I recently facilitated some local meetings with rural communities.
A group of ‘activists’ came from outside of these communities. Their issues were often unrelated to the objectives of the meetings. They tended to dominate proceedings and locals were left frustrated about their involvement being compromised.
So here’s what I tried:
1. In the introduction I made the groundrules for the meeting very clear, using the ROPES
Respect for others
Share the Air
I made particular emphasis to respect for others and being willing to ‘share the air’ and give everyone a ‘fair go’. This was very useful when things got heated or people started to ‘over-participate’.
2. I also ran one meeting (where we had sufficient space) differently by running concurrent sessions – rather than have the whole group assembled (100+ people in a community venue) we ran 2 x concurrent sessions. This gave more time for locals to ask questions during the sessions, coupled with break times in between to do so on an informal basis.
3. I also spent time with the ‘activists’ to better understand where they were coming from & made sure they still had an equal chance to ask questions & have their say.
From the desk it sounds simple – in a heated, passionate community environment it was challenging – but these approaches helped and the feedback from all sides was positive!