Regular meetings will be vital to group communication. Whilst messages and updates can suffice in some cases, there is nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting where group members can actively discuss issues with the project. Members of the community will be able to come along too and add their views.
This section will give advice on getting people to your meetings and what problems might occur.
Letting people know
A proactive approach is needed to ensure that meetings are accessible to all groups and individuals within the community. Ways of communicating to a community that a meeting is happening include:
- Putting local people in touch with each other (shop owners, local business people, community leaders etc.)
- Posters, leaflets and newsletters
- Features in the local press/radio
- Social media updates
- Word on the street: door-knocking, spoken invitations, using the local grapevine
Send out the information/invitations well in advance, and include enough relevant information that people can see why what you’re planning is important. Circulate publicity material widely (libraries, colleges, churches, etc.), especially where you think stakeholders will see it.
If this is a major project make sure that the key people involved come to the first public meeting.
It is important to remove as many obstacles to getting involved as possible. Meetings should be held in venues that are local, familiar and accessible, particularly for the less mobile. Some other ways to remove barriers might include:
- The timing of meetings and events also needs to take into account working hours, religious festivals and other community events
- Make sure the event is advertised in appropriate languages. Local authorities may be able to provide interpreters, or bilingual relatives may be able to help
- Elderly or disabled people might need help getting to and from meetings. Consider whether you need to provide transport (taxi or minibus). Ensure there is sufficient room and facilities for wheelchair users and others with mobility problems
- Help parents get involved by involving children and or organising facilities where the children are able to attend their parents.
Guidelines for successful meetings
The main thing to focus on in the meeting is staying on point. A focused meeting will get results and decisions will be made. If the meeting is allowed to veer away from the agenda, it won't provide any practical benefit. Some things to remember:
- Introduce yourself and make sure everyone knows what the meeting is about and what, if anything, is expected of them
- Good chairing is key to a successful meeting so give some thought as to who can fill this role. They will need to allow everyone a chance to speak, listen to what is said, summarise people’s thoughts and ensure a decision is reached
- Keeping meeting short and structured is advisable as it will keep focus on the issues at hand and will give clear results
- Thank everyone for their time and if appropriate, inform them of when the next meeting will be and what it will be about
Dealing with difficulties and disagreements
Inevitably there will be some disagreements on the best way to proceed with any given project. Often these disagreements can be resolved without major incident but sometimes they will develop into feuds that can compromise the project and divide the group. Try to head this off as you see it starting.
It is important that everyone feels they are being heard and, in most cases people will accept the decision of the majority. Resolution training can be helpful but being open and honest will normally resolve any issues.
The presence of senior community members or councillors at meeting can help with hostility and keep meetings on track, ensuring the issues at hand are being dealt with rather than things that are outside the remit of the meeting.
Go to the next section - Planning
Go back to the Setting up your group page
Running effective meetings
Guidance for meetings