I am a member of MAFSI, WRA, and NRA (restaurant, not rifle). I will earn CPMR and CSP. I already earned ServSafe. Within these organizations, in the next ten years, I will hold office. Within 20, the goal is to hold national positions. I belong to the Den of Quills, I’ve aided the Secret Door Society, I drove past the Screenwriter’s Guild two days ago. Your local union is part of this, a tradition dating back to the Brotherhood after the Civil War. Which dates back to the guilds of the middle ages. Which dates back to….
Organizations, secret and otherwise, have always held society together. They have grand titles, items handed down from leader to leader, there are speeches, cocktail hours, due payments, and numerous other traditions which reach back thousands of years. Your city has them too. Most you will never talk about and no one will ever care about. But they are there, your characters will run into it, and there is a reason. Organizations make the world turn round.
Public organizations have been used in order to regulate members. They give self regulation, ethical standards, and shared information. If one member is weak, other members can come in and help them up. If an entire industry is weak, it gives the opportunity for even the stoutest rivals to rally together in order to change the tide. There are meetings, there are exchanges, there are politics on par with anything you find in government. People make moves, and even within these organizations, backstabbing and knee cutting are not out of the question.
These organizations will exist wherever there has been long standing specialization, with numerous people in the same career line in a condensed area.
When creating above board organizations, the question is why do they exist? What industry or ideal became large enough to warrant it? What such organization could the main character come in contact with or belong to? How does it hinder or help them? Perhaps your character is a merchant in a large city. Chances are, there is some council, committee, or board of oversight that is watching him. They go to him regularly and smash up his shop or steal away customers because he doesn’t belong. Maybe the rival across town is trying to besmirch the protagonist’s good name to get him kicked out. It could also just be the folks that our protagonist pays every month, goes and sits in on their meetings, and honestly it’s just part of the character. Not everything needs overwhelming purpose.
Then we have the organizations everyone loves to use. The secret organizations. SEAL Team 6, the Gestapo, Free Masons, and so on. They are less likely to align with an industry, and more likely to align with a goal or ideal. They could be running the country secretly, hitting threats no one knows about, silencing the people as boogie men, and so on. The members are varied in their experiences and walks of life, often adding new skill sets to the organization as a whole. If the organization is specialized, the skill sets will still vary to a degree, but everyone will have some skills in common. With military units this would be combat. With movers of the government, it will be political knowledge.
These organizations will exist when people are displeased with what is occurring, but their hands are tied by the public, government, or some other overwhelming force.
While your protagonist very likely runs into public organizations, unless they’re part of, or get in the cross-hairs of, a secret organization, there’s a good chance they’ll never know it exists. When you do put one in their path, make sure the organization fits a theme, some idea or goal. Figure out that goal, and who would flock to it. Were people recruited, or did they gravitate to it? Is it like looking for John Galt? Answering these questions will give you a quick idea as to who would be part of it, and how they’d function.
Organizations can also be regional or national. A few are just a city. Maybe it’s a corrupt governor who has to go. These are more common in city-states, or times where cities were not well policed by the head government. Others will span an entire nation, keeping some good of the people in mind (hopefully). A few even span many nations. Much more common in secret societies, especially in settings where there is hostility between nations, those societies which span many nations can truly influence the course of history. Just look at the Assassin Brotherhood.
Alright, last post for details! Hope you enjoyed it.