Have a Meeting (Constructively)

Learn from Sam Smith

The town meeting is the strongest of all citadels of civil liberty, the purest of all democracies.

One of the best ways to revive democracy in our country is to make sure every organisation, school, and club meeting is run according to its principals

* The beauty of consensus is that people feel better after reaching it, for in its wake is clear evidence that one has done the best possible under the circumstances.

Instead of a vote, there typically comes a call for consensus expressed by a question such as “Are there any concerns remaining?” If there are concerns, the group tries to work them out or amend the proposal under consideration. If there are still problems, some members of the group may agree to “stand aside” on the issue- in other words, to retain their concerns but not block the decision.

To Make Meetings Democratic, Decent, Yet Still Productive

Stress common ground. Get people looking for things they can agree on rather than fight about.

* Hide your copy of Roberts’s rules of order. At least try simple fairness and civility before building parliamentary mazes

* If an issue starts to bog down a meeting, have each side select a representative, have the representatives chose a mediator, and ask all three to leave and try to reach a consensus Use preference voting for the selection of officers and board

* If you are trying to draft a program or policy, break up into small groups dealing with different aspects of the mater. List every idea on newsprint. Then give the participants three or four small coloured sticks with their initials on them. Let them place these sticks on the idea they most favor. Then, as in preference voting, drop those ideas with only one sticker and let those who supported them move their stickers elsewhere. Continue until consensus is reached. The physical activity alone helps ease some of the tension that can develop on such occasions

* Use fishbowl negotiations. Have each small group select a representative. Have the representative’s gather in a circle with their group members behind them. While only the representatives are allowed to negotiate the final decision, their group members can stop them at any time for a caucus. Everything is done in front of every one ells; that’s how it gets its name.

* Meetings can turn otherwise decent people into demons, the succinct into the pedantic, and the normally direct into the convoluted. A moderator or chair with a sense of humour and fairness can prevent a lot of mystery. Everyone else can help by acting like real people.




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