GO Minute-taking Guidelines

Process 2003-02-17

Background:

The following guidelines describe how minutes should be taken for both committees and for full-community meetings.

Proposal:

Minutes are legal documents of our public life as a community. Minutes need to be clear and able to stand on their own through time. Minutes need to reflect the nature and detail of the meeting and are not a place for humor or editorializing by the minute taker. (Humor is too risky to do in minutes, because it is very easily misinterpreted, especially by those who were not able to be at the meeting and/or by those who might be reading the minutes several years from now.)

Minute takers may be drawn as volunteers from the group or be on regular rotation.

The minute taker is responsible for making sure there's a computer ready at the meeting, or for typing in their handwritten minutes after the meeting. People who have laptops have indicated willingness to bring them to a meeting if requested by a minute-taker who does not have one.

Don't bother with formatting - size, bold, font -- it will all be stripped out for email. Just do plain text.

Don't spell check during the meeting, you'll most likely miss something. Just leave it rough and edit later.

If you are assigned as minute taker for an Alternative meeting, please come prepared to take minutes at the Alternative meeting. If the Alternative meeting is something that needs only minimal minutes (like a dance for example), please write up a document that includes: the meeting date; meeting roles (who led it, facilitated it etc); the meeting topic; an attendance list; and a summary of what the group did.

The minute taker is responsible for emailing out to the group the draft minutes and seeking any corrections or additions, giving a deadline by which you will proceed (mark minutes as DRAFT). Email this draft version to talk@gocoho.org. Then integrate the feedback, and then email out the final minutes to the group (mark minutes as FINAL). Email this final version to the Book of Agreements archiving email address. In the case of community-meeting minutes, that address is minutes@gocoho.org. For committee minutes, that address is the committee name, plus a hyphen, then "minutes", so for process committee minutes for example, it's process-minutes@gocoho.org. (Note, this will automatically cc talk@gocoho.org.) Please include the meeting date in the subject line, as well as what the minutes were for - for example, "Final Minutes, Process committee meeting, 5/10/2010"

Email out the minutes in the body of an email message, rather than as an attachment.

We recommend a time-line of posting the draft minutes within two days after the meeting, giving people three to four days to give feedback, and then post the final within two days after that point. The goal is to have the final minutes emailed out no more than a week after the meeting.

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GUIDELINES for how the content should be organized:

- Record the date, time, meeting location, and who is the facilitator, minute taker, stacker, timekeeper, convener, and any other roles the group may have assigned.

- Attendance - write down everyone's name who's there. Keep an eye out for people coming in during the meeting and add them to the attendance list. For full community meetings, if we are going to make a consensus decision on an item we need 15 households in the room at the start of the discussion on that item. (They do not have to all be there for the whole discussion.)

- Type in the full agenda at the start of the minutes, including presenter's names

- Below the agenda, put a line of dashes. (This is helpful for our Book of Agreements archiving.)

- Highlighted Items: Tasks, Decisions, and Deferred Items should be placed at the start of a new paragraph and flagged as follows:

TASK: Any tasks assigned. Make sure to include the name(s) of the people or committee who will do it. Often referred to as a MONKEY instead of TASK, as in "a monkey on your back"

AGREED: All group consensus decisions. Read back the agreement as you've written it, at that moment during the meeting, for verification by the group. If you have any doubt, interrupt the facilitator and ask for clarity or wording.

In addition, make sure to record the names and the reasons for any stand-asides.

COOLER: Items to come back in the next 2-3 meetings.

FREEZER: Items that the group should address at some point, but are not urgent, and don't want to lose track of.

- Content: Try to capture the full flow of discussion. Record speakers' names only where it seems pertinent. Keep in mind we will need to understand these minutes years from now when we go to look something up.

- Tense: capture information in the past tense. Examples:
"It was suggested that..."
"A concern was raised that..."

- Interrupt: it's OK to ask the facilitator to stop for a moment so the minute-taker can catch up, or ask for clarity on an item when you're not sure what to record. Having clear minutes is worth the time, and its not good for the minute-taker to try to reconstruct later what happened. Get clarity in the moment.

- Index at top: When editing the minutes afterward, copy all the Monkeys and Agreements and list them near the start of the minutes for easy finding.

- Standard Abbreviations:
Great Oak: GO
Information coordination committee: InfoCo
Committee: cmtee
Community: cmty
Communities: cmties
Meeting: mtg

For full community meetings having a roster on hand will help with remembering peoples names.

Don't bother with formatting - size, bold, font -- it will all be stripped out for email. Just do plain text.

Don't spell check during the meeting, you'll most likely miss something. Just leave it rough and edit later.

Email out the minutes in the body of an email message, rather than as an attachment.

Comments:

Was not a proposal up for decision, just guidelines for discussion.

Revised May 2010 by Jillian for Process committee.