Running effective meetings will help keep your supporters engaged and active in your campaign.
Venue and time
The lack of affordable, accessible community spaces means that groups don’t always have much choice when booking venues. Local churches will still often have a space that can be rented cheaply, and sometimes local libraries too. Venues should be as accessible as possible, and near public transport unless attendees are very local.
Also consider the timing of the meeting so that they work for the attendees. For open, public meetings, booking early evening is probably best. If meetings go on too late, they will deter those with a long way to travel afterwards. If they start too early, it might exclude those who work.
Preparing an agenda will give the meeting a format to follow, and help you get through the business in the allocated time. You can include an indicative time for each agenda item, and add an ‘AOB’ (any other business) at the end for late items. It is good practice to circulate the agenda in advance by email or through social media, and invite participants to add items they wish to discuss.
Preparing for the discussion is also important. You could, for example, look at the Annual Report for your own housing association and compare these to others. The reports are available to download from the landlord’s website, and contain Key Performance Indicators (KPI) which tell you how many repairs they undertook, how fast the repairs were completed, how much money the association makes, how much they pay their senior managers, and other data that can be used in the campaign. Draw up a list for your landlord and compare their results with others. Ask attendees to describe their own experience of repairs or any examples they want to share.
Roles and responsibilities
You will need to decide who will take on roles; a chair for the meeting to make sure it stays focussed and within the alloted time. It is also helpful to have someone take notes, particularly action points. An enthusiastic speaker is always good, and might be someone from another successful campaign, or with particular experience of the issues you wish to campaign on. Other supporters may have expertise, enthusiasm, and time, so invite people to get involved in any way you can each time you agree an action point. The roles are important but should also be kept proportionate; overly bureaucratic practice is a big deterrent to active participation.
Conduct of the meeting
Starting off with a round of introductions helps draw people in and makes the environment more friendly. Ask people to briefly introduce themselves at the start, although if the meeting is very large, this might just need to be the key players such as chair and secretary.
At the start of the meeting, it is also helpful to outline the purpose of the meeting, and particularly any critical decisions that need to be made. For example, if you want to set up a tenants’ or residents’ association, you will need to take a formal vote. You will also need to elect officers who will take on tasks between meetings, and draw up a constitution. Keep checking to see if participants are willing to help out – they may be reluctant to take on formal ‘officer’ roles, but may offer to complete particular action points with a bit of encouragement.