Make the Meetings you Invest in MATTER
While focusing on “meetings” seems a lacklustre approach to social change (as opposed to special projects, events and campaigns), meetings arguably hold a strong leverage point to spark, nurture and sustain collaborative action in communities.
They are the centre point from which changed behaviours, priorities, information and enthusiasm can ripple out to have a wider effect across a community, region or province. Great meetings will ensure that projects, events and campaigns are executed with a high degree of buy-in, impact and sustainably.
Meetings are, inevitably, the cornerstone of HOW people interact, get things done and make a difference in community. Too often, meetings are not facilitated or managed with confidence and skill. Poorly planned and facilitated meetings are unproductive and (in some cases) even harmful. And meetings that don’t adequately engage the movers, shakers and decision makers diminish the chance of impactful systemic change.
How many meetings have you attended in the past month that had you cringe, fidget or disengage?
If you fund community initiatives, how much of that investment is gobbled up in meetings? How many of those meetings are productive…or even transformational?
Albert Einstein is broadly credited with saying that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” What we’ve learned, from working in many different communities over 20 years is that even doing different things but with the same approach often results in the same outcomes. For example, investing in community change with a new theme or title or emphasis, yet still relying on a model that uses meetings to engage multiple agencies to inform, make decisions and act… the limiting factor ends up being the quality and outcome of those meetings.
One argument is to remove meetings from the equation, yet we would still need to find a way for people and organizations to meaningfully connect with one another. The other approach, the one that we feel holds the most potential, is to improve meetings as the common vehicle for change. To transform meetings into a movement.
How? Meeting design, facilitation, participation, and how meetings build momentum and a solid foundation for community action is the key.
Click here to receive our (free) pre-meeting checklist of 15 Actions to Make Meetings More Meaningful!
When groups start to feel the slump of ineffective meetings (things don’t get done, conflict arises, people stop coming), the typical and traditional responses include:
- A small cohesive core group takes over and does their own thing resulting in outcomes to celebrate but which can’t be truly called collaborative and may have limited sustainability
- A ½ day workshop is hosted to learn about <<something>>, everyone gets really excited about it but then goes back to the same old meeting structure, processes or interactions which deflates the momentum and gets them stuck again
- An expensive consultant is hired to do a formal strategic plan or engagement process hoping that those external tools will set groups on a different trajectory. But without the capacity to work together ongoing, the tools have little traction.
- The group just keeps on having unproductive meetings, struggles with engagement, and sees no real change in community. This often results in staff/coordinators looking for other work, turnover, or focusing on activities that “feel” successful (eg events) but don’t result in any systemic change.
We are interested in shifting the conversation and the focus to be much more practical. A focus on improving meetings is simple…yet, not easy.
Challenges to meeting transformation includes the range of hiring practices across the social sector. People doing community work come with a surprisingly wide range of skills and experiences. Ongoing budgets for professional development dollars are sadly very small and usually not able to match individual practitioner needs. Funders struggle with the idea of investing money into “meetings” when a media worthy event is more appealing. In the long run, however, changing HOW we meet together can change so much more.
If you are a funder or organizational leader responsible for community change initiatives and these ideas resonate with you. Please connect, we’d love to continue the conversation – firstname.lastname@example.org