Meet in person in a location that provides for comfort and easy conversation (library, community center, restaurant with a back room off peak time, or if you feel comfortable, in a home). Think of the group like a book club, neighborhood potluck, or other fun hobby that you commit to with a group of like-minded people.
Be aware of accessibility (bus line, parking, stairs). This Land Rising (TLR) strives to hold meetings in locations that are ADA accessible. Not all disabilities are visible. Following ADA guidelines may make it possible for someone to attend your meeting that would otherwise not be involved.
Setting the Tone of your Team and its Work:
- This Land Rising is about empowering us to act effectively and efficiently.
- Focus on learning and concrete actions. Reduce complaining and commiserating (consider a 5-minute block for venting if members want it).
- The meetings should be interesting and lighthearted — we want people to come back!
- Share simple, comforting and nourishing foods to build connections and enjoyment for the group. Divide the responsibility over time. Coffee is also a hit.
- Our initial shared goal is to learn how our government and political parties operate in order to understand how best to influence them. That knowledge will inform our future actions and allow us to take a bigger part in our governance. (You can print and hand out This Land Rising civic-engagement resources, if you wish.)
- We come together over shared values and goals. Don’t get caught up in details that we might disagree about. Do get caught up in our dedication to a strong local democracy.
- Facilitators should focus on the following:
- Encourage participation from all members
- Guide the discussion back from tangents
- Set the tone for people to share their views even if others disagree
- Steer toward common ground that members agree on and can feel good about working on together. [See “Leading Productive Discussions” and “Facilitation Tips for Difficult Behaviors” later in this document.]
Building your Team and its Focus:
Get to know the people in your Rising Team and find out what people’s interests are.
- Take inventory of your Team’s unique skills and experience. Everything TLR has done so far has been because of our members tapping into their skillsets and expertise!
- Find out if your group members have key contacts they might be willing to tap into. For example, perhaps someone’s neighbor is a member of the city council, another member knows a specialist in marketing that would be willing to donate time, someone else has a friend that worked on a political campaign, and another member is friends with someone in the media, etc. Connections like these may prove extremely valuable as your group moves forward, as well as for TLR as a whole.
- Find out what sparks interest in the group. Each group will find its own particular passion over time.
Hosting Productive Meetings:
- Develop group norms around participation and discussion
- Use the agenda to spur discussion and to also stay on topic
- Email back a summary of the meeting, using our This Land Rising Team form
- Each member should sign up on the This Land Rising website so that we have a current email.
Communicating With your Rising Team:
In your first meeting, establish a way to communicate within your team. We suggest using Slack. (Other possibilities include: Secret Facebook group, Mobilize, Signal, etc.). We suggest adding people to the group communication after you’ve met in person. We do not suggest group text or email, as it quickly becomes unmanageable.
A Note on Technology
This document and many TLR materials are peppered with references to various technical tools, platforms and means of communication including, but not limited to: Secret Facebook groups, Mobilize, Signal, Slack, etc. We know that many may not be familiar with some or all of the methods referenced and are available to assist you and your team with those technical resources in any way you may need.
This Land Rising Website
This website has been specifically established to support you, our Rising Teams. Since the results of November’s election, progressives have been inundated with an unending firehose of panicky Facebook posts, urgent email petitions, and reactive demonstrations. It’s no wonder people are feeling overwhelmed.
Our intention is to lower the bar to civic engagement. Voting is simply not enough. Our website will provide only the most pertinent information to support local political action. This will include action items, learning articles, and resources for your Rising Team to make informed decisions, as well as, leverage all our Rising Teams when a show of force is needed.
We also need to hear from you. The website should serve all our Rising Teams and we need to hear your voices. If there’s a particular issue or resource that your group is working on, please let us know! Email us at: email@example.com and our team will review your submission for inclusion in our monthly updates.
Leading Productive Discussions
It is important to set ground rules for your Rising Team meetings to ensure that discussions are efficient, productive, respectful, and fun. Moreover, it’s critical to ensure that ensure your group is a safe space for all interested participants.
One of the best and easiest ways to determine what ground rules or norms will best serve the individuals in your Rising Team is to develop them together. Each member of your team will bring experiences with teamwork, planning, and discussions. Tap their experiences and insights to build a set of discussion norms that will be tailored to your group’s needs.
A Suggested Approach to develop Group Norms:
Ask each member to spend 3-5 minutes thinking and writing quietly about groups (in school settings, community settings, work settings) that they have been a part of that just “worked” (voices were heard, the group accomplished its goals, members felt valued and respected, etc.) and about groups that “didn’t work” (some voices dominated the group, while others were lost; discussions often lacked focus; the group’s work lacked a sense of purpose, etc.).
Then, ask them to brainstorm:
- What is it that made the productive groups work? What were some common characteristics of how people spoke? How time was used? How did members treat each other?
- What is it that made the less productive groups struggle?
Come back together as a team. Ask members to share out from their brainstormed lists. Record ideas where all can see on a poster, whiteboard, etc.. (Note: If your group is large, you may want to have your members share with just one or two other people first. This will help make sure that voices aren’t lost in the crowd.)
Where there are commonalities, see if you can come to agreement. For instance, perhaps several people mention the idea of “Monitoring Air Time,” or “Making sure some people don’t speak too much and others don’t speak too little.” Your team can then decide to agree to a norm that addresses this shared experience.
Where there are differences, talk them out. For instance, one person might say, “Assume best intentions,” but another asserts that, “Even with good intentions, some words or ideas have negative impacts.” This is something to dig into. Time permitting, give team members time to explain their thinking and share examples. If a particular issue seems like it will take a long time to delve into, you might suggest that the team comes back to that particular discussion at your next meeting. (Make sure to come back to it at your next meeting.)
Ultimately, your goal will be to develop a list of shared, collaboratively created ground rules/norms/expectations that you can display at every meeting so that your team’s work remains focused, goal driven, and positive.
If your team is shy or needs some ideas to get the ball rolling, here is some fodder for initial ideas:
Harvard Business Review: 8 Ground Rules for Great Meetings
Get the Picture: A List of Ground Rules for Effective Meetings
Facilitation Tips for Unproductive Discussions
Below are some ideas for facilitators to redirect unproductive situations in the discussion group.
Potential working rules:
- Everyone has an opportunity to speak once before a person speaks a second time
- Participants always have the right to pass if they are not comfortable or prepared to make a comment.
- Everyone is limited to 2 minutes to share his/her thinking
Strategies for redirection during the meeting:
- “Everyone’s input is important, so let’s make sure that we get to everyone”
- Call on 3-4 people in a row to redirect and establish a precedent for the flow
- “We have recorded your idea here in the notes. Do you have another idea you’d like to add or should we move on?”
Mired in blame
- “I think I/We understand the problem as you see it. What ideas do you have for a solution?”
- “Let’s stay positive and focused on what we can do as citizens, constituents”
- “What can we do today, with the situation as it stands?”
- “We are building a sense of community and rumors undermine this effort”
- “That sounds like a topic for a different forum”
- “We need to get back to our agenda”
- For someone frustrated with the pace of activism: “Our goal is to engage a little more each month to build our communities in a way that is sustainable for us all.” Consistent long-term engagement is the key.
- Redirect to the group mission: “Let’s remember that the focus of this meeting is to learn how to have effective and efficient actions that improve our local government.”
- “It is easy to get bogged down when reacting to the news. Let’s focus on our plan.”
- “We won’t all agree on every point. Let’s focus on the goals and values that we share.”
Meeting Summary Template
|Meeting Summary of: ____________ RisingDate:
*Denote first time attendees
Please send notes to: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Action Recap: What’s been done? What worked well? What was challenging? Other discussion notes. (Include both coordinated and independent action.)||Next Steps (include next meeting)|
|(In this section, please distill the 3-5 elements of your meeting that are most critical to communicate back to the larger TLR community. These could be innovative ideas, requests for help, truly impactful moments in your discussion.)|
If your meeting surfaced any stories that put a face on important issues of the day, please share those here. You may not have the whole “write up” of the story, but share a brief summary of the story and a point person. We will get in touch with this person about ways to share this story to have greater impact.
|Feedback for TLR
If your meeting surfaced any areas where your Rising Team needs support, please list those here. Do you need help learning about a topic? Do you need support of the larger TLR community to have a greater impact on a local issue? Summarize the need and give info about timeframes for follow-up.
Also include: feedback about your Rising Team experience; innovative ideas; anything to help us Rise Together!
This form is available to download as a PDF and fill in to take meeting notes.
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