Meeting Others Where They Are At
Community meetings bring people together for a number of reasons: to address concerns, cross-collaborate, or raise awareness of an issue, to name a few. Community meetings can take different formats, but no matter the type of community meeting, preparing is critical.
How a meeting is managed is very important, as this will directly impact participation and involvement from those who attend. People usually lose motivation to attend meetings, to follow-up or to participate if the meetings are disorganized, poorly planned, or lack follow-up activities. This is why planning ahead is critical. When planning a community meeting, keep in mind to: 1. identify the goals of the meeting, and 2. identify the audience for the meeting. Don't move forward with a meeting if there is no clear goal.
Creating an Agenda:
Agendas should include -
Time & length
Topics for Discussion
Each topic listed along with the time allotted and the presenter/discussion leader
Developing a great agenda is one of, if not THE most important keys to a great meeting. Agendas usually serve as the outline to guide a meeting, and help the facilitator make the best use of time. For community meetings, if there is already an existing group involved with preparing the meeting, ask them to help develop the agenda; this may help them feel more ownership around the issues being discussed and more empowered to participate.
So... what formats can community meetings take?
Formal meetings provide the opportunity to connect with a general community audience and highlight the importance of transparency among those in power. With formal meetings, the goals are to keep the community informed while involving them in decision-making efforts. Examples of formal meetings are: town hall meetings, and meetings of existing community groups that have added you to their agenda. Town hall meetings are often meetings where elected officials provide answers to questions from community members, and the purpose of these meetings is for elected officials to hear the community's views on public issues. Meetings of existing community groups provide a platform for you to share information and invite other community members to join your campaign. Getting on other community groups' agendas (those that are interested in your policy campaign) increases the possibility for a campaign to grow stronger and potentially reach the local government's eye.
Informal meetings allow for constructive interactions with small groups while aiming to increase awareness of issues that affect the community. With informal meetings, people are less likely to feel that they are being lectured at or argued with, and more likely to engage in problem-solving and dialogue. Examples of informal meetings are: 1:1 meetings with leaders from community-based organizations (CBOs'), and attending community education venues to share information. The 1:1 meetings with leaders from CBOs' most times are used to obtain endorsements for the policy campaign or to educate leaders on certain issues that affect the community. Attending community education venues (such as church meetings, youth group meetings, Girl & Boy scout meetings, health fairs, local health related coalitions, or high school/college open houses and events) allows for a policy campaign to educate a small group of community members about the topic the campaign centers on; this can be an effective way to recruit advocates and connect with your community.
In summary, community meetings can take different formats but they are all forms of reaching the community and expanding opportunities for everyone to sit at the table. They are much needed and, when well-planned, play a helpful role in keeping everyone informed and getting valuable perspectives and support. Check out some tips on conducting community meetings here: