Neighborhood Meeting "Working Agreements"
We all know that by working together, a "team" can accomplish more than the "sum of the individuals". To facilitate team building, ground rules or "working agreements" can help "level the playing field" at meetings. The following are some "working agreements" that you might consider for your Neighborhood Association:
- "Equalize" your meeting space when possible: For the best interaction, all participants must feel like they have equal access to a group -- including both speaking and listening. A circle is the most "equal" meeting setup. However, the actual format will be largely dependent upon the size of the group and available facilities. A few basic layouts that your association might consider are illustrated below.
- Timeliness: When meetings are set, make every effort to be on time and come prepared. If you are unable to attend, send relative information or ideas to the group.
- Openness: Be willing to be open about your ideas (and motives) with the group. Give freely of your experience.
- Stay on track: Start the meeting by agreeing on a purpose and/or an agenda. Stick with it unless otherwise revised by the group. It is important to have a facilitator that helps the group stay focused. If someone starts to get off track, suggest that the group may wish to follow-up with the other topic at another meeting. Restate the teams' purpose for the meeting as often as needed.
- Participation: Agree that everyone is encouraged to participate; no one dominates.
- One speaker at a time: Others in the group need to participate as active listeners.
- Decisions: Define how decisions will be made. Typically group decisions are made by consensus. Consensus means that each member has had an opportunity to participate and that all members are willing to "live with" the decision of the majority. It does not mean that the decision is everyone's first choice. To "live with" the decision means that all members agree to work toward the implementation of the decision.
- Individual Actions: Agree with the group only if it makes sense to you to do so. Don't just go along with a decision and then withdraw support or criticize it later.
- Maintain each others self esteem: Remember that each person has something valuable to contribute. (Sometimes we even need help to see that we are that "valuable" person.) Give positive feedback when appropriate.
- Most Important--HAVE FUN!!!: A successful Neighborhood Association is like any relationship. If you are not enjoying your meetings, you will loose the spirit that keeps bringing you and others back. Make sure that you have "room to laugh".