Public Lab Wiki documentation



Facilitate your meetings

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This page includes resources for facilitation and decision making processes. Please edit and add!

There is a conversation in the room that only these people in this moment can have. Find it.

This idea was articulated by Taj James in the co-facilitation of the environmental justice resource redistribution initiative Building Equity and Alignment's inaugural meeting in 2013, and resurfaced by adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategies.

Principles at work in Public Lab

Basics

--> Before your meeting:

  • Find a meeting time that works for people you want to attend. A poll can be a good tool for setting a meeting time.
  • Find a meeting space that can accommodate your group and make everyone comfortable. Some important things to consider are the size of your group, how you want the room setup and if the space will be accessible for everyone (eg, accessible, non-binary bathrooms)
  • Set and send an intention, goal, or agenda in advance. This helps people know what to expect and what you're hoping to accomplish in person.

--> Meeting ground rules

It is important that everyone has the chance to weigh in on proposed ground rules and and approaches to "hearing all voices" and have a chance to add in any others they see as important before a meeting starts. Below is a list of some ground rules that can be helpful:

  • Be a steward of the time and space - when everyone is a steward of the time and space, it takes the pressure off the person or group who might be facilitating. When everyone takes ownership of the space, participants can help with things like note taking, time keeping, and keeping the meeting space clean.
  • Be fully present - When you go to an event or a meeting, you dedicate time to that issue. It's important to recognize for yourself that you've done that and to recognize that others in the room have done it as well. To be fully present means that participants are listening, interacting, and not allowing themselves to be distracted by things like email or cell phones.
  • Consider best intentions - By setting up a mental frame that everyone is coming to the meeting space with the best intentions, and that comments said there were said with good intentions, helps participants to contemplate what is said, consider positive frames before assuming negative conclusions.
  • Consider impact - Closely related to the above point "consider best intentions" which applies while you listen to others, when talking consider the impact of your statement to others who are listening to you.
  • Ask for clarification - Anyone can ask for clarification at the meeting. This helps to make sure everyone stays on the same page, that no one is misunderstood, and that no one is left out by simple things such as acronyms that could be clarified.
  • Be constructive with comments not destructive - ensure that people are building on conversations and ideas instead of taking them down. It's okay to disagree, but disagree in a constructive way.
  • Use stack - Keeping stack in a meeting can be a useful tool for helping to make sure that everyone is heard and we're not losing people in the conversation. Stack is a list of people who wish to speak on the topic. One strategy in stack is to bump people to the top of the list who haven't spoken before. This method needs someone to volunteer to "keep Stack." Note: do not get in Stack simply to indicate agreement, instead....
  • Snap or wave fingers to show agreement instead of adding voice - Often times in meetings when we want to show that we are in agreement, we have a tendency to get back in the speaker queue to repeat things others have already said. One strategy you can use to show support is to snap or wave your fingers instead of using your voice.
  • Limit turns to one minute, and one (new) topic at a time - Limit speaker time to give everyone a chance to speak who wants to. Within that minute, ensure that only one point is made by the speaker, to make sure the discussion doesn't lose coherence.
  • Call for a minute break - At any time, anyone can call for a minute break. Good for when the discussion is heating up too much.
  • Decode jargon - Using highly specialized language such as scientific or technical terms, or speaking in acronyms, can prevent us from understanding each other. Aim to use the easiest to understand yet accurate term possible, and allow time both in your statements to unpack acronyms fully and after your statements in case someone asks for clarification. Option to use "jargon goggles" hand signal to gently remind a team-member to check their language.
  • Keep track of the topics to circle back to - Meeting agendas can derail when we realize we have things to talk about other than what we've set out to do. It's important to keep track of things you want to circle back to, but recognize when it's off topic. It's important to allow the group to keep a list of these and offer time to circle back to these issues. Sometimes this strategy is called the "Parking Lot" or the "Bike Rack" as in "let's write down that idea and put it in the bike rack."
  • Give content warnings- If you will be bringing up sensitive topics, give content warnings first and obtain consent from those with whom you are sharing communication space. We type "CW" for "content warning" on our text channels (email, slack, chat), on our social media accounts, and in notes taken during meetings. We say "content warning" in our live meetings. Allow people to excuse themselves from hearing or discussing topics. Note that people may change their preferences on when, where, and with whom they share these conversations. Also note that this community tends not to discuss topics requiring content warnings on publiclab.org.

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Processes used in Public Lab

  • Open Space Technology: Precursor to the contemporary (and less interesting) "unconference," this structure has been around since the '80s and allows a group to set its own agenda for its time together in order to make progress on complex issues. Used in Public Lab Barnraisings.
  • Open community call: "think of community calls as office hours for particular themes, or as design sessions for programs. A community call is a meeting, held online, that invites people to gather at a specific time each week or month. They’re recurring and open to anyone who wishes to join. A community call is a tool for solving problems, breaking out of individual silos, and finding points of connection between different initiatives or people. Most importantly, a great call serves as a launchpad for communities. Community calls bring people together from all over the world. They serve as a social and cultural touchstone. It’s all about connection."

Other processes used occasionally

Other decision-making and governance processes

  • Sociocracy a peer governance system based on consent
  • Roberts Rules of Order, or "parliamentary procedure," ie, what you can expect to see at your local town hall or community board meeting

Other resources