Re: Planning the Agenda for the Meetings
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 27 Apr 2002 15:38:06 -0600 (MDT)
> I'm wondering how much time it takes people to plan the agenda for the
> general meeting. We've recently decided to have a faciliation team.  This
> group has been planning the agenda for each meeting.  They also choose who
> will facilitate the meeting.  However, the main focus for this group was
> originally supposed to be to help facilitators develop their skills to help
> make meetings run well.

I find it interesting that in all the organizations I've been a part of the
question of agenda planning was never discussed. In cohousing it is a major
time consuming and angst producing activity that creates great gulfs of
unhappiness. After two years of watching it and trying to get a grip on it,
I still don't understand why.

I'm used to people from various committees or individuals with something to
say, asking for time and being put on the agenda. The Secretary is
responsible for making the list, checking it twice, making sure the people
presenting have consulted the proper committees (if there are such), and
presenting it to the person running the meeting. Presenters may be asked
questions about the readiness of their proposal or whatever, but people
rarely ask to be on the agenda when it is not appropriate.

In cohousing we go through this agonizing process of teams sending reps to
the board to say that they want to discuss or present such and such, the
board discusses whether it is ready and if there is time on the agenda. The
Board makes a list of the items, gives it to the facilitation team, who
gives it to the facilitators for the meeting. The facilitators may or may
not be on the facilitation team. Members of the facilitation team work with
the facilitators on ways to run the meeting. The facilitators contact each
of the presenters to be sure they are ready to present and to understand all
the issues and the potential issues. They often walk through various
scenarios with them.

This is before we even get to the meeting. Hours and hours!

Meetings are grueling and lockstep. There is never time for just plain old
discussion. A recent meeting was very pleasant but we had restricted
discussion to two topics for a 2 hour meeting and they were not new topics.

Decision making is very hard, no matter how you slice it. Sometimes I think
we are spending too much effort on trying to make it easier by having a
better process instead of just confronting the issues and making a decision.

But I'm not sure what is going on. I do know it takes far too much time and
there are far too few people in the group to sustain all the levels of
training and discussion that go on.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Our facilitation team also wants to do training -- their name is actually
Training & Development.

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