From small group to a small army
After a well-run public exercise such as described in my earlier blogs it is not unusual to have around 50 people engaged in community action. How do you keep up the momentum?
Keeping the momentum
Here are some ways:
- Form action groups around chosen themes/projects – not committees. Productive people avoid talk shops and long committee meetings. So only get a group to meet if it is focused on action. Otherwise it is simply a talk shop.
- Don’t rush to appointing chairpersons and secretaries. All this does is create a permanent division between those who are more committed and those that are less committed, a means by which most people can now relax their sense of responsibility. Stay as a group of equal players focused on action.
- Keep your group sessions short and continue to avoid having anyone dominate the session or using it as their own platform.
- Make sure there are actions for everyone and that you let each other know what you are doing- it is encouraging to hear about what has moved on.
- Encourage individual endeavour as well as group action. Acknowledge that not everyone works best in a group. Some people will prefer to not come to every meeting but will be twice as productive by just staying in touch and getting on with what they are meant to be doing. That is fine.
- Make meetings attractive. Get people to bring along refreshments, have warm rooms, comfortable chairs and so on. After a long day of hard work the last thing we want to do is sit in a big cold hall on hard chairs huddled in coats to keep warm.
- Be realistic. Inevitably some people will drop out for perfectly human reasons. However, if you have worked in an open progressive way others will have joined along the way too and those who left will feel welcome to come back.
By keeping the focus on action you are allowing others in rather than having a sense of a closed committee that might appear closed to new members. Actions speak louder than words. Actions get noticed, they reveal real progress, and they encourage others to join in. Keep things moving.
Keep the wider community in touch
At a wider community level it is advisable to meet every six months as a whole community and have each action group report on progress. This helps maintain momentum, shares information, provides accountability and transparency and allows others to join all the time. Again make sure these events are enjoyable and celebratory.
Support your group and the actions will support themselves
Ultimately your core group will now have expanded. It will just look like a group of transitory co-ordinators of group actions that are running themselves. You are not that “Development Committee.”
The good news is that if you have got to this stage, the future is better and it is easier.