Chapter 6: How do you structure a meeting so the attendees become participants and truly invested?

Advisors, Sponsors, & Big Pages of Paper, Oh My!

In order to widen community participation, our sponsors passed out flyers they made to MGV residents; these flyers welcomed community members to attend a community development meeting. This would mark the first meeting of anyone and everyone that had an interest in creating a youth/community development programme. The meeting was structured and organised so that the discussions would be geared towards obtaining the information needed, while also being relaxed enough so that the attendees could break unexpected grounds that may not have been predicted. Under the leadership of our advisor, the meeting’s discussion was focused, while occasionally allowed to flow freely. Our sponsors also led the meeting at times, especially in the planning of the leadership committee, next steps and scheduling of the subsequent meeting. It was pivotal that the leaders in the community were taking charge when planning next steps and leadership roles because another necessary outcome of the meeting was the gradual decrease of our team’s involvement. It was essential that planning from here after was done with minimal support from WPI’s end so that the project remains sustainable after we leave.

The approach we used to structure the meeting was consistent with Open-Spaced Technology (OST) approaches by Harrison Owen. With this tactic the overall basis for the meeting is known, in our case to create and start a youth/community development organisation within the village, but the agenda is open to creation by attendees. This approach is characterised by a few basic mechanisms, all of which were used:

1. A free discussion to create an agenda for the meeting

2. Participants arranged in an open circle

3. Large paper used, or a way to display key discussion issues and notes brought up in dialogues

4. Breakout sessions where participants learn and contribute information to areas of interest

5. Changing from a large group to small separate group discussions

This type of approach to running a meeting worked well because it fell into Owen’s definition of when this tactic should be used with high levels of: complexity of tasks and outcomes necessary, diversity in people needed to make the outcome successful, real conflict that people truly care about the issue, and urgency that the task needs to be done now.

Click here to read more about the program groups!

The community involvement and participation in making this meeting a success was an enormous testament to the further accomplishment this youth/development group could obtain. We set out with the goal to create a sustainable dance and visual arts youth development organisation, but came out with nine groups that encompassed all ages rather than focusing on just youth. These groups include fundraising, awareness, dance, music, gardening, home care, gym and wellness, soccer, and drum majorettes. A meeting was then set for the following night of the individuals who were elected to lead each group, “the executive board,” to decide upon next steps. Even with obstacles such as lack of proper venues, funding and supplies, the community was motivated and ready to move forward with these groups and create small accomplishments in the short term to benefit large successes in the long term.