At the end of any research it is important to report the results to the people who helped you even if you do not intend to act on the findings. This may be done by a phone call or an email or a written report, or by calling a meeting. If your research shows that there is sufficient need for an organisation, this meeting can also be the first step in getting others involved.
1.2.1 Build a Solid Foundation of Good Meeting Practice
Meetings are an important part of the management of an organisation and a number of meeting tools and techniques have been developed that can help you manage them successfully. The character and effectiveness of your meetings will play an important part in developing the culture of your organisation and in the satisfaction and retention of volunteers. Therefore it is valuable to build a solid foundation of good meeting practice early in the life of the organisation. Your library will have a number of books on the subject and some are listed at the end of this chapter.
You can call the meeting yourself but it may be strategic to enlist the aid of an organisation or government or community worker with an interest in the issue. They are likely to understand the timing, travel and other constraints involved in arranging the meeting and to have a wider list of contacts who may be interested. It is often appropriate to seek out interagency networks, local government and neighbourhood centres as contact sources.
Do not try to achieve too much at this meeting. The aim is to inform people of your research findings and to engage them in assisting you to set up the organisation. Be sure to invite those people affected by the issue and any civic or business leaders who may be able to help you in the future.
1.2.2 Invite People to Contribute their Vision for the Organisation
People volunteer for a community organisation for many reasons but a primary motivation is that it offers them a way to do something they feel strongly about. Inviting people to contribute their own ideas for the purpose of the organisation is a powerful way of gaining their support. Once you have presented your information, and allowed time for comment, discuss your ideas for the organisation and ask them for theirs. Your research findings are also likely to stimulate new ideas.
A useful way to gather ideas quickly is to use a meeting technique called brainstorming. This process is designed to create a non-judgemental environment where the mind can play, and where one idea can spark off another. The key words here are non-judgemental and play. This allows everyone's ideas to be expressed and respected. A simple 2 step brainstorming process is available at:
A specialised form of brainstorming is called slip writing. This technique includes a step that guides participants to group their ideas so that they can be better understood and acted upon. It is a very good technique to use when people are from different cultures or backgrounds or may be shy about speaking publicly. A simple 6 step slip writing process is available at: http://www.learningplace.com.au/uploads/documents/store/resources/res_40020_Slipwriting.pdf.
1.2.3 Consider the Type of Activity to be Carried out
Once the ideas have been generated and recorded, it is useful to group them by the primary type of activity required to implement the idea such as:
- Empowerment - where the people affected by the issue are supported to meet their own needs, e.g. creating opportunities for new mothers to meet for regular walks as a way of combating post-natal depression.
- Advocating for a cause, community or group - where changing public opinion or community priorities and practices are key activities, e.g. lobbying child-care centres for crisis-care places for babies of women suffering post-natal depression.
- Directly providing a service - where professional staff and community assets are involved, e.g. setting up a family wellbeing centre providing family education on post-natal depression and professional counselling for women affected.
1.2.4 Project, Program, Auspice or Organisation
Arranging your ideas under these headings also helps clarify the type of organisational system required to achieve them. Some activities, such as lobbying child-care centres, may be short-term projects requiring very few resources or little organisational structure. An activity is considered a project when it involves a series of tasks that end once a specific goal has been achieved. Other ideas, such as creating opportunities for new mothers to meet, may require an ongoing program that is best carried out by an existing organisation such as, in this example, one already servicing new mothers. A program is an ongoing project or group of inter-related projects. The idea of a family wellbeing centre, as mentioned above, could be developed and managed as a new organisation but it could also be a building shared by a number of organisations providing a range of services to families, including education programs and counselling. In the latter case, a new organisation could be formed to manage the building or one of the tenant organisations could auspice a management team made up of representatives from all the tenants. To auspice, in this context, means an organisation will provide the legal and financial structure to an independent management team in order to avoid the cost and time associated with setting up and managing a new organisation. Having gathered a number of ideas and grouped them by the primary type of activity required (empowerment, advocacy or service delivery) you can now create sub-groups, under each activity heading according to whether an idea is best managed as a project, a program, an auspiced committee or a new organisation. By now, patterns should begin to form and the purpose of your organisation should begin to take shape.
If you have time, eliminate those activities that are already being done, or could best be done, by someone else. Your public support will be limited if people think the work is the responsibility of another organisation. It is good to consider such decisions at the meeting because people can then understand why some ideas were not acted upon. However, if time is short, such considerations can be deferred to a work group.
1.2.5 Identify the Purpose of the Organisation
The next step is to combine and prioritise those ideas that need a new organisation. An organisation can be a combination of participation, advocacy and service delivery. Most will run projects and programs but it is important to identify a primary purpose. However, the most important resource for a new organisation is people with a passion to see it happen. Remember, the people at this meeting should have knowledge of the issue and their opinion can be a valuable guide to you. This step is to inform you rather than limit or direct you; ultimately, it is the people who volunteer to set up the organisation who will have the final decision. With this in mind, your last meeting task is to invite people to join a work group to start the process.
For more information on a meeting to set up a new organisation, see Chapter 3: Meetings.