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What’s the Point of Keep Bridge Alive?

I started to write this as a reply to some of the comments on recent threads where some seem to be assuming that the Keep Bridge Alive (KBA) campaign is not worthwhile and will not make a difference to the future of the bridge community. It became a long piece so I’m posting separately at the risk of KBA overload, but I am passionate about this and really believe it is something worth trying that has not been done before.

For the profile of bridge to be raised in society we need to promote the game more widely and prove the benefits of bridge. I'm not claiming I have the only solution, but I am offering something that is different, including extremely good value bridge research. The research is cost effective as it is heavily subsidised by the University of Stirling in the UK. The money raised from KBA is to pay researchers to do the work alongside me, but no money will be used to cover my time as a professor, nor administrative costs, nor overheads because Stirling is keen to support this work and establish a new academic field of the Sociology of Bridge, which currently doesn't exist.

Given my previous academic track record as a sociologist specialising in childhood, youth, family and inter-generational relations, the University of Stirling is also confident that if the Crowdfund campaign (which they have set up) is successful then future, much larger, bridge projects will follow.

This Keep Bridge Alive work builds on my previous research with the partnership of EBED and the University of Stirling, which includes a survey with 7,000 bridge players, which was compared with 10,000 non-bridge players. I have also conducted 52 in-depth interviews (on average two hours each) with top male and female bridge players in the UK, Europe and USA, aged 18 to 79. This wealth of existing data is ready for further analysis, links to be made with relevant theories and literature, in order to write peer-reviewed academic papers to establish the credibility of the new sociological field. Accessible outputs based on the findings will be freely available worldwide and could be translated into other languages.

This new Sociology of Bridge research team will explore interactions within bridge regarding well-being, skill development, healthy aging and social connection. We will also produce a library of materials aimed at different audiences, including schools, parents, employers and policy-makers, to encourage growth of the game and help shift the image of bridge. Ultimately we aim to launch a global collaborative research project focussing on the benefits that bridge contributes to health and well-being, leading to the long-term sustainability of the mind sport.

Hence KBA is also about building a collaborative partnership with other academic disciplines and organisations across the world (such as Alzheimers and others interested in healthy ageing and combating social isolation, as well as those keen to promote youth bridge and transferable and life skills). Once we have the evidence of the benefits of bridge for players of all ages, the second phase will be for the global KBA partnership to apply for a large multi-partner, multi-country, multi-disciplinary project (via research bodies). This is likely to cost 1+US$ million and be around 4 years in length as it will include rolling out the existing best practise as well as KBA solutions that are developed as a result of the Keep Bridge Alive initiative.

Yes this is ambitious, but if KBA meets its target, I'm prepared to dedicate the remaining 15 years of my academic career to bridge projects (and academia nowadays is all about practical impact, not just research for scholarly papers but making a real difference in society). However, if this initial phase of asking bridge players to support KBA is not successful then I’m not sure how I’m going to convince non-bridge players and large funding bodies to get behind it and invest in bridge.

So far the campaign is indicative of the struggle to Keep Bridge Alive because some are quite sceptical and negative about this innovative approach which is trying to get people to come together across the world to tackle the declining bridge population.

If KBA cannot get more people to care about the future of the bridge community by donating as little as 10 dollars each, then KBA itself will struggle to stay alive! I do think that would be a huge missed opportunity as I’m certain that good can come out of this. For example, as part of this KBA work, we set up a new University of Stirling Bridge Club and within 3 months we have 30 signed up members and four regular tables each week. Part of the KBA work will be to draw on other university experiences around the world and write a report on what works well and the challenges of establishing and sustaining university bridge clubs.

I have also written to all WBF zonal areas and to most National Bridge Organisations worldwide (including the ACBL) to ask for KBA support and donations, but am waiting for most of their responses. However, it is important to have as many contributors from as many countries as possible (individual players, clubs and bridge organisations) as this will not only enable the work to be done, but will give weight to future large funding proposals if we can show that the bridge world cares about its own future.

I’m flying out to Memphis next week to promote the fundraising campaign and am hopeful that bridge players at the Spring National will support Keep Bridge Alive. Of course whilst everyone’s personal circumstances and ability to help differ, I do hope that you may share the KBA campaign with your bridge clubs and encourage donations as well as asking them to promote the campaign?

I shall be bringing campaign materials with me as well as posting regularly on social media so you can see what US players say about why we should Keep Bridge Alive (see my Facebook page or Twitter: @soc_of_bridge). If anybody would like to meet with me for a coffee in Memphis to discuss the campaign further please message me or email s.v.punch@stir.ac.uk

The campaign is off to a good start with nearly 17,000 US$ raised to date (of our 59K target), however we still have a long way to go and really do hope the global bridge community will get behind this campaign. The Crowdfunder accepts credit cards so they make the conversion from Pounds Sterling to Dollars (or another currency) - £10 (pounds sterling) is about 13 US dollars; 20 dollars is approximately £15. If you select the amount you want to donate in pounds, it will convert that on your credit card in dollars.

Every dollar counts, and I am confident that if we reach our target this will be the start of us working together to make a huge difference to the future of our bridge world: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/u5c0e5e7810869

Thank you for your consideration, understanding and support. As David Burn says:‘If you Keep Bridge Alive, it will do the same for you.’

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