Roll out the welcome mat…

A recurring theme on this blog and on others such as Dwight Towers and Chris Johnston is welcoming newcomers into groups. Dwight has pointed us at Beyond The Choir’s take on welcoming new folk. Read their article Orienting new members and volunteers to a local group. Some wise words. In short they recommend

  • welcome interviews to get to know newcomers
  • meeting people where they are at in terms of commitment and time on offer
  • being nice! A much under-rated groupwork tool that helps people feel valued

Formal ‘ welcome interviews’ might not suit every situation, but the questions they offer are still a guide for an informal conversation. I’d also recommend placing stronger emphasis on the “what do you want out of this?” side of things, and aim to have a conversation in which the newcomer gets to do most of the talking. It’s through listening that we ultimately convince people they will be valued as a group member.

I’ve added the pdf here for those with less time and you’ll also find it on our resources page. But meander round their site when you have a moment.

Beyond the Choir: Plugging people in

Catching up….

In case you (very sensibly) spent less time reading blogs over the festive season, here’s a quick catch up with a few gems that were posted recently….

First the usual suspects:

Chris Johnston’s Shepherd and Flock offers a critical analysis of the relationship between campaigning NGOs and their grassroots networks. Here’s a taste:

The bottom line is, if you want extraordinary activists, you need to support them in pursuing their agenda, not yours. And that requires you be a facilitator, not a shepherd.

Dwight Towers offers us a Perfect 5 point checklist for saving the world (just one of many great posts in the last couple of weeks) in which he shares Francis Moore Lappe’s Living democracy checklist.

Dwight also pointed us to Viv McWaters blog where she’s been treating us to a series of posts on facilitation:

  • Great facilitation – what is it? In which Viv talks about the qualities of great facilitation – empathy, humility, bravery, playfulness, collaboration and responsiveness. It’s a good list illustrated with good comments.
  • Rethinking facilitation – a video of new educational approaches: If you can google facilitation processes and get millions of result,  watch videos of facilitators in action, read facilitation blogs, articles and even books on-line, why the expense (in time and money) of coming together for training? It’s no longer necessary to come together to get the information you need to facilitate.Not necessary, perhaps, but Viv shares some thoughts about how best to use the opportunity of face-to-face training
  • You wouldn’t paint by numbers, so why would you want to facilitate by numbers?

It drives me nuts when facilitation is described mechanically: do this, then this, then that, and voila! Funnily, it never seems to quite work out that way in the real world.

So here’s the paradox. I love helping others to learn how to facilitate, work effectively with groups, upset entrenched patterns, surface emotions and unleash creativity, have big and small conversations. Yet when someone asks me how I know to do this or that when facilitating, I’m flummoxed. I often don’t know. I guess it’s a bit like asking an artist how they knew to put that stroke exactly there, or why use those combinations of colours. How did they know? I’m guessing they just knew because it becomes innate – through years and years of practice, through trial and error, through trusting their talent and their instincts. Through taking a chance, being brave, by being willing to make lots of mistakes before getting it ‘right’. By mucking it up, throwing it out and starting over. By believing they can do it, that it can be done.

Viv’s a welcome addition to my feed-reader. Hope you agree.

Mapping the activist experience

Take a look at Chris Johnston’s latest post: A journey through time, space and Leed’s global justice movement. It would be easy to be put off by the Leeds-specific title and the early mention of the-less-than-thrilling-named Customer Journey Mapping, but hang in there.

There’s something here for anyone trying to start, sustain or facilitate activism. Chris’s Activist Journey Map is well worth replicating for your group, network or organisation. Possibly a useful variation on other mapping tools for group’s strategy or visioning, or for designing support for networks of activists?