It’s fair to say that I spend quite a lot of my time at work in meetings.
These vary from one to one catch ups with the staff or volunteers, planning sessions with colleagues, wider partnership meetings and even the occasional conference.
“Being tied up in a meeting” is a phrase you often hear, implying that once the meeting is over people will be able to get on with their real work. Sometimes I share that sentiment, but in reality participating in meetings is part of the real work for an organisation like ours.
In fact at Harrogate & Ripon CVS we often say that it’s part of our role to attend meetings so that our members don’t have to, or at least not so frequently.
This means that they can concentrate on the main purpose of their group or charity; providing services, supporting local people, recruiting and working with volunteers, fundraising or running events.
Taking on that role brings responsibilities as it requires a good understanding of the issues and challenges facing voluntary and community sector organisations in our area, so we can contribute effectively on their behalf.
We need to keep everyone informed about discussions underway and decisions being made, and share and use this information to influence partners in the public and private sectors.
This is why we produce regular newsletters and e-bulletins, with more information available via www.harcvs.org.uk.
There is no substitute for bringing people together and meetings are such an important part of our work that the way we use them is assessed by our national association through their quality award scheme.
One of the standards we have to meet is that “the organisation facilitates effective communication and collaboration among local voluntary organisations and community groups and between different sectors”.
During our recent re-assessment we were delighted to meet all the requirements of the National Association of Voluntary and Community Action Quality Award, and especially pleased to achieve the highest score for our role in enabling local voluntary organisations and community groups to benefit from networking with each other.
While networking can be informal, it’s more likely that it will take a meeting to make things happen. Wikipedia tells us that “a meeting is a gathering of two or more people that has been convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal through verbal interaction, such as sharing information or reaching agreement.”
But www.businessballs.com is more forceful and persuasive; “meetings are vital for management and communication. Properly run meetings save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. Meetings create new ideas and initiatives. Meetings achieve buy-in. Meetings diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot”.
No doubt we’ve all been in meetings where the opposite seems to be the case but making things happen usually requires a team effort and so ensuring that meetings are productive is vital, to make best use of time and resources.
Good meetings arise from careful planning and they need to be well run, which mainly falls to the chairman. It’s also essential to ensure follow up on any actions agreed.
It really does help if meetings are interactive, interesting and varied, and a prompt start and finish shows respect for the participants.
It’s also true that temperature, refreshments, lighting and seating can make a difference – I’m still wondering whether anyone noticed that I briefly nodded off in an afternoon meeting in a very stuffy room the other day.
Looking back over just the last few weeks the HARCVS team has been involved in meetings to help organisations achieve charitable status, review their finances, consider their future direction, decide what services they want to develop, organise community events, develop partnerships and present new ideas.
It’s such a privilege to be able to do so, and meet and work alongside people who want to ensure our District is a great place to live and work.
Sometimes it’s great to celebrate success in meetings and so last month we were delighted to be visited by the Mayor and Mayoress of the District, Coun Nigel Simms and his wife Lynn, to help us thank our own volunteers for all their hard work and support.
What could be better than spending an hour or so in the company of such dedicated and caring people? That’s the kind of meeting I really like.
For more information on Harrogate & Ripon CVS visit www.harcvs.org.uk, ring 01423 504074 or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org