Effective Community Groups

Effective Community Groups
by Douglas D. Germann, Sr.
Copyright 2006, Learning Works, Incorporated

What do effective community groups do well? First, they make sure that everyone’s voice is heard as amply as each one needs.

Second, those who need reflection time are not forced to speak.

Third, every one’s talents are used generously: people are not asked to stuff envelopes when they are masters at meeting people one on one. Fourth, action is timed right: neither too soon, nor after the energy has peaked.

Fifth, complexity is fully met. Some things are complex and will not open to elementary analysis; sometimes synthesis is the way. Sixth, passions are engaged. Committees have a deserved reputation for killing enthusiasm; projects with a touch of the clandestine engage whole persons.

Seventh, effective groups look at who we’ve got, not who didn’t show, nor what resources we don’t have. Lack of money or influential people does not hold groups back; only lack of imagination. Eighth, effective groups let the agenda float. They do not only look at preconceived notions of what should happen, but are open to what opportunities and ideas come their way.

Ninth, they play, rest, and disengage. The push when the energy is high; but when things cool they go to the mountains or the water to refresh. There will be the right time again.

I am glad I found so many things that are key, precisely because it is too much to keep in one’s focus at one time. But it is easy for several people—exactly who you have available in a group of 6 to 12 or so.
So one practical way to become more effective as a group is the coffee plan: first invite a handful of people who are most engaged to coffee. See if you can define a question that is alive for you as a group, something that would engage other people. What’s juicy? What can people get their teeth into? What excites you? Maybe it’s as mundane as Why not paint the church fellowship hall? Or as difficult as What would immigration reform mean in this community? Or as far off as What can the Midwest do for peace in the Mideast? Maybe it’s How can the Sales people and the Manufacturing people get along?

Once you have an inviting question, invite far and especially wide. Get as many people as you can think of who have differing opinions. It is a mistake to bring only the pros or the antis together. Progress only comes for wholes.

Make the physical surroundings conducive to real dialogue: food and plenty of water; remove platforms, tables and anything that suggests “these people are better than you.” Set the chairs in circles: one large one for the whole group; small circles for breakout conversations.

Have a minimalist agenda. Invite people to post their questions about the inviting question. Send them off in their small groups to work on these topics. Then get out of their way.

In the end you will be surprised by what comes out of your group: maybe as a bonus, effective action.

Douglas D. Germann, Sr. can be contacted at 574/291-0022; fax 574/291-0024; e-mail: 76066.515@CompuServe.com; P. O. Box 2796, South Bend, IN 46680-2796.

Published in: | | on September 30th, 2006 | No Comments »