§ 14.12 - Experiences to Date With Volunteers

The purpose of a lot of what I have written below is meant to guide people who are truly willing to help out, and to save us all a lot of wasted time.

If you don't really have time to help out but would like to send some money to support our activities, then please see our Budget page.

If you don't want to be hit up for money, but are willing to commit some time to help out, then you are welcome, too! We generally don't hit up people for money. However, please read this section first.

Notably, when I lived in Washington, D.C., for about 10 years (1985-1994), I gained a lot of experience working in the following areas:

While in Asia from 1994 to date (2004), I've been doing the latter three, especially private consulting to a variety of large multinationals involved in engineering, construction and commercial development.

Suffice it to say that I have a lot of experience working with a wide range of people -- humanistic volunteers, ordinary employees, consultants, project managers, and CEOs -- for a great variety of entities.

In short, I am realistic about volunteers, employees (who I hire very carefully now!), contractors and strategic partners.

Volunteer Reliability

In helping out other organizations, I learned early on that the vast majority of volunteers are unreliable. This has proven true with PERMANENT, too. It's important to tell the difference between a volunteer with transient enthusiasm "at the moment" vs. a volunteer with stable real life values, interests, spiritual committment and self-discipline.

One can waste a lot of time on recruiting and managing volunteers, and that must be weighed against using that same time just doing things oneself. You can get much more done yourself, at a higher spec of quality, than trying to manage the wrong kinds of volunteers.

On the other hand, a few real good people can make a great difference. Real good people are few and far between. PERMANENT has benefitted tremendously from about 2 dozen real good volunteers over the past 10 years. An organization like PERMANENT will not get far without a good team.

In contrast, there have been hundreds who did little more than waste our time as they enthusiastically volunteered to do things, sometimes emailing at length, and then just disappeared when it came time to actually do some work. Talk is easy. Unfortunately, they wasted our time with their talk.

There have also been several dozen who have made small contributions which we appreciate. These good peoples deeds matched their talk. We understand that a lot of people don't have a lot of spare time. What is important is matching peoples capabilities and available time to helping us with particular steps. (See "Volunteer Usefulness" below.)

When someone first contacts us, we must determine if they are interested just "at the moment" (regardless of their stated lofty goals). The internet is a reactionary medium, and after PERMANENT stops being new and cool to them, there is always lots of other stuff they can mouse onwards to, more consumption of the internet (without any useful production of their own).

PERMANENT is about proactive creation and implementation.

Organizations stick together due to a combination of shared values, shared interests, and social interactions among members. Individuals in our group have developed strong bonds to each other which will usually last the rest of our lives. Some of us disappear from time to time, as we understand that it's important for each of us to take time off for one's family, work situations, vacation, and other things from time to time.

Nevertheless, we are making history together, building the future in many small steps. We know that in the future we will look back on this time and say "Remember when we were just getting started?" Everyone wants on the boat after you're already great, but who was doing the ground work to get us there in the first place, vs. who only talked? The difference between the two is all the difference in the world.

Volunteer Usefulness

You don't need to be a scientist or have deep pockets. If you are truly committed, then contact us. You may be surprised at the kinds of useful things you can do for PERMANENT. Those who pass the first test of reliability (above) almost always pass the second test of usefulness.

You can see many non-technical things our of our "To Do" list elsewhere on this website.

I get quite a bit of e-mail regarding PERMANENT. Let me say how I categorize most of the inquiries:

I'd rather have peoples' time and effort than their money. However, there are many people who have no time or skill to contribute but have money, so perhaps some kind of subscriptions service should be put together by someone willing to perform this role for PERMANENT. The money certainly could help.

I have a monthly budget for PERMANENT, e.g., ordering technical papers by mail (the big expense, since I'm in Asia and the sources are in the USA), the website's monthly fee, and various operating expenses. Purchases are delayed from time to time. With public relations efforts coming up, expenses are sure to increase, and I don't want any volunteer to be out of pocket. Subscribers can help, but then we must provide decent subscription services. I'm up for suggestions along these lines.

Worth mentioning are volunteers who get involved but don't maintain focus. If a volunteer is fairly new to space, they may take an initial interest in PERMANENT but then get interested in other things such as the science of distant stars or somesuch. Those are interesting topics to read about and sometimes discuss, but PERMANENT is not interested in addressing those topics on the website because they are well outside our focus. PERMANENT is focused on getting mankind off the planet by commercial utilization of asteroids near Earth and the Moon.

Most successful organizations are successful because of a few core people who provide key leadership.

PERMANENT Overhead

PERMANENT is maintaining a low cost (low overhead) operation until investors get serious. Too many organizations become fundraising machines, at a partial loss of focus and vision. Some get a case of financial burnout. I'd rather PERMANENT go slowly and be sustainable than go fast and be a flash in the pan. It would be nice if we could go faster without major committments of money by using volunteers, or else get a major supporter. Until more help comes, we must schedule priorities very carefully.

Vital tasks are often performed by fulltime staff of the PERMANENT founder's business, and also time-proven volunteers.

It's worth noting that from 1983 to date, the vast majority of PERMANENT's expenses have been carried by one individual -- me. Likewise, nearly the same amount of the high level work on PERMANENT has been done by one person -- me (though I consult with many other highly skilled professionals on tap periodically who give inputs which I then customize for PERMANENT).

I've been a consultant for more than 15 years largely so that I can work on PERMANENT -- consulting gives me more free time and flexibility in schedule. (Before that, when I worked fulltime, it was a few select evenings and weekend days when I had the energy and time.) Sometimes, I work on a few projects for money and do PERMANENT in my free time. Other times, I have done PERMANENT and then took breaks by going out and cashing up on work. Other people do other things in their free time, but I gravitate to doing PERMANENT.

Currently, I and my wife run a small company, Export Quality Services Co., Ltd., in Nonthaburi, Thailand, a suburb of Bangkok near the Asia Institute of Technology and Software Park. We do internet marketing, web design, internet research and translation services. (My wife was previously a journalist.)

As needed, we can allocate salaried staff for PERMANENT related tasks. Since they are paid, the tasks get done completely and on time, to a professional standard. This doubles as real office space in Asia for PERMANENT, and keep our paper library as well as our databases at our office. We don't charge anything to PERMANENT. It is free to PERMANENT.

Money that comes into PERMANENT is spent on expansion of PERMANENT.

PERMANENT's Core People

A few of the core PERMANENT people are in the PERMANENT office or live nearby. However, the vast majority are spread around the world and collaborate via internet.

PERMANENT has diverse kinds of people, all good people morally but diverse in such ways as lifestyle, occupation, religion or philosophy, and culture, and are in numerous countries.

As an organization, we may have little appeal to trendy, conformist people, and indeed the latter kinds of people may be uncomfortable with a space colonization advocacy group anyway. One chuckle by a peer and the conformist is gone, and thus not a stable volunteer. There are lots of trendy jokers out there who aren't serious about life and get an egotistic charge out of poking fun at others who are, often trying to put themselves up by undercutting others rather than building up others' best interests. Nevertheless, the reasonable nonconformists among us are rock solid. Remember the ancient Chinese proverb: "He who laughs last laughs longest." History will tell, and separate the shortsighted from the longsighted. Let others go down in the digital historical record as they will...

Many people are materialistic. There's nothing wrong with wanting comforts and conveniences, but the question is how much is really enough, and what other values does one have in life? Our natural instincts, materialistic intimates and the consumerist society in general can easily sway many (if not most) of us into thinking we "need" all kinds of things. People like this who have contacted PERMANENT have apparently done so in seeking something new and different, but have never stuck with PERMANENT for long. By the way, PERMANENT stock is not for sale and you can't own PERMANENT in your trophy case, though you can own the book and a membership. We're also not interested in huckster ways of making a quick buck off PERMANENT. Only people whose values are well recognized may represent PERMANENT.

I hope this gives some idea of the kinds of people PERMANENT is, and is not, willing to spend time on and consider as serious colleagues within the organization.


There are precious few things that are "permanent". Change is permanent. Practically all else you know today is impermanent. One must understand impermanence for spiritual growth. -- paraphrasing Buddhist understanding


This page was last updated: March 2004

Copyright © 1983-2004 by Mark Prado, All Rights Reserved except where specifically stated otherwise.
Source: www.permanent.com


Projects to Employ Resources of the Moon and Asteroids Near Earth in the Near Term