Open meetings for a specific purpose with the participation of community members, where issues and problems on the local community’s mind are dealt with to make sure that a given problem receives community response. These may be structured discussions performed in small groups to give rise to joint thinking (e.g. conversation groups, neighbourhood councils, roundtable-discussions), or meetings addressing a wider community (e.g. a public forum) with the purpose of informing the community, involving new, active members or the creating an NGO or a social cooperative.
Purpose of the activity
To discuss the issues affecting local society, to ensure participation in making decisions. To allow for the strengthening of the people’s awareness as citizens, through exploring and analysing problems and planning by involving the citizens, so that members may feel: this is my municipality, it is my concern, I have a say, I can make a difference in the world around me.
neighbourhood council, discussion groups, workshop, public forum, awareness of local issues, social dialogue, collaboration, involvement, public issues
Successful forums require a creative atmosphere, where individuals and groups may freely express their positions. A further precondition is an appropriate handling of conflicts, which can arise from conflicting interests.
- personal: community developer/community organizer, active, acting members, a moderator/facilitator chairing the meeting
- material: community space (e.g. community house, school, library)
- financial: room rental fee (if needed)
Substantive components – a list of necessary steps
Steps of organizing a community meeting:
- Definition of the goal (we need to clarify why we are organizing a meeting, who we are addressing and what we want to achieve).
- This goal may be: problem analysis, joint planning, mapping resources, discussion of an action plan, assessment, etc.
- Selection of a convenient place and time.
- Preparation and organization (announcement of the meeting, selection of the moderator, clarification of their task, invitation of advisors, preparation of written materials, procurement of technical equipment if needed, etc.).
- Facilitation of the meeting (clear explanation of the goals, offering appropriate space for contributions, maintaining interest and attention, use of short, visual auxiliary materials, summary of the most important points at the end, presentation of the next step and tasks to do).
- The meeting is followed by an assessment (was it successful or not, how and why?) A report may be necessary to inform members of the community about the statements made at the meeting.
Applied tools and methods
Various methods may be used depending on the type of forum we are organizing. Along with methods inviting activism and involvement, we also use collaboration-based methods:
- work in small groups
- structured tasks
- brainstorming → with real rules
- methods of joint deliberation
- methods of joint decision-making
- techniques of deliberation.
Results, expected outcome
- strengthening of participatory democracy, a better view of community problems and resources
- representation of individual and group interests in a community
- participation in decision-making and planning processes develops both the individual and the interest groups (communication and debate culture, assertive skills and cooperation)
- a commitment to be involved in the implementation
- members of the community take responsibility in community issues
- Borbély-Nagy, É. (ed.). Párbeszéd Kör Kézikönyv. [Dialogue Circle Manual]. n.d., Budapest, Találjuk ki Magyarországot Kiadó
- Varga, A. T. (ed.): Hogyan szervezzünk és vezessünk nyilvános gyűléseket? [Organizing and managing public meetings]. 1996, In: Parola No. 4.
- Hunya, M.: A disputa program. [The dispute programme]. 1998, Budapest, Soros Foundation
This article based on the following document: Community development methodological guide