The first CiviCRM user group meeting of 2011 took place on Thursday 10th February at the Create Centre in Bristol, the first in a while, but with several more programmed in for the coming year to attempt to make it more of a fixture in the UK CiviCRM community. There was a pretty good distribution of consultants/implementers, and users/admins and one or two interested to find out more. One attendee had a very innovative use of the CRM, using it within the engineering industry to track equipment and its lifeline. He highlighted to us all that CiviCRM, though designed for, isn't only for not for profit organisations.
Discussed in detail were a couple of specific features of Civi and in particular Make it happen - a relatively new initiative where individuals/organisations who would like a certain development to materialise, but it's beyond their financial reach put their limited money where their mouth is, in the hope that others across the world have the same aspiration and conviction. Integration with Joomla is just one development that has been born from this. Future candidates can be seen here and it is with interest that CiviAccounts is included within the larger projects list as this was an element brought up in an interesting open source deliberation.
A substantial amount of time was addressed to the premise of the meeting itself; Dave Greenberg's “ 2011 could be the year CiviCRM reaches critical mass”. We started off a discussion about the community with some of us thinking along the lines of how can we strengthen the community but this lead into a conversation about what the community can do to strengthen CiviCRM. There was a general understanding that the more uptake of Civi, the more people there will be to offer support on the forums, the more clients there will be for the providers of commercial consultancy and support and so the more established these will become and the more competition and varied offerings there will be from this quarter. This in turn offers benefits to existing users so everyone benefits. Someone afterwards expressed some surprise to witness end-users of a product offering to promote it while potential competitors discussed ways that everyone could work together more effectively - welcome to open source.
It was generally felt that it is a good thing to have a range of training on offer as with the one day introduction and two day more in-depth offerings in March and April. It seemed most people thought this was an important part of the ecosystem and could be an important factor in the decision of some organisations to adopt a product like Civi.There was a call for more high quality online materials and perhaps webinars.
The meeting finished with diary dates being proposed for the next meetings (not agreed but watch this space) and reminders of up and coming training.