Large group vs. small group meetings
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 95 16:58 CST
I am interested in ideas about where and how to draw boundaries between 
what is discussed and decided in whole group (large group) meetings and 
what is discussed and decided in small group (committee or board) 
meetings.  I am also interested in alternatives to large group meetings 
for decision making.

In my own community the boundary is yet to be well defined.  Sometimes 
we spend large group meetings dealing with tasks which would be better 
suited to a small group wasting considerable  time. Any ideas about 
criteria to use to determine the format for the decision?

Typically our process works like this.  An issue is taken up by a small 
group, they work out details, gather information and make a best 
recommendation to the large group who then discusses it further and 
then adopts it or sends it back to the small group for reworking.  
Small groups sometimes send out paper surveys to gather feedback from 
the whole group or drafts of proposals for feedback.

One thing I would like to figure out is how to let committees or task 
forces  just make decisions without having to go through the large 
group discussion.  Ideas about what sorts of things should be large 
group approved?

One radical side of me wants to propose that we do away with large 
group meetings entirely and only make decisions in small groups - 
assuming that all members are notified of the  agenda in advance and 
have access to all the minutes and notes.  In my experience thus far, 
large group meetings are the least productive of the  formats we use.  
I agree that holding gatherings for everyone is important and good, it 
just seems with 28 people all discussing things it is not a good format 
for making decisions or even having discussions.  Typically out of 28 
people, maybe only 10 really care about any given issue.  So why not 
let the 10 who really care about it meet and figure it out?  Granted, 
Sharingwood is pretty much settled and done. I mean once everything is 
built and all why have large group business meetings?  I'd rather spend 
large group time doing social bonding and fun stuff.

We sometimes use a paper consensus form that is passed around the 
community which has the issue clearly stated and a range of reply 
options such as YES! OK, Well I guess so, I need to talk about this, I 
don't think so,  NO!
Using this process and having anyone who replies with the last three 
responses above meet with the proposers of the issue  couldn't resolve 
most of the issues a settled community has to deal with.

Rob Sandelin
Preparing  myself  for a weekend marathon of meetings.

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