Meeting Guidelines Agreement, with new Input in Absentia section.

Process 2008-05-19


Updated meeting guidelines which include separate facilitator and participant guidelines, as well as a four-step method for working through emotional charge. Additionally, the proposal outlines an Input in Absentia agreement for community members who are unable to attend a meeting.


PURPOSE: to encourage Great Oak to have productive and engaging meetings.

INTENT: to suggest goals for meeting preparation and behavior, to help everyone to participate as fully and effectively as they can.

Background: Shortly after Great Oak organized as a community, the members adopted a set of meeting guidelines that were to be followed at community meetings. Since that time, we have experienced many community meetings and broadened our understanding of the roles of both the facilitator and the meeting participants.

In addition, we have benefited from training offered by a variety of outside facilitators. This has given us a new perspective on our meetings.

The Process Committee is offering this proposal to incorporate new items into the existing guidelines, including the four step method we learned from Laird, and to clarify the guidelines by separating them out into "facilitator" and "participant" categories.

For a much more thorough description of the role of the facilitator, please see the facilitator job description.

The Input in Absentia agreement was added to this agreement by the community in May 2008. After it became an issue at a community meeting, Process and Infoco committees were tasked with bringing back a proposal about community members wanting to submit their viewpoint about an agenda item when they can't attend the community meeting.



Facilitate in a non-biased way and do not offer personal opinions on content.

Remind the group of our ground rules.

Gently interrupt repeating.

Work to keep people on topic.

Use stacks. The facilitator should ask for a stacker if they need help with it. The facilitator may choose to deviate from the stacked order. For example, to work through a charged point, or to follow up on an important sub-thread, or to call on someone who has not spoken before.

Assume everyone's good intentions; treat everyone with respect and ensure that others do as well.

Encourage wide participation in discussion.

Make process related decisions if the group is undecided about what direction to go in the moment.

Reflect back people's input so they know they've been heard, and if possible, summarize comments.

Ask for a scribe to write down comments when there's too much to easily remember.

Identify and remind the group about the areas of agreement.

Restate agreements the group makes and make sure they get in the minutes.

Manage conflict while honoring emotion as a means of communication. Use the 4 step method when conflict or strong emotion arises, if applicable (and if comfortable doing so), or ask another facilitator to step in.

Maintain a sense of humor.


Express emotion, not aggression.

Ask questions if confused.

Raise hand to speak.

Assume everyone's good intentions; respect each other.

Stick to the topic under discussion.

Speak up if not in agreement.

Use "I" statements; speak for oneself.

Allow one conversation at a time; avoid side conversations.

Speak briefly and to the point.

Arrive on time and ready to begin; come prepared.

If you miss a meeting or part of a meeting, read the minutes to catch up.

Maintain a sense of humor.


When someone is upset about something, they are not able to calmly listen to others and work toward the best solution. The group needs to work first on removing the emotional charge, before it can work on the solution seeking. Below is a four step method for doing that.

1. What are the feelings?

Get the feelings named. Ask what is going on. There may be a misperception; you may think that someone is upset and they may not be. Check it out. Get the feeling named. It's not that you are trying to get it agreed with.

2. What is the story?

Something happened or didn't happen, something was said. 1 and 2 are often linked. It's good to separate them out because sometimes people go right into the story without naming the emotion. It's nearly impossible to do good work on solution seeking before you have unpacked that emotion. Allow time to name that you have different stories, different truths. You don't have to solve them in the moment, just let them be said.

3. What do YOU want?

This can be all over the map. Occasionally conflicts are fueled by a gross misconception of how people MIGHT answer this question. So, ask the question. What is at stake for you in this issue? What do you want? You're not solving anything yet, just listening.

4. What do YOU want to do about it?

Similar to 3, but different. If you've done 1-3 well, participants have been given a chance to share, and you've done this for multiple people. Now you move on to what you are going to do about it, what you think will help here. Not what you want others to do about it, it's what you can contribute that is forward moving.

These four steps are a prelude to problem solving - an attempt to get the discussion back to a place where the group can work together toward a solution.



1. Some things to keep in mind when you want to give input when you absolutely can't attend a meeting:

o When there is advance notice about a topic coming to a community meeting that you can't attend, it's best to go to the committee or person bringing forward the proposal with your comments first, rather than waiting to give written feedback to the community meeting as your first communication about it.

o Things work better when you put your best self forward.

o You should not expect to get your way because you've given written comments. The group will listen, and will then have its discussion and build consensus with those in the room. You will miss out on the opportunity to hear others and change your perspective.

2. How to go about it:

o Write your comments down, and give the comments to one of the facilitators for that community meeting.

o The facilitator will give the comments to the minute taker, and the minute taker will read it aloud at the beginning of the discussion and get it into the minutes.

3. Community response:

o The community will listen to the written comments, and will proceed with coming up with the best agreement they can with the people who are in the room, which may or may not agree with the written comments.



also discussed on 1/16/06 and 12/19/05, input in absentia also discussed on 4/21/08.

Process Comments:

0 standasides.