The Masonic Roundtable is one of the better Masonic podcasts; if you haven’t listened to it before, I recommend it. One of their most recent episodes deals with a new project launched called Data Driven Masonry, which is devoted to collecting & organizing public information about Masonry.
This post is about why we would want a project like that, and what we can do with this great idea.
What do we want to know?
Data gives us the opportunity to get answers to the questions we’ve already had for a long time.
- What kind of social events work best to be visible in the community?
- Is it better to insist on the traditional method or offer one-day conferrals? Which should be emphasized?
- What’s the best way to get non-dues paying members who have elapsed to come back?
There are many opinions about those questions. Here’s the problem:
“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”W. Edwards Deming
It is increasingly important that we get the right answer, and the best answers – not just any answer.
Local lodges differ, but the overall picture for US Masonry is grim. The picture below is current reality with projections of what might be coming. In 2 possible futures, US Masonry drops to zero membership by 2040.
Yes, yes – I hear it all the time, “Freemasonry can’t die, we’re just retrenching”. It will just shrink and become more focused, right? Well to this I would answer: how do you know and where is your data that leads you to such rosy predictions? It’s all gut feel.
The situation is worse than the down-sloping line makes it seem. 1924 is an example year, prior to the post-war boom in membership. 3 million masons in a population of 106 million meant that almost 3% of the US was a Mason. In 2010 – there were 1.2 million masons in 308 million people, or 0.3% of the population. In other words: our membership is down two-thirds, but our representation is down nine tenths.
A project to gather data and understanding better what works and what doesn’t is valuable; brothers who have this data will be in a better position than many to whisper good counsel into our Grand Lodge leadership’s ears.
What to Do Next
Data Driven Masonry as a project is still forming. They have created a Facebook Group where people can participate & discuss, with some ground rules. Because Masonry is local, there is a structure evolving that involves finding captains and leaders for jurisdictions to assist in location of data.
- The Masonic Roundtable Episode 210: Data Driven Masonry
- Data Driven Masonry
- The Revelation: A Critical Analysis of Masonic Demographics by Jon Ruark