or how to train or when.

Mark: I think what happens though is you do that and then you grow up to love movement and then you want to coach movement when you’re 18 and you want to help other people. And I think that there are battles brewing that are so much bigger than most people understand. And I’m going to name two and most of this revolves in the CrossFit world, but people don’t know about these battles. There is the National Strength and Conditioning Association is being sued by CrossFit for publishing false information about crossfit. So that NSCA could say people need our certification, not the CrossFit certification, so that is actually a massive lawsuit. That’s one concrete example.

Mark: Another concrete example is that Coca Cola is actually pushing that any exercise facility trainer would have to get a medical professional license. It’s actually in the interest of Coca Cola for people not to teach people to be healthy and they have billions of dollars and they are literally throwing their billions of dollars at this issue by standing on the side of legislation, which may say in order for somebody to dispense exercise, they are dispensing medical information and they need a medical practitioner’s license. And if that doesn’t scare you then you didn’t hear what I just said.

Mark: Finally in that same vein, Coca Cola paid a medical doctor to say that you don’t need to exercise more … Oh sorry. That you don’t need to drink less Coca Cola you need to exercise more so you are fine drinking to Coca Colas a day as long as you exercise more. And a medical doctor with a license has gone on record saying this because obviously they were paid by Coca Cola to do so. So should parkour fall into the hands of the medical world and suddenly any form of exercise is a medical prescription. That is something that I personally don’t want to see and I don’t think anyone who practices parkour would want to see either.

Craig: Caitlin, if I can play devils advocate for a second. If I don’t care at all about competition, or a larger government structure, if I just wanna train, why should I even pay attention? Why should I join?

Caitlin: Even if you don’t wanna be directly involved, if you care about parkour being developed and led, by people who do parkour and actually understand the discipline, and are attached and involved in the community, you should become a member, whether you’re a parent or a student, or somebody experiencing, parkour in the periphery. There is so much benefit to having parkour led by parkour people.

Amos: There may be a lot of people out there who just think that I don’t care about any of this. I’m happy training outside. I don’t care what happens to parkour internationally, whatnot. And I maybe had a little bit of that sentiment many years ago as well but the fact is none of us are an island. And eventually, you’re going to start to see whether you want to work in this industry, which I’m definitely very entrenched at this point owning businesses and doing online content and whatnot. You’re going to find out finally that if you really want to be involved in this it’s going to be important which direction it goes. And it’s going to directly affect you.

Amos: And then also in other ways just like the way people treat you on the street, like you think you’re just alone you’re not a part of any of this but the way people tell you to get off property and actually ruin your training session, you’re about to do something you really wanted to do but because of the public image of parkour and some of the, maybe if it went in a terrible direction, if people see you as a skater everywhere you go, you’re going to see that backlash. As opposed to in Boulder, we’ve done a lot of work to inform the greater community through outreach and events and education. And it’s really cool because here people see us almost as local heroes. They’re not like, “Hey you skater, get off that.” They’re more like, “Whoa, that’s really cool,” and they’ll stand and watch, they’ll ask you questions. And if you want that positive experience, you’ve got to have on a large scale a positive direction. And that’s what USPK offers is a positive direction for this discipline.

Craig: I suspect that the biggest challenge with this is like, “What is the next step?” So you spent a great deal of time working on the ideas for what the organization would look like, and then you implement those ideas, but when you talk to someone and they say, “Oh, that’s very interesting,” and then there’s a pause. And so like what is the next literal step that people, if you’re within the sound of my voice, you should go and do?

Blake: Yeah. The next big thing is building the membership. And this is the part I’m super excited about. We spent over a year doing the bylaws, doing the kind of nitty gritty paperwork. And to me, this is the part that I’m excited for is to get out on the streets and talk to the community and get people to sign up, get parents to sign up, get kids to sign up, get practitioners, lead athletes, coaches, everybody. And so I think the big ask from a lot of levels is to build that momentum. So coaches should be talking to their students and the parents of students and the children of students-

Craig: Right and beginning to champion …

Blake: And really getting people involved, because this is a grassroots opportunity that we have to really make a difference in our sport and to be heard. And this is really important. And it’s also where we see, historically, where I think the parkour community is at its strongest, when we have a cause and we’re rallying around it and we’re kind of in this common spirit of shared effort. The parkour community is a very tight knit community, and that’s what makes us strong. And I think this is where we can show that.

Craig: For those people listening, it’s not exactly clear when we’d be able to release these episodes, we have to get them all recorded and edited together, so I can’t say like exactly on what date you will be listening, but, Blake, I understand that there is a sunrise period, which I think is going to correspond pretty close. So there’s a few months, there’s two or three months, it depends on when the podcast comes out. There’s a period of several months where there’s a sunrise period in effect. Can you just walk me through a little bit like when I join in sunrise period, what are the extra benefits that I get there?

Blake: Yeah, so normally when somebody joins USPK as a member, there’s a probationary period where they can’t exercise, initially, the full powers of a member. And that’s set up to protect the organization from takeover. Within the first few months, the goal of the sunrise period is to really kickstart the organization, get people up and use the energy and the passion that we’re tapping into for the community at large to get everything moving. So starting the special interest groups, forming committees, really building the strong foundation that the rest of the organization is going to be kind of really built upon. And to be able to do that, we just need to make sure that people are able to use their power.

Craig: Yeah, get right on board and then immediately be a full member …

Blake: And we want to obviously encourage people to join up sooner rather than later. You can’t have an impact if you’re not part of the organization. And so just watching on the sidelines for two years is not nearly as effective as joining and being part of it for two years.

Craig: Frosti, what do you see as the current biggest hurdle? What are you guys really working on now? What’s your biggest ask, you would say?

Frosti: Right now, I would say our biggest hurdle is individuals. Thinking about their own personal trajectory, and forgetting that the community’s direction and where it goes, is going to dictate so much about what opportunities and what their future is going to look like. Right now, USPK is really trying to set up to grow its membership so that they can start telling us what they want. Because right now, those voices are sort of going off one at a time in a Facebook post where they’re pissed off about something or an Instagram story where they mention an idea that goes away after 24 hours.

Frosti: It’s so quick, and it’s so fast, and it’s so scattered, that I think it hasn’t had a chance to really come together. I know the energy is there, I know that people care about these things. I just want them to recognize, if they can come together in one place, and care together, then they’re all going to get more of what they want. So, right now, I think the biggest shift is helping people understand how this affects them personally. Cause I think that’s the only way you can invite them to create change in their own life.

Craig: USPK is looking at getting started, getting spun off and getting people engaged. So one of the most important things is to have a specific ask for people. So what’s the biggest thing that people could do right now?

Mark: I think it’s very important for people to realize the drowning on a crowded beach syndrome. A person is actually more likely to drown on a crowded beach because everyone on the beach, will say, “Oh, somebody else is going to go in and save that person”, and everybody stands there and the person drowns. And I really don’t want to see parkour drown because everybody expect somebody else to take the reins. Everybody expect somebody else to be in charge. Everybody expects that it’s somehow just going to be protected or cared for or organized or taken care of. That’s you. That’s every single person who can hear this and every single person that’s in parkour and surrounded by parkour, that’s you. We need your voice. We need you to be a part of this because nobody’s going to do it if you don’t. If you look to your left and you look to your right and say, “They’re going to do it” well, and they do that too, then the ball just hits the ground with a resounding thud.

Craig: If you’re interested in becoming a member or learning more about USPK, go to uspk.org. You can also reach out to any of the transition board members through their social media, and you can join the USPK group on Facebook. This was episode 73. For more information go to moversmindset.com/73. Would you like to hear form us more often? Join our free email list, no strings attached. Go to moversmindset.com/email. And I’ll leave you with a final though from Doulas Addams:

The world is a thing of utter inordinate complexity and richness and strangeness that is absolutely awesome. I mean the idea that such complexity can arise not only out of such simplicity, but probably absolutely out of nothing, is the most fabulous extraordinary idea. And once you get some kind of inkling of how that might have happened, it’s just wonderful. And, the opportunity to spend 70 or 80 years of your life in such a universe is time well spent as far as I’m concerned.

Thanks for listening!