How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
How to get things done in your community
It's easy to sit in a meeting and pontificate about what should be done. It is entirely something else to get out and make change happen when everyone else is putting obstacles in your way. I have seen the difference in both work contexts and also in community situations. People can be amazingly narrow minded, interested only in things that affect them directly. Politicians likewise may be interested first in their own status rather than what may benefit their constituents.
In musing and conversation about this, particularly in a voluntary, community setting, there seems to be three key things that are needed to get things done.
To get through all this and more, the petty objections, the vanishing funds, the unenthusiastic volunteers, all can sap energy and make you want to scream. But no, you need unrelenting positive energy. You can't get away from local people, and accumulating enemies is probably a bad idea.
Positive energy is a powerful magnet as people gravitate towards good feelings. Persistence and determination get things done. Only giving up leads to failure.
Sadly, things don't get done by energy alone. You may need wood, paint and many other materials to complete a piece of work. You will need tools to do the job. You may need to hire professionals to do things that your volunteers cannot do.
And, while some resources may be donated or owned, many activities require money, of course. You hence may well need to be adept at fundraising, from wheedling sponsorship from local businesses to applying for grants from major philanthropic organizations.
When groups of people get together to get things done, the initial organization is typically chaotic, with anybody doing anything. Before long, however, it needs some kind of structure, so things are done in a more consistent, reliable way.
This means more division of roles, more definition of processes and more documentation of decisions, plans and action. A big danger here is to overdo this, putting in structures more suitable for a larger organization. There is nothing like weighty bureaucracy for putting people off. It is also a risk in staying too casual.
An early step is identifying skills needed and who can step into these shoes. A leader helps create focus. A treasurer helps manage money and keep things legal. There is also room for 'doers' who just want to get on with things and 'friends' who just want to contribute concerns and ideas.
A simple first structural step is to organize regular meetings. A typical way to do this is to hold weekly or even daily small-group focus meetings to keep things moving apace, plus larger, more open monthly or quarterly consulting meetings which both inform and listen to the wider community.
Rather than draw up process definitions, a more practical documentation is to build toolkits for activities from meetings to grant applications. These can include checklists, templates, contact data, technical notes and so on. The only criterion is that they make work easier and more successful.