How we interact with each other and the issues we care about can often hold a mirror up to the wider relationships which power our world - for better and for worse.
Do we really listen? Are we honest when it's difficult? Do we take enough responsibility, or too much, for what's going on here and now? And crucially: are we doing what’s really ours to do?
One of the invitations of Free The Change's Meet-ups model is to help each other “show up” differently. The Basic Framework (below) tries to make it easy for change-makers to come together, share, craft intentions and leave regular meet-ups focussed on their unique social change journeys with a spirit which will enliven the group and travel beyond it.
The framework is backed up by our Supporting Tools. These will supplement your group's emerging needs as things progress. They include: Gathering People, Tracking Change, Creative and historic inspiration, Topical conversation starters, Action Know-how and more.
Do we have to follow a rigid structure? No. The framework captures our own years of experience - so it's a good place to start. But it doesn’t matter if you do your own thing: as long as you share openly, and then support each other to take action, you're doing great.
Your first meet-up. In addition to the Basic Framework below, we've crafted a simple Taster Session - useful for your very first meet-up or to share with a wider group (e.g. congregation, club, etc). It will help you road-test and explore how Free The Change could work for you.
The Basic Framework For Meet-Ups
(An optional but well-rehearsed approach. Compliment and expand it with our Supporting Tools).
- Set the scene (before you initially begin)
- As far as possible, everyone commits to taking part in a Free the Change group as a co-host. This means showing up, and sharing responsibility for practical arrangements - as well as your own wellbeing and the group’s. It also means helping each other to start and finish on time.
- It can help if two people take a lead for a particular month’s gathering (without over-investing in a plan, so that the group's needs take priority on the day). A third person can gently bring awareness to the time as you go, perhaps every 30 minutes. Others can bring refreshment. Roles like these will ideally rotate each meet-up.
- Helpful tools: Setting the Scene tools | Group Welcome Doc.
ARE YOU A GROUP FACILITATOR?
If you run an existing group don't worry about facilitating people to begin with - but aim to move into the background and/or participate as an equal if you can. If possible: invite a member to co-initiate with you.
- Part one - arrival. Allow 15 - 30 minutes.
- Set aside a few minutes for people to arrive and settle, in a way that works for everyone.
- This might involve eating, drinking, a moment of quiet, doing something creative, etc.
- Agree a possible outline for today’s meet-up - its basic structure and anticipated timings. Is the group keen to try something out or use any of Free The Change Supporting Tools, IF they fit with what comes up?
- Start on time if possible.
- Part two - checking in. Allow 30 - 45 minutes.
- You’ve gathered! Make a circle. Take it in turns to “check in” by briefly describing/updating on a current “Changemaker challenge” in your own real life (a hope, need or opportunity around the change you want to be and see ). As well as describing it, say how you’re feeling about it. It could be in relation to your role as an employee, family member, citizen or activist. Be concrete.
- After each person has spoken for 2-3 minutes at most, go round again, this time making requests and offers. What does each person need most today? Encouragement? Challenge? Ideas for action? Group members might be able to help. But often just by speaking our needs, they begin to find their own solutions.
- Part three - conversation. Allow 45 - 60 minutes.
- Decide whether the need of the group is to have one collective conversation, or several smaller conversations. Have the conversations that matter most. We recommend reading our Guide For Good Conversations at your first meet-up, and taking a moment to review it at the end. How’s it going? What could change? Our Group Health Check tool is also on hand...
- Whether in clusters or as a whole group - this section of a meet-up might be a good time to share or explore one of Free The Change's Supporting Tools, such as a specific Conversation Starter or Action Know-How tool... Or to craft your own group activities.
- Part four - going forward. 10 - 15 minutes.
- Draw a line under the conversations and recreate the circle. A moment of quiet, a short piece of music or inspiring reading might help you “regroup” and look forward. We have lots of these in the Inspiration section of our Supporting Tools.
- Take 3-5 minutes to capture the wisdom, questions and crucially any practical intentions you’ve been left with. You might want to do this collectively or individually, depending on whether conversations have been about collaborative or individual concerns. We have a useful guided journalling template here.
- Without looking for labourers or trying to save anyone: does anyone has any more requests for support between this meeting and the next? A friendly phone call? A gentle deadline-reminder?
- Part five - finishing & reflection. 10 - 15 minutes.
- Group reflection. Take a moment to notice and very briefly name a few gratitudes. What worked well today? What helped?
- In terms of “the change we want to see in the world” is there anything you can celebrate and feed back to the wider Free The Change network, to encourage the rest of us? (Please use our feedback tools).
- Individual check out. In just one or two words: share how are you feeling at the end of the session. “Motivated.” “Stuck”. “Brave.” This is essentially for you, to notice the energy that’s driving you home. What does it need from you right now?