Core group and volunteer meetings
Regular meetings for your core group and volunteers are vital in order to take your project forward and to keep the momentum going. Meetings can provide a platform for making decisions as a group, solving problems together and forming future plans. They can also be important for connecting the team and socialising - getting together and working as a group is all part of the fun after all!
These ideas relate specifically to meetings about the day-to-day running of projects for those involved in planning, organisation and delivery, rather than for public meetings which are open to the whole community.
Click on the ideas below for practical suggestions and detailed case studies.
The format of meetings for your core group and volunteers will depend on the purpose of the meeting. A few ideas for things to consider when deciding on a meeting format include:
Separate meetings for different sub-groups. If you have a big group running a range of projects, it can make sense to have separate regular meetings for different work groups, with meetings to feed back to the wider group every month or so. It is important to keep meetings at a scale which will be effective and workable to achieve its purpose, whilst involving and engaging all the relevant people.
Venue. It can be worth trying a range of different venues to see what works best for your group. Sometimes trying a more informal location, such as a local pub or café, can be more appealing and make it feel less like ‘work’, but somewhere more quiet and private where you can focus is likely to be more appropriate for important and technical planning meetings. If people live spread out across a large area, it is a good idea to rotate the location so it doesn’t always fall to certain members of the group to travel the furthest each time.
Online access. Providing a means for those who can’t be at the meeting in person to participate is important to keep them engaged in the process and to make sure their views are taken into account. Online platforms such as Skype, Google Hangout or Omnijoin can allow you to use video calls or web conferencing for holding group meetings and catch ups. Using webcams and screen sharing features can also be useful for giving demonstrations or presenting relevant information.
Southend in Transition hold weekly video call meetings using Google Hangouts to allow group members to feedback on progress and to plan future activities together. This means of communication is especially important when members of the group cannot attend a meeting in person. Using their shared Google Drive, participants in the meeting are able to read and review documents online simultaneously during the call and research and take forward new ideas.
Activities and exercises will make your meetings more engaging. Whether it is giving everyone the opportunity to contribute their own ideas, or ensuring an aspect of socialising and group support, incorporating interactive elements will help to keep your meetings fresh and interesting.
Sharing ideas. Try asking people to write down ideas onto flip charts or big collaborative mind maps, with breakout groups exploring different themes. Post-it notes are also a great means for people to add their own thoughts – try clustering them on large sheets of paper to capture ideas and identify where people’s energy and priorities lie. Typing up the ideas generated so that you can keep a record of them and distribute them more widely can be handy.
Appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry is an approach for analysis and decision making which focuses on positive outcomes rather than potential barriers. Focussing on what has gone right in the past and what you want to achieve in the future, rather than problems that might stop you getting there, can be highly motivating for everyone involved. While not an activity or exercise in itself, principles from appreciative inquiry can be a useful way to structure your meetings or to draw out key questions to discuss as a group.
For example, when embarking on a new project, why not have a session to explore in pairs or small groups each individual’s vision for what success might look like, and what past successes they have achieved that highlight skills or steps to take to contribute towards achieving that success? By reflecting on past positive experiences and pursuing collective inquiry as a group into what is currently going well, you will be in a better position to identify future opportunities and positive solutions, whilst enjoying and appreciating the experience as it happens.
Social. Social activities provide an important balance with the serious project planning aspects of meetings and the practical day-to-day running of your project. Building in time to share food and drink and to talk together can be important to bond as a group. Why not plan your meeting over a coffee at a local café or around a shared meal, or arrange for a post-meeting pub trip?
Group support. Your core group and volunteers may be experiencing successes or challenges both inside and outside of the project. While not everyone will want to share everything, building in a regular activity into your meetings to allow group members to share any news can be a good way to provide support and to strengthen the group, and can also help you to gain an understanding of the pressures each member is currently under in order to distribute responsibilities more sympathetically.
For more ideas for activities and exercises, see the public meetings section.
Southend in Transition start their weekly meetings with everyone feeding back on how their weeks have been. This helps the group to provide mutual support and to gain an understanding of the pressures each member is currently under, enabling sympathetic distribution of responsibilities. The group also always ensures there is a social element to every core group meeting through organising a bring and share meal, and will cut short their meetings if they start to run over in order to allow time to spend quality time together. These aspects are seen to be just as important as the project planning part of the meeting, as they help to ensure everyone’s involvement is fun and sustainable, preventing burnout.