The ‘Forming a Community’ stage is the first eight weeks of the new group. Each week they have a meeting. Different members take turns in running each meeting. The eighth meeting is an evaluation meeting of the group.
What are the main things to be achieved during this stage?
1. To build friendship and trust among the members of this new group – the foundation for them becoming a true community.
2. To get the members into the ‘habit’ of coming to a regular meeting. Perhaps some may decide not to continue, perhaps some will invite other friends along to join. Anyway, at the end of eight weeks you will have a good idea of those who seem interested.
3. To provide an opportunity for the members to learn the basics of what the YCW is about and the methods used to achieve its aims. This learning is achieved by action, not by study or talks.
4. To give different members the opportunity to lead a meeting or take minutes. This prepares members to elect the persons they want to be chairperson, secretary and treasurer at the ninth meeting.
What is the work of the team during this stage?
Preparing the meetings
It is important that the members, from the very beginning, realise that this is their meeting and that they are responsible. So, it is good if one of them can lead each meeting. They will, of course, need help to prepare the meeting. For the first couple of meetings it is a good idea if the team member leads the first part of the meeting and the new member/leader leads the enquiry, general business etc.
What does this mean in practice? It means that one of the team will need to make an appointment to meet with the member who will be leading the next meeting during the week. The two of them should go through the meeting and work out what needs to be done. And after the meeting, perhaps during the week, they should meet to evaluate how the meeting went and how their work of leadership could improve.
Follow up of members
When a group is just starting, it is important that the team try to meet up with the members between meetings. It often happens that a new member feels a bit shy at first. They easily make an excuse not to come and we have lost that member. So team members should organise to follow up the members regularly for the first few weeks.
The group will be much more successful if the members do some preparation work. For example, they could read the questions from the enquiry section and think about them. Also, they could try to ask some of their co-workers what they think about these issues. Then at the meeting they will have plenty to say and will be able to speak with authority and confidence Team members should try to motivate members to do this.
At the meetings
It is important that team members do participate in the meeting and not just sit listening like judges – but mostly they should be the ones who say the least. They should listen carefully to what is being said and be able to affirm and reflect with members when they talk to them outside the meeting.
We should be constantly aware that the YCW is not a meeting. It is a community of young workers. We must ensure that the meetings do not become too business–like and that there is a time for being youthful and enjoying things together. There are many ways to promote this and different ways in different cultures.
The group could share a meal before the meeting or go out for a drink and supper after the meeting.
The group might organise one night when there is no meeting, but the group goes out together to enjoy something social.
This work of the team is vitally important for a good start in the formation of the members. It should be well planned, evaluated and coordinated. And so, it is necessary that there be a number of team meetings to do this work. Perhaps you could decide to have meetings after the first, fourth and seventh meetings.
What sorts of questions would you have on the agenda? Perhaps this list may help.
• Preparation of meetings: The preparation of the chairperson for each meeting, is this going well? Who shows potential as a future chairperson for the group? Does the team person responsible have any difficulty with the preparation and evaluation of each meeting?
• Follow up of members: How is this work going? Are we getting regular attendance at meetings? What are the problems and difficulties? What are the results of our action in following up members? How do members prepare for meetings? Are they talking to co-workers? Do they understand and participate in the Review of Happenings? Is there action taking place? Is there a good spirit in the group?
• At the meetings: How do we participate in the meetings? What are our problems and difficulties? Is the group too rigid or too disorganised? Does the group recreate together? Should we motivate them to do something social together?
• Preparation for Meeting 9 and the election of officers.
Important notes for leaders and groups
You will note that Making Monday the Best Day of the Week: Handbook for Worker Groups, suggests meeting programs for the first 14 weeks. Each meeting has a planned agenda and way of running the meeting. Many groups will find this helpful as a means.
It is important that groups do not try to follow this rigidly. For example: It might happen at one meeting that a group gets very interested in talking about one leader’s situation in the ‘Review of Happenings’ section. It might be better to continue discussing this and forget the ‘Enquiry’ section for that week.
Again, it might happen that the group want to plan a social night out as a group and so do not have time to complete a meeting. The group should be flexible and able to allow these sorts of initiatives.