| Agricultural extension |
|Organizing cooperative activity|
Even after all the footwork detailed in the previous sections, meetings do not just happen. The process of assessing interests and problems and defining issues and tasks is the most important part of initiating meetings, however. Meetings actually are the end result of this long process, even though they often signal the beginning of cooperative activity. This footwork is the organizers' responsibility, while the meeting itself is the forum in which the organizer transfers all responsibility for group cooperation back to the group, through local leaders.
The end result of the preparation process is a series of individual commitments not only to come to a meeting but to participate in specific ways as well. Each member of a cooperating group has something to offer, some skill and some overriding interest to pursue. This potential energy source is harvested for the group's cooperative needs by means of the commitment the organizer hears from each participant. Having solicited and orchestrated these commitments along with the issues and tentative tasks to be discussed, the organizer begins to plan the meeting with local leaders. A "map" of the terrain of the probable discussion is made. A formal map of this kind is called an agenda.
Planning a meeting involves deciding upon the subject matter to be discussed, setting up the logistics of the meeting itself and clarifying the process by which decisions will be made. The subject matter is dictated by the issues and tentative tasks which have envolved through individual discussion of the overall problem. Priorities can be established by answering questions like: What specific thing is it best to accomplish in this meeting? What is possible in the time allowed? What will be presented as the specific purpose of this meeting?
The logistics of a group meeting must be well planned so they contribute to rather than detract from the meeting's success. Determining the number of people to come and the type of meeting it is to be, leaders can decide where the most appropriate site may be. The time, place and date must then be set, considering competing interests and local custom. The participants should be asked if the logistics (especially time) suit them, so final adjustments can be made.
The organizer and leaders should make sure there is maximum participation, no one is left out, and items are considered carefully and systematically. An understanding of how groups work and make decisions is crucial to guiding the meeting process. The following subchapter "Group Dynamcis" explores this in depth. At this stage leaders try to define steps the group can take which will bring people through fruitful discussion to agreement on the tasks and roles they will take on. Leaders leave room in this plan for variations and options which the group may exercise, because meetings never go exactly as planned, and arbitrarily tight control which is not sensitive to the needs of participants can hinder group efforts considerably. The plan of how things may go is a tentative and fluid guide by which leaders can keep the meeting on track while adjusting to needs as they arise.
An agenda or list of the steps of the meetings and topics to be discussed should be devised and shared with participants if possible before the meeting commences. In the case of oral cultural situations, this can be done informally by word of mouth, although written agendas are also common. By sharing the agenda beforehand, each participant is clued in to how he or she fits into the meeting. "Oh, this is where I can say my thing." A shared agenda may also be used as the meeting guide without being an arbitrary source of power. The agenda can be discussed, adjusted and agreed upon to begin meetings, in order to assure group allegiance.
By sticking to an agreed-upon agenda based on rigorous organizing footwork beforehand, a meeting can progress fairly smoothly. Each meeting takes on its own characteristics and nature, however, and going with the flow of things as they come up (as long as they are not too far off the subject) helps a meeting move toward its conclusion. Leaders function best when they balance the need for orderly progress with an ability to adjust to the way ideas and topics come up spontaneously. Meeting are most successful when they are lively and well-paced.
A meeting should always end with a summary in order to remind participants of concrete results and commitments made. The last thing with which to end a meeting, business-wise, is an agreement as to the time and place of the next meeting As for the style of meetings beyond these suggestions, local custom and hat t should dictate the details. American college students find it normal to sit in a circle and act as equals without a real authority figure. In some communities tradition dictates a clear line of authority and a formal process of discussion involving spokespeople, parliamentary procedure or other conventions. These various styles must be respecfully employed, tailoring the suggestions made here to fit into any cultural patterns. That kind of sensitivity can itself lend weight to the process of group decision-making and contribute to the overall success of cooperative activity.
How to lead the meeting (Kenya/AID Ag Extension Manual)
1. Open the meeting.
(i) Put the group at ease.
• Se at ease yourself.
• Tell the story.
• Relate to current events.
• Use well modulated, low voice.
• Make introductions.
(ii) State objectives and explain plan.
• A clear statement starts off the meeting with proper direction.
• State overall objectives.
• State immediate objectives.
• Let the group make every decision possible.
(1) Who will take the minutes?
(2) How long will the meeting last?
(3) What about tea breaks?
(4) Are individual notes necessary?
(5) Are questions permissable?
(6) Are special speakers needed?
(7) Will individual assignments be made?
(8) What form of summary will be given?
(9) Will mimeo summaries be mailed to members?
(iii) Arouse interest.
• Develop friendly attitude toward the group.
• Establish a need for their thinking and cooperation.
• Associate objectives and subject with the group's experience.
• Point out personal benefits.
• Use friendly competition.
• Use visuals, etc.
2. Present the facts
(i) Present the: facts clearly.
• Clear thinking precedes clear expression.
• Present one idea at a time.
• Relate ideas.
• Use language for group level.
(ii) Stimulate and direct discussion.
• How would you do it in your district?
• Where would you get the information?
• What evidence is there that this is true?
• Give us an example of what you mean.
• If this is true, what shall we do?
• When shall we put it into effect?
• Who is most concerned in your district?
• How would Mr. X's idea work?
• Why is it necessary to do this?
The above questions are samples of how to encourage discussion. Your questions are better, but design them to fit the situation and to bring out the facts.
(iii) Keeping discussion moving.
• Use chalk board for the objectives.
• Re-stating the objectives.
• Asking questions.
• Appoint someone to study questions which are doubtful as to use.
• When the purpose of the meeting is accomplished bring it to a close.
(iv) Encourage thinking by every individual present.
• Do not allow one or two persons to dominate the discussion.
• Keep a participation chart.
3. Weigh the facts.
(i) Help the group weigh the facts.
• Condense ideas into short statement.
• Weigh actions against objectives.
(ii) Get group acceptance.
• Use blackboard to list objectives.
(iii) Summarize frequently.
• "Let's see where we are now"
• Use questions to sharpen the facts on the objectives.
• Use questions to steer the group.
4. Sum up.
(i) Summarize agreements or conclusions.
• The chairman is reponsible for "nailing down. the conclusions.
• Get down in writing the cold facts concluded.
(ii) Indicate the action needed.
• What is going to be done about it.
• Where are we going from here?
• Get the group to indicate action needed.
(iii) Make follow-up assignments.
• Who is to do the work.
• Write down the assignments.
• Appoint a committee for further study.
• Request special reports from individuals.
• Write up, distribute and file minutes.
• Report the meeting to the press.
• Inform absent members of actions.
• Assign responsibility for future meetings.
(iv) Close on time.
• Think of your audience
• If it runs over time; excuse those who must go.
• Unfinished business can be carried on at future meetings.
• Do not plan to do more than is possible in the time scheduled.