Hopes and Dreams for North 24th Street

North 24th Street 3I had an opportunity to plan and facilitate a lunch meeting to discuss a North 24th Street Walking Tour sponsored by the Charles B. Washington Branch on January 29th.  After sending out Google Calendar invitations and getting a good response, I expected 25 people to attend.  Only 12 showed up.  Two more people came after the meeting ended so I had a lot of food left over.  I did not send out a “reminder” email as I figured we were adults.  If we say we are going to do something or be somewhere, we do something or are somewhere. Right?  Wrong.

The night before the meeting I made time for planning.  I decided how to put the meeting together and how I wanted the room set up.  At this event I was able to use our branch facilitator kit and easel for the first time.

When people arrived for the meeting, I had them fill out a sign-in sheet with their name, organization, email, and phone number.  They then picked up their sack lunch and started eating. My first thought was to have everyone eat together in their small discussion group.  Since some people left before the meeting was over, I was glad that lunch started early.  I also wish I had asked if anyone had to leave early so I could shorten the discussions.

I became worried when I found out that a neighborhood association president had invited several of her members to the meeting.  My first thought was, “I won’t have enough food.”  However, it worked out fine.  Several people who had responded “yes” didn’t come.

I had already written my first question on the flip chart –What Are Your Hopes and Dreams for North 24th Street?  While waiting for a few stragglers, people started talking about other neighborhood things.  I captured this information on the same sheet of paper.  I should have started with a blank sheet and used my “brain teaser” question somewhere else.

While putting a new sheet of paper on the flip chart, I thought it would be good to capture names during the introduction.  Each person was asked to give his or her name, organization, and favorite place on North 24th Street.  This was good.  Everyone didn’t know each other.  The favorite places turned out to be quite interesting and some that the others didn’t know.  It was a learning experience.

We now turned to the topic What are Your Hopes and Dreams for North 24th Street?  I had everyone break into three groups for ten minutes.  I asked someone to be the recorder and someone to report back to the entire room in each group.  While I ate, I also listened to the three groups.  A lady in one group was monopolizing the conversation with complaints.  Ground rules might have prevented this situation.  In hind sight, I should have stepped in to facilitate that discussion.   I would have asked her to turn those statements into a hope or dream.  I would also make sure that I heard from the other folks in the group before moving on.  When we came back together, I recorded the sharing which worked out well.

North 24th Street 2

The second activity was brainstorming North 24th Street Tour Ideas in small groups.  Since some people had already left to go back to work, the groups were slightly different. I again asked someone to record and someone to report back in each group.

When it was time to report back, I must not have been clear about giving one short statement and then moving on to the next group.  This went OK for the first three reports.  One woman then asked if she could ask a question.  I said “Yes.”  When she addressed the question to someone else, the whole thing fell apart with everyone talking.  I should have put her question into a “parking lot” for later.again asked someone to record and someone to report back in each group.

I then took control and said we needed some ground rules.  My first suggestion was that only one person talk at a time.  Did anyone else have one to share?  Immediately, a guy who had been trapped by the talkative woman piped up with “keep it short”.  The ground rules were written on a wall-mounted dry erase board so I didn’t mess up my flip chart.

We were running out of time and not much information had been gathered.  Although I had distributed note cards on the table, I didn’t tell the participants to write on them.  Most people were writing in their own planners or notebooks.  If I had suggested using the note cards, they could have been passed in to capture all the ideas.  I later emailed someone who had a big list and asked her to share them with me.  She did send me her ideas.

North 24th Street 4A core group of people stayed after the meeting.  Someone asked if we would consider a different name for the walking tours.  After suggestions were made, the group decided that Deuce-4 or Deuce-Four Fridays would be the new name.  I did a thumbs-up vote to decide on the 4 or Four spelling.  The Four won, thumbs up.  Someone from an arts organization wondered if the tour brochure should have the homemade sign look that is prevalent in the neighborhood.  She and another person decided to work on that aspect of the tour.

Although I wasn’t planning on it, they wanted to meet again.  I guess that’s a good sign of a productive meeting.  We set the next meeting for March 19th at 10:00 a.m to finalize some ideas.   Do any FIT Team members want to facilitate?

I summarized the meeting notes and sent them out to all the participants. When I set up the Google Calendar invitation for the March 19th meeting, pre-set reminders will automatically let the invitees know about the approaching meeting.

Posted by Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh, Facilitator-in-Training

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