Why have a meeting when you can have a party?
The stick out line from our Asset Based Community Development training with Cormac Russell was without a doubt his challenge;
“Why have a meeting when you can have a party?”
But what does that look like in reality? It took us a few goes to get it right. Here’s some lessons we learnt on the way.
- Don’t call a meeting a party unless it actually is a party
We tried to dress our first AHEAD “MeetUp” as a vibrant, exciting get-together for the people we had met in the first few months. A chance for people to hear about us and contribute their views and ideas – with cake and sandwiches!
However, what party have you been to that has rows of tables facing a PowerPoint presentation? What party starts with a turgid run-through of the benefits of asset v deficit analysis? Let’s be honest – not a party we’d want to attend in our spare time! Needless to say, it didn’t go well – tho’ everyone agreed the cake was good…
- People know what to do at a party
We didn’t learn the lesson. In the lead up to the Photo Party we thought we needed to tighten up the programme. We discussed “outcomes” we felt would fit with the ABCD approach. We prepared exercises for the group to participate in, and considered how we would draw the event to a close reflecting on the ABCD theory of the importance of the “stories” we anticipated the photos would generate.
As the guests poured in and spotted the boxes of photos – we were pushed to the side. Any effort to “intervene” was ignored or drowned out by the laughs and excited conversation. People knew exactly what they were there for and certainly didn’t need to be guided by us! They laughed at the 80’s fashion, shed a tear over the pictures of those no longer with us, shouted with excitement when the found pictures of their 30-year-younger-selves.
We took the hint, stood back, and served up cake…
- Seriously – actually have parties instead of meetings
The pictures highlight the stark contrast between those nights. One was dressed as a party – and one actually was (or became) a party.
Which one would you have rather been at?
It’s a short and to the point message. Organise a community party and see the connections, stories and conversations flow. Don’t worry about agendas, programmes, structures, processes, outcomes. Focus on putting on an event that people will want to come to. Put people together and things will happen – you can’t stop it – well maybe with PowerPoint you can…
The AHEAD MeetUp has faded away with the rest of the numerous meetings the community have been persuaded to attend. People are still talking about the Photo Party and asking when the next one will be.
And, co-incidentally(?), quite a few of those who attended the Photo Party are back involved in local activities, and still talking about what was so good about the old gala days, local events and celebrations, and how to bring back those times…
Shaun and Stephen
For more information on Shaun and Stephen’s work and to follow the community builder blogs see https://aheadcommunitybuilders.wordpress.com/