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Hosting a Community Meeting

Early in the process of setting up a co-op, meetings provide a group the chance to openly discuss ideas and explore them together. Hosting a meeting can be a daunting task, but these meetings are key to a successful co-op. Below is some advice on how to set up a meeting.

Before the meeting

Before organizing a public event it’s good to meet with a few community leaders to discuss your idea. Chat with business and economic development people. They will help vet the idea and provide valuable input before you present it to others. Once you’re prepared to host the meeting, here’s some important steps to take to engage an audience:

Advertise the event

Advertising doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be targeted. Think about where your audience is and the most effective ways to reach them. Create a brief plan, include a budget, inventory your available assets (such as posters, people and social channels) contact key partners, and then get started. Email and a phone are your best friends. Call relevant partners. Ask for their help. Social media also provides great platforms for this type of event, and social media can be a cost-effective way to reach the right people. Don’t forget traditional media: relevant trade magazines, newspapers, and publishers can help reach an audience. Invite them to tell your story. 

Book service providers

If you need space to host the meeting, think about partnering with a municipality or community group. They may be able to help you avoid the cost of renting a hall. Libraries, legions, schools, and community halls often offer inexpensive options as well. Provide refreshments. They don’t need to be fancy, but having snacks shows you value people’s time and want them to be comfortable.

Develop an agenda

Meetings always run better when they have a little structure. Write up a simple agenda to guide the conversation. Figure out who is leading the meeting and have someone take minutes. Stick to the mission of the meeting. Allow time for questions and open discussion. 

Invite people

Advertising often isn’t enough to get people to an event. Make calls to local community leaders or people that might be interested in participating. Mention the event at other functions and in passing.

Setting up for the meeting

To foster good conversation, set up the room in a way that encourages interaction and participation. When setting up, consider the following:

  • Registration desk: Set up a small table near the entrance where a volunteer is stationed to greet people and collect their contact information.  This is a great way to stay in touch with people to keep them up-to-date after the meeting.
  • Open circle design: Arrange seating to allow participants to communicate with each other. The best way to do this is to spread out the chairs in a circle or square. Churches and theatres (where all the seats face one direction) may not be a good fit. The facilitator can still lead the discussion from the head of the room. A PowerPoint slideshow can be a good way to keep people following the agenda.

How to start discussions

Getting the ball rolling at a meeting can be daunting and people may be hesitant to speak up. A simple, tested method is to ask people to share their name and why they decided to attend the meeting. Get a sense of attendees’ thoughts and opinions about the opportunity being discussed. For example: “Please share your name and what it is about this event that interests you.”

Explore the opportunity

When discussing opportunities for co-operative development, it helps to ensure everyone is on the same page and knows what exactly is being discussed. This will help manage people’s expectations and clarify roles and possibilities later. Potential questions include:

  • What is the purpose of this project?
  • Has this been addressed in the past?
  • What might be needed to address this?
  • Who should be involved in this type of initiative?
  • How would this opportunity impact people connected to it?
  • Are there barriers that might stop this initiative?

Once the opportunity has been clearly identified and people understand how they can work on a solution, discuss what kind of business could efficiently deliver this service:

  • Is this something a single entrepreneur could take on? Could a service provider be attracted to deliver this? Are there local volunteers or organizations that could do this? Is there capacity to run a business like this?
  • Will staff be needed to operate this business? Is a facility required to house operations?
  • Are there any barriers to taking this on as a group? Are people willing to make a financial and time commitment to the project?

Plan next steps

If the group agrees that a co-operative is the right fit and they want to move forward to create one, discuss the next steps. A clear plan will help keep momentum moving forward:

  • Is there a good understanding of how a co-op fits with this opportunity? Do we need help navigating this process?
  • Who is willing to lead this early development? (Get people who want to work on this project to sign up to be on a steering committee — this is the group that will get the co-op started)
  • What will we need to work on going forward? What kind of technical expertise do we need? Are there resources available to help us move forward?

Checklist for community organizers

This checklist may be helpful when organizing a meeting and can act as a guide:

Purpose for the meeting is determined
A date and time has been selected for the event
Agenda for the event is created
A meeting place has been reserved for the event
Organizers have contacted people in their network
Posters have been designed and approved
Posters are distributed in community spaces and social media
Catering has been confirmed


Post-Event DetailsOutcome
Outline a general pathway forward (if there is one)
Concerns or barriers noted by attendees
Number of people interested in getting involved
General level of engagement
Number of people that attended
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