Build Buy-In Through Meetings
The pilot sites had funding to do this work and therefore led the way in their communities. Without specific funding, the leadership duties of your project may be shared between partners. If you have done most of the footwork to bring the partners together, lead the first meeting. Tell the group that everybody in the room was invited because they share an interest in improving the lives of crime victims with disabilities and that you have agreed to conduct this first meeting and possibly others until the membership has defined their purpose and set achievable goals. Ask for their input about sharing leadership.
At the first meeting, discuss roles and expectations. Work to gain solidarity on a basic visioneven if it’s as simple as making the community more accessible to crime victims with disabilities. Think about how to increase ownership among the group and how to gain commitment for a reasonable amount of short- and long-term outcomes.
Discuss partners’ reasons for being part of the project and what they feel they can contribute. Include a checklist of the knowledge and skills that will be valuable to the project, such as having an extensive network of contacts, writing or editing skills, organizational skills, knowledge about the issues, firsthand experience working with victims, training/presentation skills, and so forth.
If all outcomes are long term, partners may fade away and the project will lose momentum. Similarly, too many outcomes can cause energy and effort to become so dispersed that true achievements are rare. An achievable blend of short- and long-term outcomes can keep partners engaged and the project successful.
To make your meetings more effective
- Determine a reasonable meeting schedule based on the group’s time commitment and the level of guidance the project will need. If the group cannot meet once or twice per month, meet every other month.
- Plan and prepare for meetings carefully, keeping the group’s goals at the forefront.
- Be flexible if some partners can only be present via conference call or would prefer meeting at their locations now and then. Don’t rule out any options that will allow the entire body to gather.
- Distribute the agenda and notes to partners who are not able to attend, as they may still have ideas or feedback to contribute.
- Consider options for increasing the opportunities for partners with intellectual or developmental disabilities, limited writing skills, or no access to e-mail to provide input. One option is to have fellow partners become mentors to these members.
- If time allows, personally request input from absent partners related to their expertise or interests. This shows them that they are missed and valued, and they may be more likely to attend the next meeting.
Keep your partners informed and involved every step of the way. Encourage them to provide you with ideas and feedback at any time, not just when everyone gets together. Bring people into the project as full and valued participants if you want them continually invested in the group’s vision and goals. Following are some ways to do this:
- E-mail the group on a regular basis.
- Take turns meeting at partner agencies.
- Take turns calling key partners who missed a meeting.
- Invite feedback on specific issues, even if you think you know the best way to do something.
- Share responsibility for leading the meetings and suggesting agenda topics.