Getting Started With Others

“Do you want to help make our community better?”

 

You may have a great idea that would improve your community* and you’re passionate about your idea–but you know that you need others to help get your project going and make it successful. What’s the best way to share your vision and recruit others?

*The Hub uses the word community not only to describe geographic areas, but also communities of interest, like arts, biking, or beautification. You may be working with people outside of your immediate physical community. 

As part of this lesson, we have two objectives: building your initial interested core leadership team and inviting in the community to join your common idea with structure to ensure that tasks are completed. 

Step 1: Do your research

Who do you think would be interested in your project? Are there others in your community already doing this type of work? Even if your idea may be a little different, it’s important to make sure you aren’t duplicating anyone’s efforts, or stepping on someone else’s toes. Plan to share your idea with friends or colleagues to make sure this work isn’t already happening. If someone is doing this work–GREAT! Reach out to see how you can get involved, be supportive of the work they have accomplished, and ask if you can share some of your ideas.  

Once you determine that no one else is leading a similar project in your community, you can start building a team to help you get started. Begin asking yourself who would be interested in collaborating on this project: 

  • Who are the people in my community that would benefit from this work? 

  • Who are the people in my community that are natural connectors or influencers that may want to be involved? 

  • Who in the community is good at driving projects forward? 

While we should try to focus on the positives, you can also consider who may oppose your project and why. It may be important to keep them updated throughout your project.

Step 2: Start connecting

Once you have a list of potential people to engage, start having one-on-one or very small group conversations to see who wants to be involved. Check in with them about three things: 

  1. Are you interested in being a part of this effort?

     

  2. How engaged would you like to be? You may need to offer options here such as being part of a core planning and leadership team or simply being a volunteer as things need to get done.

     

  3. Would you be interested in attending a community meeting about this effort?

Step 3: plan a time to bring everyone together

Next, think about how you’re going to pull everyone together to start a conversation. You can decide to start small with a meeting for just the core group of people who are interested in working on your project, or you may decide that you’re ready to do a larger-scale event to get the entire community involved. 

This can seem scary because it’s the first tangible step in your project development. Keep in mind that this is a significant step in actualizing your dreams! 

At The Hub, we always underscore to our community members the importance of being inclusive of many different perspectives and to involve as many people as possible in planning and carrying out projects. Even if you’re not ready to bring in your entire community yet, stay on top of thinking about ways to be more inclusive.

We’ll share some ideas here about creating inclusive, focused meetings:


 

Pro-tips to prepare for your project meetup

 

  • Selecting a date and time. Try to keep in mind who you want to attend when you select your date and time. For example, a 10:00 am weekday meeting would leave out many people who have day jobs, as well as young people in your community who are in school. You aren’t going to be able to select a date that works for everyone–just do your best to be mindful of these restrictions.

  • Determining the meeting length. People are much more likely to attend a meeting if they know it has a clear start and end time–try to limit meetings to no more than 90 minutes. Select a public meeting location that will feel comfortable and inviting to everyone. Libraries, city halls, and community centers will often allow you to host meetings for free.

  • Establishing your meeting goals. Set 2-3 goals for your meeting and use these goals to help select what should be on your agenda (and to help keep everyone on track while you’re having your meeting). set your agenda and the flow of your meeting to prevent your meeting from going too far off track. Having clear goals will help you and your attendees stay focused and avoid going over the scheduled meeting time. If your meeting is an open meeting to invite a larger number of community members, make sure you take some time in early meetings to introduce and build a team with your group! 

Step 4: Get the word out

Once these details are settled, it’s time to get the word out about your meeting! If you are planning to meet with a small group you can contact everyone directly to let them know about the meeting. A phone call or personal invitation will always be best received.  Make sure that you remind everyone about the meeting a week in advance and again a day before.  

 

If you are ready to invite in your entire community, we recommend promoting events three different ways–through social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), traditional media (i.e. newspapers and TV news), and word of mouth (i.e. telling your friends and family, hanging flyers, or making announcements at relevant meetings, like city council meetings). The most effective way to find potential attendees is to directly ask people in your community to come to your meeting. This way, you can effectively share your goals for your project and you can express your passion. You’ll want to start promoting your event several weeks in advance and reminding people as you get closer to the date. 

Congratulations!

You’re ready to host your first meeting! Be sure to take good notes and send out information about what was discussed and next steps. This will keep people engaged and will help you build a bigger team (if you email out this information to attendees, for example, they can forward it to friends who may be interested in your work). Don’t stress too much about attendance numbers at your first meeting–you will recruit more people as your project advances.

Activities

Choose 2-3 activities to complete to identify common interests and build relationships among your team. You’ll be tempted to jump straight into the work, but understanding what matters to others on your team and how they work best is important to your long-term success. Take your time with the activities; they aren’t intended to be completed in one sitting. 

  • My Community Wishlist – This exercise allows you to determine what you want to see in your community and why. We first used this exercise in Module 2 (link here). Now, we are expanding this activity to think about the “why” for others.

  • Five Things in Common Separate into small groups of two or three at the beginning of the meeting and have each group identify five things they all have in common. Keep the directions loose and see where the groups take it. Come back together and report out, keeping track of commonalities between all participants.

  • Leading a Meeting – Even the most skilled facilitators need help with the basics sometimes. This slidedeck walks through some of the best practices to consider when facilitating a meeting and offers some tools to help you.

  • Newspaper Headline Activity Creating a shared vision among your group is important to allow everyone to be on board with the project and share their voices and opinions. This activity can be helpful at early meetings or early in a project.

Resources 

Reflection

Here’s your chance to take some time to think and reflect on your dreams and interests. Keep a community building journal, scribble notes on some post-its, or simply think about these questions before moving on to the next lesson! When planning a group meeting, you might ask attendees to reflect on one or two of these questions in preparation of the meeting. Or, discuss these questions aloud with your group. 

  • How can I get others involved in what I care about? How can I learn what others in my community care about?
  • What shared interests are there in our community?
  • What would an ideal meeting look like?
  • What went well with my meeting?
  • What do I need to improve for the next meeting?

Community Development in Action

The Bridgeport Farmers Market started as an idea that four friends regularly discussed over dinner. They all had the common goal of sourcing local ingredients and supporting farmers. This small group worked to get others on board and started holding larger meetings. Slowly, they put their plan into action and created one of the best farmers markets in West Virginia. Read more about how the Bridgeport Farmers Market works in this story from The Exponent Telegram: “It’s Almost Like a Family Get Together.”

Ready to keep going?