Category Archives: Meetings

Meetings, minute taking and action tracking

Element Descriptor

It’s a necessity for any organisation of more than one person to have a structured way for its members to discuss things, take decisions, decide on actions to be taken, track who is responsible for completing the actions, and progress against them. Together this set of activities may be referred to as a “management system”.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You understand the importance of having a management system and support the use of it. You can use simple tools to record, manage and track actionsYou can write and populate a basic meeting agenda, update it during the course of the meeting, and agree and record more complex and open ended actions in a helpful wayYou can, with minimal effort, produce meeting materials to support complex and involved discussions, record and track vague and imprecise actions, and remain cheerful throughoutYou always know where you and everyone else is up to with everything. Your meetings run smoothly, to time and with complete understanding on the part of every participant

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

So the causes of this not being done well is everyone’s in the groove, everyone thinks that their memory will be fine. Nobody wants to lose the thread of their conversation.

And so one of the consequences of not taking minutes well and not noting down all the actions is that half of them don’t get done, or definitely don’t get done. Even if you take minutes and notes. They still might not but that’s a separate question

This has enormous implications not just to your credibility, and my yourselves and other people, but just your morale and your ability to get things done. And so if you don’t have good ways of capturing agreed actions, and alongside that, well who is going to be responsible? What is the deadline? What is the deadline for asking for support if it’s needed, if you don’t have systems in place for that, so that very soon after a meeting finishes, people have an exact sense of what they as individuals have committed to, then you are going to lose.

So the way to fix this? Well, there are various ways. You might appoint one person to note down all the actions. And it might be someone who’s not involved in the group, but is doing you a favour and then you do the same favour for them. So it might if you know, even just become a “floater skill”. 

Alternatively, if it’s an online meeting, you can all have your action tracker spreadsheet open, and you can all have responsibility for filling in the necessary bits. And the chair can keep one eye to make sure that that’s happening. And also that actions are being assigned to individuals with deadlines, and it’s clear whether a task is being delegated or a problem is being delegated. You’ll get better at this over time. Once you’re good at it, you will impress new people, some new people with how organised you are.

But let’s not lie, there will be other people who feel intimidated. And, “gee, I came along here just to feel good about myself and feel that I was part of the solution.” If those people aren’t willing to be part of actual organised, note taking action tracking, then maybe they’re not the kind of people or at the moment, they’re not really suitable candidates to be in your core group taking on responsibilities. 

Maybe they’re just the kind of people that you would be happy to see at a meeting, at a march at a rally, but not with their hands on the controls in the cockpit. 

And again, this kind of statement is outrageous to certain kinds of people who believe that prefigurative movements must include everyone at all times at all costs. After 25 years of this so I would say to those people, gee, how’s that working out for you?

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Assessment Resources

Meetings – welcoming new folks without seeming cult-y

Element Descriptor

Old hands/regular members of social movement organisations massively underestimate how much emotional effort goes into turning up to a meeting full of people you don’t know, especially if they don’t look like you. If groups don’t have a way of making meetings welcoming (but not overdoing it, obvs), chances are the new folks will not come back. #epicfail

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
With time for preparation, and with support, you can welcome one or two people who are clearly keen and excited to be there, and who have some basic questions about how things work.You can welcome small groups of people, some of whom are keen to attend, others who have been coerced by their friends, answering both obvious and odd questions, without freaking anyone out or eating into the time of the actual meeting.You can welcome diverse individuals from a range of cultures/assumptions, who have little or no knowledge of the group, and are quite skeptical/have been dragged there forcibly, giving them the right information, in the right formats, so they feel orientated and can understand what is going on.On a moment’s notice you can help large groups of diverse individuals to figure out what is about to go on at a relatively complicated and ambiguous meeting, fielding awkward and even hostile questions, with concise, clear, factual answers that leave everyone on the right page(s).

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

And one reason for this not being done well kind of in the title people are afraid that if they overdo it, they’ll seem phoney, American, inauthentic, needy culty.

And underneath that, or alongside that is a possibly a reticence about talking to new people about having to answer their questions about not having social skills to put people at ease. And why should I have to do this? Nobody did this for me.

And, well, “if I’m having to do newbie duties, I’m not getting to hang out with my mates, which is the whole point, really, of going to a  meeting?” Oh, no, no, we’re here for the revolution. Yeah, of course you are comrade. 

So the consequences of doing it badly/not at all are – and I can speak from personal experience – is the new people who have come to your meeting feel If you do it over-enthusiastically, they’re going to be freaked out that you’re a cult. And if you don’t do it at all, which happens a lot, they’re going to be like  “well, nobody cares about why I’ve come, who I am, what skills I have, I’m not going to come back.”

And when I was in Australia in 2011, I felt that really strongly that decruitment because in Manchester, at least, I had gone to meetings and I’d seen familiar faces and I’ve at least been acknowledged, even if not enthusiastically, approached on all occasions, whereas in Australia, wow, you really knew what it was like to go into a room where you didn’t know anyone and nobody seemed interested.

Okay, so the fix for this is that you discuss it as a team, what level of welcome do you need? Are there ways that you can put a lot of the material that you would want to get across to people online, either as a blog post or you know, as a video, a two minute video with the narrated by people who are likely to be at the online or face to face meeting, so that a newbie can put some names to faces before they even attend for the first time? 

Can you rotate it so nobody gets stuck with it forever. And make sure that when people rotate, they pass on any top tips that they have of skills and habits that they’ve developed. 

So that there isn’t wheel reinvention while you rotate, you see what I did there? Right?

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Meetings – post mortem

Element Descriptor

Meetings can exceed, meet or fall short of their goals – and other things can crop up that are worth chewing on. Being able to conduct a thorough post-mortem of a meeting means you’re able to innovate/prepare better in future. Failing to post-mortem means you will learn slowly, if at all.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
Using a basic template/prompt you are able to produce a simple report about a relatively straightforward meeting. The report explains what went well, what went badly and make a couple of recommendations for future changes to format and process. Nobody’s toes are too stepped on.Using but going beyond a basic template, you are able to quickly produce an astute report on a complex meeting that had mixed outcomes. The report teases out causes of sub-optimality, and suggests several ways in which such causes might be mitigated in future. Egos are bruised, but only lightly, and the general common sense of the post-mortem means its recommendations are likely to be taken up.From a standing start, you are able to produce a detailed (forensic) post-mortem of a meeting, its processes, its design, facilitation, its silences and silencings, its missed opportunities alongside what went well. Informed by useful theory and minute observation, compassionate and incisive, the post-mortem becomes a foundational document for future improvements to your group’s meeting practice.You are able to dictate a total report on a complicated meeting and provide a series of prioritised, specific and radical recommendations for improvement that will make future meetings far better, before the last attendee has made it home. The report is witty, psychoanalytically informed and brimming with compassion for everyone who is, crooked timber though, trying to unfuck the world.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

And I’m going to expand this to be post mortems of events, projects and processes more generally. 

There are many causes why post mortems are not done or not done well. 

One is it’s just not part of the activist cultures that I’ve seen

If you had to shine a spotlight on how effective you had been, whether you’d met your own goals , what the return on investment was, that becomes pretty analytic and often pretty depressing. And then becomes a space where people can fire off recriminations against each other about other things that didn’t didn’t get done. And this whole circular firing squad flicks off their safeties. Of course, postmortems don’t have to be like that.

NB Don’t collect feedback unless it is a) immediate b) anonymous c) framed to find out what was WRONG

The other thing is you don’t often see it in films or movies or books. And as I said, people haven’t experienced it.

Beyond that, though, there is this fear that a post mortem is like a Star Chamber, an Inquisition, and that people will be singled out and held up to humiliation and ridicule. And of course, you can do a post mortem that badly if you’re an asshole. 

So other things to say about the causes of post mortems being done badly or not at all, is they’re done either too soon or too late. So there’s an immediate hotwash which captures lots of minor niggly tactical points. 

And then that substitutes for the longer strategic view. 

Or alternatively, there’s no hotwash. People forget all of those finer detail points. And the actual post mortem happens weeks later, when other things have come along and it all gets conflated and it seems pointless. 

The consequences of not doing post mortems you’ll be happy to know the sections very short. You’re likely to learn nothing, or you’re likely to learn the wrong lessons. Or you’re likely to learn very, very slowly, much more slowly than you would otherwise would if you did systematic post mortems. 

So the solutions are having systems in place so that you can learn from processes and products as you go, that you can capture some of the finer detail on paper or in writing. And when you are scheduling your meeting, your event, you are also in the planning stages, you have to be scheduling the post mortem, who is going to do it? When is it going to happen? How are they going to do it? How are they going to report their findings? And how will those findings be fed back into the group’s processes?

Now, this all sounds incredibly “bureaucratic”. But what’s the alternative? The alternative is it’s just a mishmash with various good ideas staying stuck inside people’s heads or in emails, or whatever. We’ve been doing it that way for a long time. How is that working out for us?

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Assessment Resources

Meetings – reporting on them

Element Descriptor

Meetings. They can be (usually are) a black hole for time, energy, morale. But they can also be spaces of reflection, connection, strategizing. Being able to report succinctly and clearly on what happened, and what might happen next, is a useful and underrated skill. Its absence means folks are flailing in the dark

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
you can produce a clear report of a relatively ‘straightforward’ meeting within a few days of it happening, listing the major points, not getting anyone’s name wrong, and saying what will happen next. With relevant hyperlinks.you can speedily produce a clear report about a complicated/tempestuous meeting that captures both what was said and what wasn’t/could have been/should have beenyou can produce, by sun-up, a detailed (nay, forensic) report that skewers pomposity, redundancy, delusion, while also celebrating what – if anything – was good.You can produce, before everyone’s gone home, a detailed, funny, compassionate account of what happened and what didn’t but could have (given the constraints of space, time etc) that will inform those who attended, those who didn’t and maybe – just maybe – shift the future meeting design and facilitation of, well, everyone.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

And this goes for both online and In real life, if we ever return to in real-life meetings, 

So the causes of it being done badly, partly just exhaustion. People have been in a meeting that was probably not very good. They’re knackered. They go home, or switch off the Zoom. They put it on their to do list. Something else comes along and suddenly it’s a week later. They can’t remember the finer points. They think “well, nobody cares.” 

The consequences of not reporting on meetings at all, or reporting on them badly, are actually quite profound but invisible at the same time. I feel that if your group is calling meetings and then not telling people who weren’t there who couldn’t be there, what happened, you’re actually sending a message. “If you don’t come to our meetings, we don’t actually care about you. You’re not willing to sacrifice an hour, an hour and a half of your lives to listen to something that is probably not going to contain huge amounts of useful information, then piss off.” 

And I’ve always felt like that about face-to-face meetings especially but I think the same is true of online meetings. And of course, that’s the message that people who weren’t at the meeting will absorb. And they will make a judgement then act accordingly, on how much time and effort to put into your group. Spoiler alert: it won’t be much. 

So the solution to reporting on meetings are these. Practice it. Just create a simple template that you can write before the meeting, and then you can drop in the main points, and then you can hit publish the next De without having had to do a whole tonne of work.

And that’s fine for most meetings, you know, basic. “What happened? What happens next?” Obviously, if it’s a more complex meeting where more effort went into it, you’re going to put more effort into the reporting, you’re going to make sure that your hyperlinks are all good to go, etc. But this is related to blogging and tweeting. And of course, you can use any live tweeting, you’ve done a meeting to inform the report that you’re right afterwards.

Development Resources

Assessment Resources

Meetings – online – public – advertising and preparing

Element Descriptor

Online meetings are a potentially valuable way of getting wider participation from the public, as they can help avoid issues like travel time & cost as inhibitors. However they come with their own challenges – dealing with technical challenges for participants, lack of ability to do self-propelled mingling, cannot offer people nibbles / drinks! Preparing your meeting structure is therefore vital to overcome / work around these differences.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You understand the need to publicise online meetings differently from “meatspace” ones, and the basic things you need to have in place to ensure a minimally successful meeting.You can develop an online-suitable agenda, ensure it’s advertised in good time in the right channels, and (co-) facilitate the meeting as needed.You understand the reasons when offline vs online meetings work best and are able to explain your reasoning. You can combine offline and online meetings via clever agenda design and facilitation.Your meetings are so good, people just turn up just based on hearsay. Even online meetings leave everyone enlightened and satisfied.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

There are various causes of failing to advertise online meetings effectively.  

One is divided responsibility – there needs ideally to be one or two people who have that as a job. And it’s agreed when they’re going to do it back in the lead up.

Number two, starting early enough, I think a week is a bare minimum to get a good turnout unless you’re going to do regular meetings. 

I think number three, you need to make it funny and not just factual; you need to explain to people the benefits of why they should attend, and how it’s not going to be like most online meetings. 

The consequences of not doing this well are  blatantly obvious, you get a small turn out. Small can be fine, but bigger is good too…

What might you do?

One trick would be to make a really short video 30 seconds “Hi, I’m x. We’re having an online meeting next week because XXX  you should come because  XXX email us for the details.” 

Someone you know, not the usual suspects and then that becomes your video and then your email and Instagram and everything else goes from there.

Development Resources

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Meetings – online – business/internal meeting

Element Descriptor

Online internal group meetings should be a decent way of regularly sharing information, discussing issues and making decisions without the faff of all having to trek to a specific place. Consideration to the elements common to meatspace meetings of a similar nature should happen, but again what changes could or should happen to make it work better online?

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You read any materials shared before the meeting, attend on-time using links provided within calendar invites or emails, contribute to points where you can and help to keep the meeting on-topic and within the allocated duration. You are able to track actions during the meeting or take some notes if required.You prepare or read materials shared before the meeting, attend on-time using links provided within calendar invites or emails, contribute to points regularly, keep the meeting on-topic and within the allocated duration. You are able to chair the meeting, track actions or take notes if required. You’ll make note of any discussions that are off-topic and follow up if asked. You’ll ensure that there’s a balanced debate or contribution from others to encourage participation from all attendees.You prepare or read materials shared before the meeting, attend on-time using links provided within calendar invites or emails, contribute to points regularly, keep the meeting on-topic and within the allocated duration. You regularly chair the meeting in rotation with others, track actions or take notes. You’ll make note of any important discussions that are off-topic and follow up with those as required. You ensure that there’s balanced debate and ensure that there’s a fair contribution from others attendees. You innovate in the format and structure, listening to feedback and suggestions on changes and are confident to suggest cancelling meetings where they are no longer required or if they won’t meet the objectives initially set out.You can do everything an expert can do, but quicker and with less effort and no mistakes – you can basically do this in your sleep.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

Now this is obviously a new phenomenon for many groups, and I would say that therefore, there is hopefully a learning curve going on. However, I would also say that there’s a difference between being experienced and having expertise. So one of my favourite quotes is about the spin ball of Monty Panesar. And someone said to Shane Warne, I don’t need to introduce Shane I hope “well Monty now has played 30 tests so he’s experienced” and Shane said, “No, no, he’s played one Test 30 times”

It seems to me that there isn’t a lot of innovation and iteration of learning going on. In the groups online that I’ve seen. They seem mostly to be skeuomorphs for face-to-face meetings where the old patterns are basically replicated. 

The consequences of bad online meetings are people just don’t come back. If you don’t start on time, if you aren’t discussing the right things in the right ways, if you aren’t helping people orient themselves if you’re not helping them, contribute in meaningful ways. it’s even easier for them just to leave, physically or mentally., Oh, you know, “I’ve got a steam powered laptop” or, “oh, I’m all zoomed out” as many people are now saying, I’m all zoomed out middle class, people are saying I’m all zoomed out and then you have fewer intelligent people. And by intelligent I don’t mean “educated” (often confused with indoctrinated), I just mean intelligent people, chipping them with ideas and offering to do things and your group will stay the same size or shrink or die. 

So what is to be done?

There are lots of bits of advice about online meetings. They’re the same advice, really, as applies for meetings in meatspace. You know, why are you meeting or what are you having discussions? Are you having decisions? Is the agenda too packed? Can some of these discussions and decisions be made by subgroups or via polls.  Is everyone able to stay for the full length of time@

Then crucially as with any meeting, it helps to be aware of something called the peak end effect, which is that people remember the most vivid bit of an experience and the final bit. So make sure that the final bit as is as uplifting, funny, whatever as possible, even if it is something artificial like a terrible joke. 

The other thing about online meetings is you need someone who is and there’s no excuse for online meetings. You need someone who is updating the agreed actions in real time into whatever your action tracker is, whether it’s a spreadsheet, or a Word document or whatever. And then sending that,  to hold the people who agreed to do stuff, because otherwise things will fall through the cracks

Development Resources

Assessment Resources

Meetings, online – facilitation

Element Descriptor

Online meetings just like the meatspace versions can go awry without good facilitation and need more than a link sent round just before the intended time. Specific to online meetings will be understanding how to use the platform to get the most out of the time you have together, the challenges to both stimulate conversation and keep disruption (e.g. ego-fodder) to a minimum – from the speakers, audience and technology. Thought should be given to what could or should be different now that you are ‘virtual’.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You develop points that try to stimulate debate or how you might try to drill into a point to get more detail before the meeting with supervision. Within the meeting, you might rely on someone more experienced to deal with anything very disruptive, but are able to flag when the meeting is starting to go overtime or off-point and will attempt to bring it back to the topic at hand. You know how to mute and unmute yourself and can let others know of the basic uses of the online meeting platform you are using that allows for the meeting to function in a normal manner. Meetings conducted online are fairly similar in format or function to those in meatspace and are normally internal group meetings for up to an hour in length.You develop points to stimulate debate and can pick up points as they are mentioned to ask for more detail / get other opinions / develop it further and stimulate more debate. Within the meeting, you can deal with some minor disruptions, but might need assistance for anything more persistent. You can deal with off-point remarks and are able to consistently bring a conversation back to the topic at hand. You are a fairly confident in using the online meeting platform and try to use its functions to help side conversations and breakout meetings that wouldn’t be possible in meatspace. Meetings conducted online have been adapted to utilise the functions of the meeting platform and can span longer internal or shorter external group meetings with up to 10 participants.You can quickly and efficiently develop points to stimulate debate and can pick up points as they are mentioned to ask for more detail / get other opinions / develop it further and stimulate more debate. Within the meeting, you can deal with disruptions effectively whether its minor or persistent across a broad spectrum of issues that prevents speaker dominance or the other participants turning into ego-fodder. You are a confident and innovative in using the online meeting platform to maximise its functions to help side conversations and breakout meetings that are adapted to the audience of the meeting and their abilities. Meetings can span any duration, any level of formality and might include ego-inflated politicians or celebrities.You can do everything an expert can do, but quicker and with less effort and no mistakes – are you part cyborg?

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

So the causes of doing this badly often revolve around people not understanding what facilitation means. They think it’s chairing and letting the next person speak and the next person speak. And especially online, it can be hard because you know, you can’t see people’s body language. You can’t sometimes see their faces. And there’s different platforms and people have different levels of confidence with those platforms, whether it’s WebEx or zoom or Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams or whatever. 

But actual facilitation is very different – it’s about making sure there is flow, there is collaboration, listening, airing of the ‘right’ questions, without getting bogged down, and without – unless totally necessary – shutting someone down abruptly.

Consequences? Badly facilitated, online meetings are a big morale suck, and an opportunity cost. And they can have consequences for both the recruitment and retention of people within your group. 

So, the solutions are simple. You need to take facilitation of online meetings quite seriously. You need to learn from each experience, to experiment, torefine.

 So that brings us back to being able to invite feedback  and being able to take feedback. And over time, you will raise – you should be able to raise – the level of expectation of what happens in any online meeting. And you set a good example. Other people’s facilitation becomes better. The movement grows. It storms the Winter Palace, it reverses the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It de-extincts dodos and woolly mammoths. And we live in a land of milk and honey, where the lion and the lamb lie down together. The lamb still probably is not going to get much sleep. 

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Attending meetings (of other groups)

Element Descriptor

Meetings are generally a self-soothing and self-aggrandising effort by failing and flailing groupuscules. Not always, obvs. And they attract people desperate for human connection, who get given information instead. Attending these and being useful to yourself and others is a key skill. Without it you will lose the plot and possibly hurt your group’s prospects.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You can, with mental rehearsal and preparation, attend an ordinary and ordinarily bad meeting of another group, make constructive comments and suggestions and interact positively with other folks,, keeping your despair and anger under wraps.You can, with little preparation and while in a strop, attend a somewhat-worse-than-usual meeting – undesigned, poorly facilitated, dominated by idiocy – and emerge, sanity and serenity intact, with the contact details of a couple of people who were impressed by your compassion, humour and gentle nudges of the process.You can attend very very bad meetings that are wrecking the momentum of an issue/group/morale of the shiny-faced newbies who’ve arrived with high hopes, and through incisive but compassionate action signal the seriousness and worth of your group, galvanising folks to contact you afterwards, without seeming like a vanguardist twat. Your postmortem, delivered to the organisers in a sensitive tone and manner, helps them to do less awfully next time around.You can wander into excruciating shitshows which would drive even seasoned optimistic activists to despair, and somehow keep it together, while helping a diverse number of people -old and new- realise that there is, despite all evidence, life after this meeting, and importance in being part of effective organisations. Your blog post, perfectly pitched, goes viral among those who swear ‘never again’ (to either attending another meeting, or organising such a bad one).

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

Attending other people’s meetings? Well, the first question you have to ask yourself is why are you doing this? Because let’s be frank, most meetings are poorly conceived, poorly designed, and the execution of whatever plan there is, is indifferent at best. So what are you going for? What are you trying to achieve? What are you trying to find out? If you can’t give good answers to those questions, is it worth your time? 

Now, one good answer is just to catch up with friends and acquaintances. That’s fine. But you know, maybe there’s better ways to do that anyway. How many birds do you need to kill with one stone? The next thing to say  now of course, is that maybe that the old2 7:30pm start meeting in a city centre at the Friends Meeting House or Methodist Hall” never comes back. Who wants to sit for 90 minutes in an enclosed space with a bunch of other people, all of whom will presumably hopefully be wearing masks, wearing a mask, listening to predictable speeches and finding out things that you could have found out 10 times more quickly via an email bulletin or a YouTube video?

So, face-to-face meetings may not come back. If they do,my advice would be take a notepad, take a book, have something that you’re working on, whether it’s your next meeting, or you know, a blog post or part of a campaign. So that during the inevitably, inevitable boring bits and there will be, you can feel that your time is not being wasted. The other thing to do, of course, is to make sure that you make yourself known to other people in the meeting, who might be interested in your campaign. So you might be wearing a T shirt, you might be handing out flyers (problematic)

In the initial go round –  hopefully there’s an initial go round – you have something short, punchy, pithy and friendly to say. It can be rehearsed, that’s fine. During a normal set piece, you know, speakers followed by q&a meeting. What I often try and do is get in early with a question and make sure that it’s real short and really good, and that you mentioned both your name and the name of your organisation. But you can do all that in three sentences. “Hi, I’m Jonathan from Jonathans against the War. I liked your presentation. I have one question.” 

 Right. sticking around to the bitter end of face-to-face meeting. Well, they call it the bitter end for a reason – you don’t have to do that. It may be that, you know, you’ve come to the attention of two or three people who might contact you, and in order to save your sanity, just like it. 

So nowadays, we have lots more online meetings and life is a lot easier attending these because of course, you can have your video on mute I’m lucky I have a steam powered laptop. So I have a ready-made excuse. You can have your audio on mute. And you can be listening with one ear to the boring bits, obviously, listen with full attention to the bits that are important. And you can be doing other tasks. 

But within the online meeting, if it’s a Zoom call where they’ve actually enabled you to chat with individual other people, you can chat with individual other people, and I’d recommend that the thing around q&a remains the same. Keep it short. Keep it pointed, keep it pithy, and who knows what will happen. Include your email in the chat function or in the Q&A section so that other people can see and then follow up. 

Now the last thing I’d say is, there are some groups which are rusted on and have no interest in innovating or learning because they’re holding meetings to deliver The Truth, capital T, capital T. Don’t waste your breath trying to help them. However, there are other groups where the people are new. And they’re genuinely sincerely wanting their meetings to be included in the name, meetings, spaces and places and times where people meet. And so you could approach these people gently and privately and call them useless fucking turd. No, I’m just kidding. 
And say to them, “hey, next time you hold a meeting, how about doing this?  because then people can mingle with each other, talk with each other, connect with each other.” And obviously the best way to get the best way to improve matters is to set a good example. So when you are holding meetings, make sure that they are places that people can meet. The clue was in the name.

Development Resources

Assessment Resources

Meeting design (online)

Element Descriptor

Meetings require thinking about. So often they are held because ‘well, we were due to have a meeting’ But WHY is the meeting happening? Is it to update folks? Is it to discuss a thorny issue? Is it to make a big decision or a set of smaller decisions? How will the important goals be met? If you don’t design well, the loudest voices will speak the most, and the (unmet) emotional needs will distort/destroy the official agenda.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You can design a basic but functional meeting around a topic/set of topics that will enable the right questions to be surfaced and allow the quieter/less confident to put forward key points using one of the dominant platforms. The meeting has a chance of ending on time, and leaving most folks (but not the usually-dominant) happy that they came.You can design a more detailed (but not unnecessarily so) meeting which will “work” for different sized groups of people who know each other not well/not al all. You make a conscious decision about which platforms will be most useful for achieving this. You use simple and transparent mechanisms to prevent domination, derailing and disruption. The meetings are not always ‘enjoyable’, but this is a social movement we’re doing here, right, not a club?You can design, very quickly, an online meeting or sequence of meetings that will help groups make difficult and consequential decisions, or discuss potentially homicide-inducing questions and come to clear and thought-through conclusions/decisions/positions, in the face of deliberate and unconscious resistance and dodgy internet connections. And finish on time.The UN has you on speed dial, because your meetings – which use tools you have invented, honed, recombinated – are The Shit. They are almost disruption proof (but never misunderestimate a talented disruptor) and a joy to facilitate because they “work.” You regularly innovate, not for the sake of innovation, but in order to not be complacent , and to create new ways that people can meet to achieve things.

Element Overview Essay

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Meeting design (meatspace)

Element Descriptor

Meetings require thinking about. So often they are held because ‘well, we were due to have a meeting’ But WHY is the meeting happening? Is it to update folks? Is it to discuss a thorny issue? Is it to make a big decision or a set of smaller decisions? How will the important goals be met? If you don’t design well, the loudest voices will speak the most, and the (unmet) emotional needs will distort/destroy the official agenda….

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You can design a basic but functional meeting around a topic/set of topics that will enable the right questions to be surfaced and allow the quieter/less confident to put forward key points. The meeting has a chance of ending on time, and leaving most folks (but not the usually-dominant) happy that they came.You can design a more detailed (but not unnecessarily so) meeting which will “work” for different sized groups of people who know each other not well/not al all, with mechanisms to prevent domination, derailing and disruption. The meetings are not always ‘enjoyable’, but this is a social movement we’re doing here, right, not a club?You can design, very quickly, a meeting or sequence of meetings that will help groups make difficult and consequential decisions, or discuss potentially homicide-inducing questions and come to clear and thought-through conclusions/decisions/positions, in the face of deliberate and unconscious resistance. And finish on time.The UN has you on speed dial, because your meetings – which use tools you have invented, honed, recombinated – are The Shit. They are almost disruption proof (but never misunderestimate a talented disruptor) and a joy to facilitate because they “work.” You regularly innovate, not for the sake of innovation, but in order to not be complacent , and to create new ways that people can meet to achieve things.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

You can’t design a meeting until you know its purpose. So if someone asked you to design a meeting, and doesn’t tell you the purpose, explain to them that  you can’t do your job.  And if they are still wild and woolly, it’s probably best for your morale, your reputation and your time to gently decline. Because and I can’t emphasise this enough, you cannot get what you want to get until you know what you want. 

So, most meetings are run on a very vague proposition. “I will call a meeting about issue x. People who are interested in issue x will come will tell them some facts, (which they probably already knew or could have been told in much more efficient ways). And then we’ll have a general discussion and anyone who speaks who wants to speak can speak And then we’ll wrap up and after that meeting floods of people contact us and want to get involved in our group because they’ll have seen just how cool we are” I’m obviously caricaturing, but am I by that much? 

So, if the purpose of the meeting is primarily information giving, then don’t bloody meet, put the information in a blog post, a YouTube, a PowerPoint, hire a skywriter. A tattooist, whatever. But you don’t need a meeting to put information into people’s heads. This is not 1000 years ago, before telephones before anyone could write before paper, you know, this is the 21st century. God damn it. Okay. 

So the next reason people often say “Let’s have a meeting” is to reinvigorate a group campaign as if this will have some magic effect. And you saw this in Lord of the Flies where Ralph thought that a meeting would clear the air. Sorry, sidebar that this isn’t going to work on its own, or it might work. 

But it will be a meeting that is quite uncomfortable for the people who think that the problem is not them, but the recalcitrance and stupidity of followers who won’t follow. Because if you were going to design a meeting to reinvigorate a campaign, yes, you could have some big name come along and exhort you all and that would give a temporary hit. But the underlying issues, the other reasons for the campaign stuttering and so the group failing, haven’t even been acknowledged. And if these haven’t been acknowledged,they can’t be addressed. 

So let’s take it as an example.  Designing a meeting about reinvigorating a campaign. Well, you wouldn’t wait. And this is a good point, generally, you wouldn’t wait until the meeting to start getting ideas of people. When you call the meeting, you would explain what it was about. And you would create opportunities for people to send in their ideas, perspectives, anonymously if they wanted to. And then you would collect these and make them publicly available, so that everyone was on more or less the same page when you started, rather than starting from a standing start a blank slate, 

As you will settle in and start the physical meeting 10 or 15 minutes after it was supposed to, and hardly able to hear anyone because everyone is wearing a goddamn mask. You would then need to have ways that small groups could form to discuss these points. With the facilitator in each group perhaps or a note taker and or a note taker in each subgroup and a remit about what the group was supposed to report back to the bigger group, is it their top five diagnoses of the problem? Is it the top five solutions? What is it what is that small group supposed to do? 

Then are you going to try to resolve any of these issues in the meeting? What are you going to do about the emotional load of staring into the abyss? How are you going to end the meeting in a way that makes people feel if not uplifted, then at least willing and able to come back and keep going. There’s what’s called the peak end effect, which is that people remember the peak, the most emotionally resonant, exciting, depressing, whatever part of an event and the end of it, and the rest sort of gets jumbled in together. So you, you as a meeting designer, you have to be aware of that. 

You have to be aware that there’s quite possibly going to be some disruption and disruptive elements. So you’re gonna need to design your meeting the best you can to cope with those. And so having an opening agreement, where everyone agrees what the meeting is for and how it will be run, is really important. And then anyone who’s in the meeting, when that’s agreed, and tries to disrupt outside that agreement can be shut down. And anyone who turns up late has to just like it. 

You have to think how are the quiet people who often have really good ideas and perspectives, going to be able to speak when they’re probably terrified of addressing a whole group or even a group of more than two or three people. 

You’re gonna want to think about how you are going to report on this meeting at what level all of this comes under meeting design and a good meeting designer will not focus just on the meeting, but they’ll see it as part of an ongoing process. Where there’s a before, during and after, and the meeting and its purpose fit within an overarching you could call it a strategy or you could call it an arc. 

This is meeting design. It’s one of those skills that you never get perfect at. It’s not like you arrive as a, you know, a touch typist or Freedom of Information Act. submitter and you’re good at it. You’re as good as you’re ever gonna get plateau effect within three months. 

No, this is lifelong learning here guys. Good luck.

Development Resources

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