Re: Meeting strategies
From: Rob Sandelin (robsanmicrosoft.com)
Date: Fri, 3 Jun 94 14:00 CDT
Judy Baxter asked: By the way, how does your group do meetings?

Sharingwood has a general meeting once a month of  20-25 people and 
several smaller committee and task force meetings which occur weekly, 
bi-weekly or whenever needed. Meeting agendas are published in our 
monthly newsletter the Sharingword.  We start with a check-in.  We have 
a communications and process committee in charge of coming up with the 
check-in and it varies each meeting.  Last  month we did a short mime 
of how we were feeling, the month before we sang our names, 
individually and collectively.  Sometimes we just go around with a 
brief what's up with me sort of thing.  Check in takes between 5 and 15 
minutes depending on what the task is.

The meeting roles we use are facilitator, vibes watcher, time keeper 
and scribe. The vibes watcher is in charge of keeping an eye on how 
people are being treated and what sort of non-verbal things are going 
on in the meeting. They advise the facilitator of any observations 
which may affect the meeting and at the end they also point out any 
observations for the whole group to be aware of.

We start out with an agenda review and then move into announcements. 
Agenda review is done with the idea of evaluating each item as a large 
group process issue or not. The agenda is open and anyone can add 
things although usually the board sets most of the agenda.  Often 
things get punted to task forces or committees from this.  For example 
a couple of meetings ago  we moved the mailboxes. Rather than spend 
large group time on it the facilitator called for a DTF (Disappearing 
Task Force) people who cared about the mail boxes or wanted to help 
raised their hands, a convenor volunteered and the item was removed 
from the agenda. Took maybe 30 seconds of large group time. The task 
force met, talked over the issue, and completed the task.  Our goal 
with large group meeting time is to only focus on information exchange 
from small group to large group and issues which need the input of 
everyone such as brainstorming policy ideas or approval of small group 
initiatives. Small groups are empowered to do a lot of the detail stuff.

After agenda review  comes reports from committees.  Typically these 
take up the first 1/2 hour of the meeting. These are information 
exchange sessions and are both verbal and have minutes posted.

Then we work through the agenda items, with the facilitator setting 
priority of which items based on time needed and feedback from the 
group on importance. The facilitator continually checks the progress of 
the group, summarizing and determines which process to use for which 
item.  We usually have about 60 to 90 minutes of things on the agenda 
and each item has an assigned time by the facilitator. The time keeper 
advises us on how much time we have spent on an item or if we run over. 
 The facilitator evaluates our progress on items and sometimes we will 
stop work on one thing and punt it to the next meeting if it is not 
finished in order to get to another item.

There are many subtle group dynamic things which happen which affect 
the meeting process and these are too numerous and hard to explain to 
detail here.  Another posting sometime?

Meeting closure, like meeting openings varies month to month. One of 
our favorite closures is an appreciation's circle where we all give 
recognition to the work others have done and say thank you's. It 
usually takes 10 minutes or so to close.

In the afternoon of general meeting day we have a Sharing Circle 
meeting.  In this meeting people can talk about whatever is on their 
mind that might be bothering them, and usually there is some kind of 
sharing of self. Topics for sharing have included: why did you come to 
live here, I want Sharingwood to be a place where..., I really 
admire..., What I do at work all day, Stories from childhood. The 
sharing circle is not open to visitors.  Usually get about 10-12 at 
this meeting, occasionally more.  There are no expectations of 
attending this and those who don't like the "touchy-feely" stuff 
typically don't.  The regular core which does this has grown very close 
and uses behavioral feedback language more than those who do not.

During the sharing circle time is the kids meeting, which is 
facilitated by one adult.  The kids set the agenda, although often 
adults have initiated the ideas. Every kid over 5 is expected to attend 
the kids meeting and actually  all the kids usually attend (even the 
two year olds)

Typically on meeting day there are also work parties and a potluck and 
so some people spend the whole day working on community stuff. In the 
evening there is sometimes an activity such as a slide show, a video, 
sometimes even a visiting lecturer.

Small group meetings have a convenor who is charged with setting and 
publishing agendas and posting minutes.  Small groups do almost all the 
real work and handle the details.

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