Watch this video, or scroll down for a manual and detailed instructions.
When Coronavirus hit, I knew I needed to help.
I'm an expert facilitator, and I work with experts in community resilience, emergency response, and sustainable development. I talked with them, and squeezed my 26 years of experience into the smallest, simplest package I could.
You can do this using free tools, entirely online.
If there's a crisis, you can use this to help people who are already doing good work to be more effective. If there's no crisis, help people work well together to make your community a better place.
Run a Neighbourhood Resilience Forum.
Local leaders are already doing a lot.
You'll get a lot more done if you can do it together.
The manual is useful and free. But we want to be sure that anyone in the world can do this process in any community, whether or not they want to talk with us.
So here are the basics:
WHY: Vision (the need; what success looks like)
We make local emergency response teams better. When there’s no emergency, we make it easier for everyone to work together to improve our community.
We help everyone working on a challenge in our community to talk with each other about what’s needed and what they are doing.
2-5 local organisers, and a whole lot of other community leaders.
Come together and do the things you’re already doing with better support and information. Get resources and volunteers. Online.
1) The organisers create a local risk & opportunity register using a very simple mapping exercise.
2) Organisers hold forums to focus on the highest value item(s), using a simple process. You can do this online.
3) Keep a web presence - Facebook? - where the risk & opportunity register, and the spreadsheet with urgent needs, projects, resources, and groups, is visible. Invite discussion.
Get together (virtually) with your co-organizers.
Brainstorm a list of challenges and opportunities — what’s the tight spot you’re all in together, or going to be in together soon? What could you accomplish together now (or soon) that wouldn’t be possible in other circumstances?
Create a spreadsheet with a list of these risks and opportunities. It’s probably best to use Google Sheets, so you can all work on it at the same time. In fact, click here and make a copy of this one. You can pick your own name for it.
Once you decide to run your first forum on a particular challenge (risk or opportunity) - like, maybe you’re in the middle of a global pandemic and you think it’s worth doing something about it - create a second spreadsheet focused on what’s happening in your community. Use this link to make a copy.
Once you know when you want to run your forum, tell everyone you know. But especially focus on telling people in your community who are working on the challenge you’ve decided to focus on. Which local organisations are focused on this? Tell them what you are doing. Invite local politicians. Invite people from local volunteering groups. Invite people from everywhere! Most of all, invite people from your online group.
Before you run the forum, make sure you have Zoom installed on your computer. You can do this by going to https://zoom.us/ and selecting the Download link. You will also need to create a free account with Zoom. Then you can schedule a Zoom meeting for free! The free Zoom meetings last 40 minutes. The 40 minute agenda is no accident. The artificial pressure of the Zoom meeting time will make it easier for you to keep everything on track, so this is actually a good thing.
With plenty of time before you start, get settled with your computer in a quiet place. (If it’s hard to get quiet, make sure you are muted except when you are speaking.)
Open up your mapping documents on your computer.
Click on the Zoom link for the meeting.
As people show up on the Zoom call, welcome them. Say “welcome! Hello!”
Do this for five minutes. This is the Welcome part of the “Welcome and Reports” on the agenda.
Five minutes after the official start time, say “okay everybody, let’s get started.”
Once everyone is fairly quiet, say, “We promise we’ll end on time today, so I need to be brief. This is a Resilience Forum. We’re here to find out what’s happening and help each other do the good work we’re already doing, not to tell anyone what to do. Okay?”
Give everyone a chance to nod and agree. Then say, “I’ll be leading us through the process as the Forum Host. If there’s anything that’s not working, you can use the chat button at the bottom of your Zoom window and send me a private message. Basically, please stay focused on making good things happen and don’t be a jerk to anyone. Make sense?”
Give everyone a chance to nod and agree. If anyone pushes back on this, offer to talk with them while other people do their check-ins.
Say, “we’re going to do check-ins now in small groups. We’re asking each small group to go around and answer these four questions: what is your name, what organisations and/or communities are you representing today, what can you offer, and what do you need. Whatever you might be offering and needing, please focus on things that relate to community resilience and especially the big challenge we’re focused on at this moment: __________. For example, I might say ‘my name is _______. My organisation is ________ and I’m part of _________ community. I can offer _________ to anyone working on _________. We really need help with ________.’ Does that make sense?”
Repeat if anyone is confused. If it starts taking a long time, say “we’re running low on time; just see if you can make it work together!”
“So, I’m about to send everyone into small groups. You have ten minutes to check in with each other. This means that each of you has two and a half minutes for check in. Try to take less time than that so you can also have a quick chat!”
Press the Breakout Rooms button and choose to put people in random groups of 4.
Stay in the main channel. Talk with anyone who remains.
After nine minutes, bring everyone back (they’ll get a one minute warning).
Next ask people to click on the link in their chat window to open a google spreadsheet. If people have trouble, offer to help them in just a minute, after you’ve gotten most people started.
“This spreadsheet describes the projects we are currently doing to address our issue, resources we have in our community that people think are important, and any urgent needs we should know about. The way we do this is we have one row per project. Each project is addressing a need, and is being run by an organisation. Sometimes more than one organisation. If it’s not an organisation, it’s a community group. Anyway, we’re going to spend the next few minutes adding Projects and Needs to this sheet, and Resources to the next one. You’ll note that there’s room for a website, but not email or phone numbers. I know this seems crazy, but we’re not allowed to keep email and phone without filling in some data protection stuff. So just put a link to a contact page on someone’s website, or to a facebook or linkedin page or something like that. Those all count as public info.
“You can see that these are the places where you enter data. You should be able to just get in there and do it. Let me know if it seems tricky, but if you can, go ahead and get started.”
Let people ask you questions, but encourage the group to enter details on the spreadsheet immediately if they can.
When you have 11 minutes left before the end of the call, say, “Okay everyone, you can all add stuff to this sheet any time, all week long, but for now let’s change our focus a little. While some people are still adding stuff, I want to invite all of you to post messages in the chat about things you are planning to do, and support you need. If someone has a support request and you can help, go ahead and respond. You can send each other private messages on here, or you can post your contact details in the chat, it’s up to you. Go!”
When you have 5 minutes left, tell everyone, “Okay we need to wrap up! I hope this has been useful. Let’s change the focus in the chat - we need to get feedback on how this Forum went. Please post comments saying how my hosting was, how useful this has been, and how you feel coming out of the meeting. Positive comments are welcome; negative comments are too, although if you can focus on a positive change we could make rather than just calling me a mean name, I would prefer that!”
“While everyone is writing their feedback, maybe someone feels they have something that really needs to be said out loud? I’ll call on you if you press the “raise hand” button at the bottom of your Zoom window.”
When you have thirty seconds left…
“Okay, I’m sorry but we’re at the end! We’ll do more of these! Stay in touch! Keep looking at the facebook group for the next one!”
You can start your own online group, or you can join one in your area.
Ideally, you would be launching this before you need a Resilience Forum, but let’s be real. You’re probably in the middle of a disaster, which is why you are doing this now. People usually have all kinds of groups going in disasters, and the whole point of the Forum is to help those groups talk with one another, to make it easier for everyone to get things done.
After the disaster is over, you can use the Forum to help people focus on opportunities, rather than risks, or at least on risks that aren’t currently in crisis.
The most important thing about running an online group - apart from starting it and clearly stating the purpose - is moderation. Clearly tell people that they will be safe and that obnoxious behavior won’t be tolerated. Then politely ask people to change their behavior if they do start harassing others or making flame wars. And if they still won’t cut it out, kick them out of the group. During an emergency everyone is stressed and we need to be patient with each other, but also people shouldn’t have to put up with extra punishment. Please do take into account mitigating circumstances though - if someone just lost a relative, or lost a home, or has a child in danger, they may be extra touchy. Also, people who are poor or are often discriminated against in your area will probably have good reason to expect the worst in a social situation, and they might be more touchy about things than you’d expect if you haven’t lived in their circumstances. If you’re trying to calm an argument between a rich person and a poor person, do your best to listen to the poor person’s side even if they’re extra angry and are using language that you find upsetting. The same goes for anyone else who might usually suffer from discrimination of some kind (and unfortunately, we humans discriminate against people for all sorts of reasons - gender, skin color, religion, wealth, sexual preferences, accent, disability… the list just goes on). Try not to make a person’s existing life challenges worse.