RE: Big annual meeting/mission statements
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 18:18:02 -0700 (MST)
Here is a process I have used quite a bit with existing groups of all kinds.
This works with existing groups and would need to be modified to work with a
newly forming group.

First of all what I always warn  groups  to not put down what YOU want to
happen, or things you think should be happening. Rather you want to define
the things that are happening. Later you can add to the list with what you
want or hope for. The first step is to try to define what you are actually
doing already.

Brainstorm up a list of actions which enhance a feeling of togetherness and
community. Actions are visible, provable, demonstratable. You can see if
someone makes dinner, comforts a baby, gives money to the community fund,
etc. You can't see liking each other, so liking is not an action, hugging
is. Concentrate on actions that are or have happened enough that it is not a
random thing. If somebody once two years ago hugged somebody, it probably
not a action you want to list. The goal of this list is to put down the
actions we do together which give members a feeling of

>From this list you create  categories that cover  several items that will
likely appear. Group things under these categories. To make grouping easier,
I often have participants put their actions on yellow stickies, one action
per sticky so you can move them around on a wall, or board.

Rewrite the categories to define your mission, use the actions to define the

For example, there may be several actions like recycle waste products,
sharing rides, Composting our food waste.  All these actions might go into a
category called Environmental Concerns.

Then you might write up a mission item that says something like: We are a
community that cares about the environment. We recycle, share rides, compost
our food waste.

If it is unclear how much of the community is in agreement about the
actions, then one thing I have done is to list all the actions and have
people put their names next to actions that they  are NOT willing to do. So
if one of the actions is, not owning a car, and I am unwilling to give up my
car ownership, I would put my name sticker on that item. (you can also make
NO stickers as  well but that makes the dialog harder) By doing it this way
you can accomplish three things, 1)The individual can evaluate how well they
fit in with the actions of the rest of the community, 2)the community can
gauge how much support there is for a particular action, 3) you can
accomplish both these things quickly, almost instantaneously by just looking
at the list. By doing this the opposite way, having everybody put down their
name on things that they will do, you get huge lists of names that you have
to process to see who is missing.

So, under the "no thank you" system, If 12 of 20 participants put their name
on not owning a car, then you probably should not include that in your list
of what defines environmental concerns. If only one person, or a small
number puts down their name, maybe you want to talk about it, further define
it. Maybe those folks are way out of step with the rest of the community.
You will all see that clearly.

By giving specific definitions from the actions that build your
togetherness, as well as a conceptual statement to summarize, you will come
up with a statement that is very clear.

A second round can be done with hopes and wishes. Use a statement like: I
wish we _____ and then list an action. I wish we recycled our toenails. Then
run it though the clarification  process, and see how many people do not
want to do this. If everybody is willing to recycle your toenails, no one
will put up their name, and you can add that under the category where it
makes sense.

This process seems to create very concrete missions. Some people do not like
this, they prefer much more broadly defined missions which have wide
interpretation as to meaning. I have never found the latter to be of much
value as a grounding place but that is my bias towards the practical which,
as many of you know, is what dominants my approach to this kind of stuff.

Have fun

Rob Sandelin
Sky Valley Environments  <>
Field skills training for student naturalists
Floriferous [at]

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