STEP 9: At your Community Meeting, let the People use their voice

Your role is that of being a facilitator for your Community Meeting. Not the voice of your Community Meeting itself.

When you met local People from across your Community in STEP 6, you explained who you were, what you were doing and why you were there, and then you listened as the Person or People told you what they think.

It is important to understand that your role at your first Community Meeting will be very similar again.

The strength in the PROCESS, METHOD and AIM of Officially NONE OF THE ABOVE is helping everyone in your Community to take back their own power.

To do this, we must give everyone back the opportunity to speak, to use their own voice and to be heard.

The agenda for your first Community Meeting

The real agenda of your first Community Meeting is to begin the process of bringing what appears to be a very different group of People together. They can then begin the process of recognising the value of what they all have in common, and what they share, together. All in one room.

There is a good chance that amongst any Community Meeting, and particularly if the meeting is one of the first, there will be a Person or People present who will be happy to sound off very quickly, IF they don’t get the opportunity to take over. Or they believe that there is more value in doing things a different way.

When you begin and you speak for the first time, it is very important that you create and share a few brief ‘house rules’ with everyone.

These could be something like:

That by being here, and by taking part, we ALL agree that:

  • This Community Meeting is for everyone and as such, everyone will have the opportunity to speak – IF they want to.
  • We will all commit to listening to what every speaker has to say.
  • When we want to comment, our comments will be shared in the sense of looking forward and how ideas can be built and improved upon, rather than being negative and critical or focused on the past.
  • If we don’t understand someone else’s perspective or we believe that in some way it doesn’t make sense, we will respectfully ask them to explain their perspective further and ask them to do so using their experiences – if they are happy to share.
  • That we all remain polite, respectful of others, and above all else, we won’t speak across others and will wait for our turn.

You will be surprised by just how engaged everyone will quickly become, once they know that not only they will be heard, but everyone will be listening to everyone else with the same open mind too.

So that every member of the Community who is present is treated as fairly as can be, it might also be a good idea to follow a format and talk everyone through what that will happen as each person speaks, before you begin.

This might be something like this:

  • Everyone will have the opportunity to speak.
  • We will go around the room in order but will be happy to begin with anyone who is particularly keen to speak first.
  • When it’s your turn to speak, please share your name and the area of our Community where you live.
  • Please also share with us if you already have a role within our Community too.
  • We would then like to hear your thoughts on any issue which is concerning you, along with any thoughts about how people affected could be helped.
  • We would also like to hear your thoughts on what your ideal public representative should be experienced in and able to do, before we make a Community Decision upon whether to endorse them, and then support them when an Election is called.

The most important thing to do is to make sure that everyone who wants to speak has had the opportunity to do so – no matter how long it takes.

It’s always worth being patient.

Don’t let anyone talk about forming or agreeing Policy at this stage:

As we discussed in STEP 4 when we talked about posting on social media, this is not the time to do anything other than listen to what everyone has to say and what experience they want to share. It’s not the right time to get into the details of Public Policy itself.

The overall AIM of Officially NONE OF THE ABOVE and the Community Meetings that you have brought into being, is for your Community to select the very best Public Representatives that it can, and then endorse and support them until they have successfully been elected. That is the right time for any discussion about Public Policy to begin.

If any kind of effort to reach agreement on a political position takes place at this stage – even if it’s about who and what, or how something is wrong, you will very quickly find that cracks will appear in the support you have been working so hard to grow.

No matter what the topic might be, even words that suggest People have to get behind an idea that might polarise opinion at this point, will be enough to derail your efforts.

People need to experience that Community Meetings not only have the power to bring members of your local Community together. They MUST also see and then KNOW that collaboration of this kind can yield genuine results too.

This will not be achieved until your Community Meeting has selected, endorsed and supported candidates and they have been elected – When People will see that Politics established on commonality rather than separation and difference, is a real alternative and choice.

Things to be aware of:

Communication is a two-way street.

Being a good communicator is as much about being able to listen and hear everyone when they speak or understand them through whatever it is that they do, as it is to speak, write or publish your words, yourself.

A public meeting is a very different environment to somebody’s own doorstep, where most people will feel safe. Many of the People who felt very comfortable talking to you one-to-one, will become hesitant to speak, when the opportunity comes to speak in front of ‘everyone’.

This is a very human and normal response. So don’t push anyone to speak if they don’t want to.

Also bear in mind that the experience of being in a group can make some People feel boxed in. If they think for any reason that what they have said could be viewed in some way as being wrong, they might easily become defensive too – which in some cases might appear they are becoming angry.

What you should have achieved when your first Community Meeting reaches its end

Your first Community Meeting is only the first. And it could be the first of a great many to come.

Let’s hope so. Because agreeing and then arranging your next Community Meeting will be one of the first and most meaningful ways that you can measure your success and see the result of the effort that you have put in.

By the end of the first Community Meeting, those attending should know and understand:

  • The primary AIM of Community Meetings is to qualify, select and then support candidates who are members of your local Community to stand in every upcoming Election as the candidate or candidates who have been chosen by the Community, to represent the Community and to speak and Vote on its behalf.
  • The dates and timelines for the next Parish/Town, Borough/District, County/Unitary Elections covering your area (where they are relevant), and any pointers you might then be able to provide about when the next General Election might be.
  • The role that each and every member of the local Community is being invited to play in selecting Community Candidates for upcoming Elections.
  • When the process of selecting Community Candidates for the next Election is likely to begin.
  • The date of the next Community Meeting.
  • What everyone who is already contributing to the PROCESS will be doing next.
  • How everyone can keep up to date, keep in touch and do their bit to build the Community Meeting, so that as many People as possible are ready and able to take part, when you all come together and meet next time.

You should arrange the next Community Meeting as soon as possible and hold meetings as frequently as possible thereafter.

Be prepared to have small interim meetings online, using software like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, if this will be helpful to anyone – and particularly everyone who is making an active contribution and taking part as a volunteer.

Depending upon how well attended your last Community Meeting was and when the next Election will be, you should begin taking steps and discussing the process you will use to select your Candidates as part of a special Community Meeting that you might be ready to hold next time.

Please be aware:

Your Community Candidates cannot begin working on their Election Campaign, or the pre-campaign work that they will need to, UNTIL your Community Meeting has Selected and Endorsed them.