Re: Planning the Agenda for the Meetings
From: Martie Weatherly (
Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2002 13:33:09 -0600 (MDT)
In Liberty Village, our facilitation team ( which includes all the
people who facilitate meetings) also decides the agenda. Our Pathways to
Consensus includes the different ways an issue comes to the agenda for
discussion or decision. It always comes through a team and is always
defined as being for workshop, discussion, feedback, reporting or
proposal. Frequently, on a large difficult issue, we only take a piece
of it for the agenda, keeping us from long, tiring difficult meetings.   

At the end of each meeting, we read what issues need to be addressed on
the agenda for the next meeting. We also refer to our timeline with
stickies for various issues that were decided at our semiannual planning
meeting, and often see issues that should be addressed from that. 

Five days before the meeting, the facilitation team meets to plan the
meeting. The facilitator puts out a call for agenda items. We usually
don't get answers so we end up checking with each team, but we pretty
well can tell where the issues are that need addressing. Two to three
days before the meeting, the facilitator puts out the agenda.

At the beginning of the meeting, we review the agenda, which does not
have times for the items, and prioritize them and take the most
important first. The facilitators clearly work for the community and do
not make unilateral decisions. We guide the group to accomplish what it

After trying different ways over the years, we have found that this
works best.

Martie Weatherly, Liberty Village

PS Some people asked for our Pathways to Consensus document. I will
discuss today if we can get that on the web.  

Sharon Villines wrote:
> > 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
> --
> 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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