Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Superman and Lex Luthor cases for having ground-rules

If you get one thing from this post, it’s this: agree some ground-rules for your group.

I mean it – have a quick chat, sign ‘em off, put ‘em on the back of your agendas or on the wall when you meet.

Bish bash bosh. 


Still here? 

Ok, I’ll give you two schools of thought on ground-rules - the ruthlessly pragmatic and the kum bah yah around the campfire versions of why you need to do this.

First up, if Lex Luthor did facilitation

Photo by William Tung under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Most groups never quite realise they need ground-rules until they need them. Eye eee, someone turns up who disturbs the meeting in some way – interrupts, hijacks, black-hats et cetera.

You – intrepid facilitator – want to manage and address this behaviour without making your exercise of authority arbitrary and inconsistent.

For that, you need to make it about ground-rules. And that means agreeing them before you need them.

If Superman did facilitation

Photo by Christopher Stadler under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

But what if we adopt ground-rules because describing how we put our ethics into practice at meetings is a valuable end in itself?

I’ve never seen a meeting of the Justice League of America where they’ve agreed ground-rules, probably because they are too busy fighting MENACE and THREAT.*

But like your local campaign or community group, it’s an organisation driven by shared values. And comics being comics, they verbalise this all the time. Truth – check. Justice – check. American way – well, you know how this goes.

Ground-rules are a way of affirming our values to help us put them into practice. We’re respect each other enough to listen and stick to an agenda. We’re going to be welcoming to newcomers. Everyone gets a chance to speak. We’ll take decisions on a consensual basis wherever possible.

Affirmations like this help to collectively shape and regulate group culture. And could it be that if your group culture is healthy you're more likely to work together well and be able to integrate new people into your set-up.

Some examples of ground-rules

The Hackney and Tower Hamlets Friends of the Earth charter cited in the Local Group Handbook is still a good place to start.

But here are some other ground-rules solutions I've come across and wanted to share

1. The Birmingham group's ground-rules poster that they have up at every meeting - light, friendly, does the job.

2. The ex-Bury group's group agreement - a little more complex and interventionist - perhaps more suitable for a group where problems with meeting culture and communications have been identified and the core group agree that such is needed.

And if Batman did facilitation...

Yeah, you kind of know he’d be the best facilitator ever – just because he’s Batman.

*Although there was that 80’s version of the JLA, like Dallas in capes, where they probably really needed them to cope with the Guy Gardner edition of Green Lantern.

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