Campaign meetings #
Campaign meetings are an essential tool for bringing the campaign together for discussion and decision-making. Although they can be tedious and frustrating they should never be abandoned. Running successful, dynamic and positive meetings IS possible, although often hard work!
Firstly, decide on the purpose of the meeting. Regular weekly meetings are good for deciding basic campaign expenditure, exchanging news, and brief discussions, but aren't suitable for in-depth debates on a single issue, or for detailed action planning. It's best to call a separate meeting to deal in detail with planning or specific issues; alternatively, just get together the people interested, and do it! Some campaigns have set up small working groups to work on particular projects; these can then report back to a weekly meeting.
The weekly meeting should have a fixed time and venue, to provide a steady reference point. Weekday evenings are good times, starting the meeting late enough to allow people who have been working to get there, but early enough so that it finishes in good time. Meetings in camps are preferred by some camp-dwellers, but finding a reliable, comfortable, weatherproof and well-lit meeting space for enough people can be difficult. A meeting room in the nearest town is better, but will often pose transport problems for those living on camps. Providing reliable lifts from and back to camps on the meeting night may be the answer. Ensure the arrangement is broadly acceptable to everyone.
Running the Meeting #
There are many ways to run a meeting, and the campaign must find one that is accessible and inclusive. Start by sitting in a circle large enough for everyone to see each other. There are two main ways which are commonly used to run a meeting:
- The "talking stick" method - this involves a stick or other object, which
is passed between speakers, with only the stick-holder speaking. This theoretically gives everyone equal control over the meeting. However, people often chose to pass the stick to their friends or to people they know will support them. It is also very easy for dominant people to hog the stick. This method is therefore best used in co-operative meetings where there is little polarisation of opinion.
- "Facilitation" - this involves somebody taking the role of facilitator or
chair. The facilitator should move through the agenda ensuring that points are discussed by the meeting, not just by the most vociferous. Facilitators could actively seek the opinions of new, quieter or shy people, but don't put them on the spot. The facilitator must be as genuinely objective as possible; a bad facilitator can completely ruin a meeting. The facilitator should avoid putting forward their own views. If they want to seriously get involved in the debate, they should relinquish the role for that period.The facilitator should encourage new points, discourage reiteration in discussion and aim towards concluding the discussion with an action point (i.e. a task that someone agrees to take on). If lots of people have their hands up, note them in order on a piece of paper so each gets their say in turn. Remember that people whose hard work would otherwise go unrecognised should be thanked by the meeting.
It is important to rotate the facilitator at each meeting - this does not mean putting them in the middle of the circle and spinning them around, but instead means encouraging everyone to have a go. Good facilitators tend to keep facilitating meetings, but if you rotate the role, no individual will dominate. Make sure that people from different parts of the campaign with different perspectives have a go.
A piece of paper and a pen should be circulated at the start of the meeting so that all points for discussion can be formed into an agenda. This agenda should then be prioritised by the meeting. Always include an "Any Other Business" section at the end for forgotten items. It is a good idea to write up the agenda on a large bit of paper and stick it on the wall so that everyone (especially latecomers) can see what is going on. If something really dramatic and important happens, (such as contracts being signed) be prepared to abandon the agenda and talk about it for as long as necessary.
Minute Taking #
A minute taker should note important decisions, action points and the name of who's doing them. It is important that the work load after the meeting is distributed evenly, amongst as many individuals as possible. If the minutes of the previous meeting are read out at the start of each meeting then you can see what has happened, what should have been done, and how the campaign is developing.
Meeting Structure #
Allow time before the meeting for gossip. Decide an end time at the start and try to stick to it. It is useful to separate the weekly meeting into sections, discussing finance and allocation of resources, for instance, for a fixed time, then moving on to other matters. Some basic structure helps everyone understand what's going on - starting the meeting with a current situation report works well, and a short news and information exchange, without discussion, can follow. After these relatively straightforward matters, the meeting can proceed to discussion points. Find your own simple structure that gets things done. If meetings last more than an hour, take a break.
Decision-making is a tricky process. Most campaign meetings have used a form of consensus. This means that everyone must agree a proposal, or at least be prepared to accept it; if someone has a really strong or principled objection, they can block the decision. This should create a process whereby a solution is reached by argument without alienating or dismissing anyone's strongly-held views. Of course, there are problems, including the ability of one awkward individual to dominate and block decisons. However, consensus remains the most inclusive way of making decisions. Avoid voting if at all possible, especially on contentious issues, as the minority losers of the vote are immediately excluded. This may cause factions to form.