5 tips to facilitate an awesome meeting

To Connector Monique Dupre, facilitation is much more than simply making sure a meeting runs smoothly.

“When you can draw out ideas and potential, amazing things can happen,” she says. “If people walk away from a meeting feeling empowered and motivated, you would see how that would change a lot of things – not only in the workplace, but on the personal level.”

Monique’s interest in facilitation began when she realized that the event planning she was doing for a variety of organizations and personal projects over the past 11 years – from helping refugees start gardens to fundraising at her daughter’s school to leading eco-culinary tours in France – required meetings.

In her experience, there is nothing worse than a meeting that goes on too long or has no clear purpose.

So she took an intensive workshop with renowned facilitator Barbara McKay, and began practicing what she learned. Here are her top five tips especially as it relates to Connector Teams:

1. Assign a facilitator.

A facilitator’s main role is to draw out people’s ideas as it relates to the agenda while staying neutral.

If nobody steps up, rotate turns. If someone is hesitant or thinks they might not be good at it, an alternative is to have them take notes on the board.

2. Have a clear agenda and stick to it.

At the beginning of the meeting, go around and ask people what’s most pressing to them to talk about and how much time they have. Once the agenda is agreed upon, post it up on the wall for everyone to see.

An ideal time for a meeting is one hour, but if it goes longer, make sure to take a break. Use a timekeeper to help stay on track. A “parking lot” is also a way to capture ideas or questions for another time.

whiteboard copy

Who said whiteboards had to be boring?
(photo via johnny goldstein on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

3. Listen. Really listen.

The biggest responsibility of the facilitator is to make sure everyone feels heard. Writing ideas on a whiteboard, for example, helps people to see they were listened to. It also keeps things on track, and eliminates repetition.

Another way is to repeat back and summarize what someone just said: “This is what I heard you say. Is it okay if I put it like this?” This is good with someone who’s especially chatty.

“Even the most hot-headed, can’t-stop-talking person wants to be heard. Getting them to stop talking is the exact opposite of what should happen. Instead, channel that energy and conversation in the right direction,” she says.

How else to do this? Stand next to them. Encourage others who haven’t said much to talk. Pose a question and go around the room.

4. Ask specific questions.

Instead of questions that lead to “yes” or “no” answers, try questions that are specific and have “why” in them.

Think of it this way: asking a kid how their day was like always yields a vague answer such as “fine.” But if you ask who they went out to lunch with and why, you’ll find their answer to be much more robust.

5. Be humble.

Leave your ego and judgment at the door.

“The way I do it in my head is that I see each person as a treasure chest of amazing knowledge and wonderful experiences. They might not see it that way, but they are,” she says. “If you can step outside yourself and simply listen to what’s going on and who’s bringing what to the table, then I think you can be neutral in your actions.”

With all of this, Monique encourages you to practice  – with your partner, your kid(s), a stranger at the grocery store. Look people in the eye. Be in the moment.

“Facilitation can be learned. It’s stuff we do already but we don’t realize it. It’s just awareness and listening skills that overlap with every single conversation we have in life,” she says. “It’s communicating in a way that each person feels they have brought something to the table and walks away feeling good.”

Feel free to reach out to Monique on her blog or contact her directly for additional advice: moniquedupre@gmail.com. For more good tips, Monique recommends Barbara McKay’s blog.

Tags: , , , ,



Meet an Idealist Staff Member: Megan O’Leary on teamwork

Megan O’Leary, Community Relations Manager at Idealist, will be the first to admit that working on a team is hard. Really hard.

“It’s some of the hardest work we can do. I tell groups of people all the time, if you think it’s easy, you’re probably missing something,” the AmeriCorps alumna with City Year says. “But I think it can be really worth it.”

With the Idealist Network, Megan’s evolving role is part-cheerleader, part-resource, part-guide. So far she’s been reaching out to Teams with upcoming meetings, troubleshooting any problems, and in general, being a source of support for Connectors.

MEGAN

Megan thanks her Girl Scout Brownie Troop in Tuscon, Arizona for introducing her to community service all those years ago.
(photo courtesy Briana Cerezo from Humans of PDX)

Being a part of a team is her favorite way to get work done. From her time with City Year, Megan has a ton of experience working with others toward a common goal.

She started out twelve years ago implementing service learning projects with middle school students in San Jose, California then formally came on board City Year as a fundraiser. Before long, she was leading the team as Deputy Director.

Then she moved to Sacramento in 2011 where she was in charge of opening a new site. It was a crazy time – her team was made up of strangers thrown together from ten different City Year sites and they had six months to open the doors.

As the new kids on the block, they worked extra hard to build bridges with the community, and get to know the systems already in place.

While reflecting on all these experiences, Megan’s had some realizations about what it’s meant to be a part of a team all these years, which as an only child, she admits she’s drawn to.

“Something I really struggled with in my first year of AmeriCorps is that I couldn’t always tell if the people on my team cared as much as me. There were any number of ways I felt offended that they weren’t always demonstrating their commitment in a way I thought was satisfactory or identical to what I was doing,” she says. “But I think everyone’s 100% looks different. You can’t give 100% everyday. You give what you can when you can.”

Her other advice for Connector Teams? Have a shared goal. Figure out what you’re doing and more importantly, why. Take the time to get know each other on a human level and share a meal. Realize the value you bring to the table. Appreciate one another. Lean into the process even if it seems scary.

“This might be hard or feel funky, but try it anyway. What do you have to lose?” she says.


Megan would love to help your Team and hear what you’re up to. Whether you’re wondering what should be on the agenda to how best to do local outreach to which tech tools to use, Megan’s here for you. Get in touch: megan.oleary@idealist.org.

Tags: , , ,



Making connections in Malmö, Sweden

Connector Julieta Talavera first heard about Connectors when we did some preliminary testing of the concept with a small group of New Yorkers a couple of years ago. The idea immediately resonated with her.

“I thought, this is amazing. We need Connectors,” the Argentina native says.

She decided to try out an early version of a 3Qs meeting at her local laundromat, and also set up a box at the library where people could write what was stopping them from taking action and why.

While she never got to see the fruits of her efforts there because she soon moved to Malmö, Sweden, to study international relations, Julieta carried the idea of Connectors to her new home.

In Malmö, with the help of her friend Jonathan Ng, she recruited people to participate in a 3Qs meeting by telling people they knew and posting flyers across the city. Their particular interest and focus was people interested in social entrepreneurship and innovation.

By promoting and hosting the 3Qs meeting, “we had an excuse to knock on doors, find interesting people, make friends, share experiences, and learn from each other,” she says.

ConnectorsMalmo

Connectors Malmö is all about looping the city’s resources together.
(photo courtesy Șuiu Marius)

After the initial meeting, they became a support group for their own social innovation projects and then began inviting more people to join the group and speak at their meet-ups. Eventually, they evolved into Connectors Malmö, an organization that encourages connections and collaborations to make Malmö and the world a better place.

They do this in a variety of ways, such as bike tours that introduce people to creative spaces, incubators, and more around town; 24 hour social innovation camps that pair problems with creative problem-solvers; a networking event called the Connectors Salon; a citywide calendar; a map that will visualize and categorize all the resources in the city, from libraries to funding opportunities; and more.

“We help people take their first step,” she says. “If you can prove to yourself you can do it once, then the second and third time come along easier. We really try to encourage that.”

Recently, they also started the Networking Bank, a database of people willing to share their skills for the common good.

“If you want to do something, you need to collaborate with others. You need to meet other people,” she says. “There’s no other way.”


Think something like the Connectors Salon or Networking Bank could help your Team? Feel free to reach out to Connectors Malmö for advice on getting started: contact@connectorsmalmo.com.

Tags: , , ,



3 funding opportunities to help you jumpstart your ideas this spring

Spring is in the air—along with a new set of top-notch innovation contests with equally delightful prizes. Now’s the time to pitch that creative project you’ve been mulling over all winter!

GOOD’s Start Something That Matters Challenge

There’s nowhere to go but up.

  • WHO: Any social entrepreneur over 18
  • WHAT: The folks at GOOD are looking for innovators from around the globe with ideas that will change the world for the better. The contestant with the top solution will receive $50,000 to make their dream a reality.
  • WHEN: Deadline for submissions is May 17

Verizon Powerful Answers Award

  • WHO: Individuals 18 or older
  • WHAT: Verizon (yes, the phone company) is on the hunt for inventors and entrepreneurs with smart solutions to social issues of all sizes. The contest has three categories—health care, education, and sustainability—to direct submissions toward. Winners could  go home with up to $1 million bucks—and a marketable idea to boost.
  • WHEN: Deadline to enter the contest is June 30

CCEMC Grand Challenge: Innovative Carbon Uses

  • WHO: Open to (but not limited to) companies, research institutions, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and inventors.
  • WHAT:  A four-year long award program,this challenge aims to find one foolproof tech-based model to convert greenhouse gases into valuable products. CCEMC will narrow down the contestants every two years, first starting with a group of 20, given $500,000 to start developing their idea, and ending with awarding a sole winner $10 million to boost their product into the tech market.
  • WHEN: Deadline for applications is July 15

Know of more opportunities? Let us know in the comments below.

Tags: , , , ,



How do you put your intentions into practice?

Being International Women’s Day, we’d be silly not to highlight a woman who’s working hard to inspire and challenge her gender every day. Although her focus is on young girls and women, her approach can easily apply to anyone at any stage of their life.

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

The question, casually brought up by a friend five years ago, took Ann Drew Yu off guard. At the time, Yu was a middle school English teacher in Minneapolis, eager for something new.

She recently had become fascinated by the art of feng shui—specifically the way it uses the physical orientation of a room to spark mental inspiration—and had wanted to find a way to share its intents with her students. But she had never seen it becoming a reality. Until then.

“One thing led to another,” says Yu. “And the idea came for the Intention Box.”

After working first-hand with middle school and high school-aged girls (and having once been a teenage girl herself), Yu saw a need to empower young women through an objective-based tool, dubbed the Intention Box for Girls.

The box set contains a deck of cards asking thought-provoking questions (“What positive thought would help me today?” or “How can I get more comfortable speaking up?”) and a journal to record girls’ responses and own unique goals.

Yu says that her Intention Box for Girls "gives young women life skills that go hand in hand with change."

Yu says that her Intention Box for Girls “gives young women life skills that go hand in hand with change.”

Now, two years after Yu’s first box hit the market, the kit is widely popular among young girls across Minnesota, and Yu’s new 8-week public school program based off of the box has attracted interest from a handful of teachers.

But how did she ignite her own intentions to bring the product to this stage?

It all goes back to analyzing her own missed intentions in her youth.

“I would have loved something like this as a girl,” she says. “Imagine being able to explore forgiveness, kindness and self-exploration at that stage. If you learn how to form your intentions in life early on, it sticks with you.”

To understand the real questions that would help pre-teen and teenage girls visualize their goals, Yu met with teachers, parents, and therapists to get inside their heads. But, she says, she found the real answers in working with young women themselves.

“It amazes me how intuitive younger girls are,” says Yu, who test ran her first intention box with a group of 10 to 15-year-old girls. “To hear how they made [the box] their own and what they thought it was missing, that was the most helpful.”

But there were certain parts in the development process where Yu had to rely on her own creativity. To financially kickstart the Intention Box, Yu took out home equity loans on her own house and reached out to already-cemented supporters across the city for a financial push.

“The whole project was very intuitive, driven by passion and creativity,” she says. “And I had to take some chances.”

Yu says that the money put into the project has almost paid itself off. But, she stresses that it was far from easy.

“This was no overnight success story, it took over ten years to bring my intentions into something tangible. But that’s not meant to discourage anyone,” she says. “It’s best to just always have your eye on the immediate future. Take it as it comes, step by step, and you will get there.”

_

Do you know a young girl who could benefit from the Intention Box? Or have your own questions about setting personal goals? Feel free to contact Ann Drew Yu at anndrewyu@comcast.net

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



4 funding opportunities for your big idea

Have an idea but a lack of funding is making you feel stuck? Here are some opportunities you won’t want to miss:

2014 Prize in Creating Shared Value

Did you know the company that brings you Crunch, Cheerios, and more also has a sweet spot for social innovation? Every other year Nestlé highlights local efforts making positive impact.

  • Area of focus: Nutrition, water, or rural development
  • Prize: One winner will receive approximately $530,000 to scale or replicate their project.
  • Eligibility: Successfully piloted programs, businesses, or social enterprises around the world.
  • Deadline: March 31, 2013

Next Century Innovators Awards

Funding makes the social innovation world go round. (Photo via B Tal on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

The Rockefeller Foundation turns 100 years old this year. To celebrate, the foundation “is calling on the ingenuity of innovators to chart new paths that will transform the lives of billions working in informal economies across the globe.”

  • Area of focus: Poverty
  • Prize: Up to ten finalists will have the chance to apply for a $100,000 grant. Three nominees, one of whom will be a youth recipient, will also get the gift of being honored at Foundation’s Innovation Forum in NYC this year.
  • Eligibility: Individuals 18 and older as well as organizations, businesses, and schools around the world.
  • Deadline: April 1, 2013

Peace First Prize

Contrary to stereotypes, young people today don’t all play video games or ignore the news. The Peace First Prize honors youth who are committed to the triad of compassion, courage, and collaborative change in their community or school.

  • Area of focus: Peacemaking
  • Prize: Five winners will each receive a $50,000 Peace First Fellowship over two years to continue their work or put toward their education.
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens between the ages of 8 and 22 who have implemented a project domestically.
  • Deadline: April 12, 2013

Caplow Children’s Prize

Run by the Whole New World Foundation, this online contest seeks ideas for life-saving innovations that prevent child mortality before the age of five.

  • Area of focus: Child mortality
  • Prize: One winner will receive $1,000,000 to implement their idea.
  • Eligibility: Individuals or organizations around the world.
  • Deadline: April 12, 2013

Do you know of more opportunities? Leave them below in the comments!

Tags: , , , , , ,



Discover hidden common interests with this new app

As part of the programs team at Idealist, I’m interested in obstacles to action—things that stand in our way when we want to do something to make the world a better place.

One obstacle that we all face is that we have an incomplete picture of what the people around us can help us with. The past experiences of the people around us can be a tremendous asset when we’re looking to do good. They might be able to to recommend a volunteer opportunity, or may have worked on projects similar to our own in the past.

But we don’t know they can help us, and they don’t know what we want, so we can’t take advantage of their knowledge.

PeopleHunt MapAt the Feast conference in October, I bumped into Adrian Avendano, who co-created an app that tackles this problem head-on. PeopleHunt helps you meet up with people who have the knowledge you’re looking for or would like to learn something from you.

Here’s how it works: You can use the app to import any of your existing Facebook groups, or join one of the open groups that are available—for instance, the “New York Tech Meetup” group. You’ll see a list of all the things people from your groups would be interested in talking about, and can add your own. Choose any topic that you’re interested in, and the app will alert you when that person is nearby, so you can meet.

If the idea of putting yourself out there for anyone to find makes you nervous, you can limit your sharing to a private Facebook group so you control who you meet up with.

This is still a young app, and right now it’s only available for iPhone, but it could turn into a great tool for exploring your network and expanding your knowledge.

Do you have a favorite app for making connections? Share it in the comments.

Tags: , ,



Have medicine, clothes, food, or tech to donate? We can help.

featured

Have too much canned corn at home? Consider donating to a food drive. (Photo by Bernard Pollack, Flickr/Creative Commons)

If you’re anything like me, you have a stash of clothing that you swear you’re planning to wear any day now, but that you haven’t touched in years. Or your organization has a pile of old laptops in a back closet. Or you have some medicine you’d really rather not throw away but don’t need. So many of you have contacted us (including a staffer’s beloved grandma!) asking where you can donate these goods that we decided it was time to put together a resource.

Take a look at our Community Support Team’s Resources for making a noncash donation page and visit Charity Navigator’s site for more great tips.

Here are a few highlights that we’ve compiled:

  • Donate items that are new, unused, or nearly new; a charity probably can’t make use of old junk any better than you can (…and may have to use valuable resources to do it).
  • If you are looking to donate medicine, it must be unused, unopened, and unexpired. Laws vary state to state, so make sure you check here or ask your pharmacist for more information.
  • Consider selling your items and donating the money you receive to charity. Try Craigslist, Ebay, or get offline and organize a garage sale!
  • Look for a local charity to maximize your impact. This cuts down on transportation costs for you or for the charity. Make sure you get in touch with them to insure your donation will be welcome and useful!

Check out our full resource here. Of course, you can also use Idealist to search for organizations in your area, and get in touch with them directly about your items to donate.

If you work with or know of an organization that we should add to our list, please contact us here!

Tags: , , , ,