Let's say you don't like something about your local dance. Perhaps
you'd like to see gender free calling, a different approach to booking
bands, a new kind of special event, or something else. How can you
make this happen?
The best case is that you talk to the organizers, they say "what a
great idea!" and handle the rest, but it rarely works this way. 
Maybe the organizers have a different background and don't understand
why you think your ideas would be an improvement. Maybe your ideas
would be more work, at least at first, and they're feeling overworked
with what they're doing already. Maybe the ideas take longer to
explain than you can get in during conversations at the break. When
this works, it's the least difficult, but for anything tricky it seems
to me like it usually doesn't.
Here are three things, however, that I have seen work well:
Start helping out. Come early and set up, stay late and clean
up, offer to help take money at the door. By doing this work you
demonstrate a commitment to the community and to the dance, you learn
what's involved in running the dance, and you build trust with the
current organizers. Then ask about joining the organizing committee.
While trusting you to arrive early and unlock the building doesn't
seem like it should translate into trusting your view on questions
like whether the dance should book more newer callers, it does seem to
work that way. I think some of this is that doing the work to make
something happen builds ownership, which gets people to make
thoughtful decisions that are better for the long-term health of the
Build consensus. Say you and your friends are all on board with
gender-free bathrooms, but a lot of other dancers are uneasy about
them. If you had a vote you'd probably be in the minority, and if you
were able to change things by fiat you'd have a lot of unhappy dancers
and maybe a revolt. How can you get to where this wouldn't be a
controversial change anymore? Friendly one-on-one conversations can
go a long way here, especially when people can convey a perspective
someone hasn't considered much before. Listen, figure out why other
people feel the way they do, share why you see it differently. This
can be a lot of work, and the work of, in this example, building
consensus on gender free bathrooms will mostly fall fall on trans and
gender non-conforming dancers if you're not careful. So if you're not
directly impacted by something, talk to those that are about what help
is needed. As the idea moves towards the mainstream of the community,
most organizers will see that and go from "maybe we should do that,
but the dancers wouldn't like it" to "sounds like this is what people
Start something new. Sometimes what you're looking for is
different enough from the existing event that trying to change it
makes less sense than starting your own. Find other people to start
it with you who have a similar perspective, put a bunch of thought
into how you'd like things to be different, and don't be afraid to try
approaches you don't see at other dances. When this goes well the new
event expands the community by pulling in a new crowd of people and
builds a more robust scene. The existing organizers will probably
worry that the current community isn't big enough to support an
additional event, and if you mostly just split the existing community
then they may be right. Actively recruit from places the existing
event doesn't, run different kinds of publicity that fit what makes
your dance different, pull in new circles.
Which of these approaches makes the best sense for you in your
particular situation will vary, but volunteering to help out with the
dance is often a good place to start.
 I'm writing this as general advice, and I'm not trying to say "don't
talk to me about BIDA". If you have thoughts about BIDA please let me
know, and I'd be happy to talk to you about how the dance can be better.
Comment via: facebook
The secret of this post is that it's not about dance at all.
How do you distinguish between entryism and other forms of in-group politicking? I thought "entryism" is when actors who don't already have a stake in a group, seek to join the group and gain power in it, in order to "turn" it for their agenda (which is unrelated to the purpose of the group). But I read the OP as talking about existing members of the group pursuing an agenda that's genuinely relevant to the purpose of the group.
Unsurprisingly, there may be a Sorites problem here—if you were already a casual member of the dancing club, and suddenly decide to become more involved because of your interest in Society-wide bathroom convention reform, that's a lot like entryism even if it's not the "pure" case.
Yeah, it feels hard to distinguish "bringing in more interested members" from "bringing in more interested members that agree with you."
they had a popular vote go against them
they had a popular vote go against them
I wrote "If you had a vote you'd probably be in the minority". To take this specific example, we publicly planned a vote, saw that this was overwhelmingly preferred, and decided to switch. But if we had had the vote five years earlier I think we probably would have had different results.
Everyone I can think of who is pushing for the examples I gave in the post was a dancer before they started having that belief. Contra dance is far too niche for it to be worth anyone's while to try to come in from outside as a non-dancer and change it to be more the way they want.