Here are some simple steps you can take to form a new community group.
Before you start
Step 1. Meet up with other people who share your concerns. These people could include friends and colleagues, people who have previously been vocal about the issue (check the media), and workers with a special interest such as lawyers, teachers, nurses, politicians or community workers. Try to attract a range of people with diverse skills.
Step 2. Define and name your group.
Defining the reason for forming your new group, and discussing what you want to achieve, will help shape the project and the group. When naming your group, make sure it reflects who you are and what you are setting out to do. For example, “Parents against drink-driving”. Once your group has identified its cause, you can collectively start thinking about the set-up and operational processes.
Step 3. Arrange your first meeting.
Select an appropriate venue. Make sure it’s easy to find and is wheelchair accessible. Choose a time and date that will appeal to people in your group (you might like to ask them what time is best) and think about the refreshments that will be required.
Step 4. Setting an agenda A meeting agenda should be sent out at least 24 hours in advance so people have time to prepare. There may be items that need to be read beforehand such as media articles, research, reports or notices. A basic meeting agenda includes:
- apologies from those who could not attend
- minutes and outstanding actions from the last meeting (if appropriate)
- agenda Items
- any other business
- date and time of next meeting.
Step 5. Promote the community group meeting There are lots of different ways to promote your meeting, including social media, flyers/posters/newsletters, and the media. To find out more check out our ‘Engage with the media’ section.
Step 6. Running your first meeting To run a successful meeting, follow the agenda and keep the meeting running on time. You don’t want to start your first group meeting with a longwinded five hour bore-athon. This could potentially discourage people from coming to the next meeting. Make sure someone is responsible for taking notes, paying particular attention to the actions that are allocated, along with who is accountable for making the actions happen. It’s a good idea to set some meeting ground rules. These rules could include things such as being respectful and not interrupting.
Step 7. Setting up a committee When a group is small, having a chairperson, secretary and treasurer may not be necessary. But as the group grows and gains momentum, identifying these roles could be the difference between a fully functioning group that achieves its goals and a group that never really gets off the ground.
The role of the Chairperson
- ensures the committee functions properly
- ensures the group is managed effectively
- provides support and supervision
- represents the group as its figurehead
The role of the Secretary
- ensures meetings are effectively organised and minuted
- upholds the legal requirements of the governing document
- communication and correspondence
The role of the Treasurer
- general financial oversight
- funding, fundraising and sales
- financial reporting
- banking, bookkeeping and record keeping
Step 8. Governing document A governing document outlines the aims and objectives, and helps to guide a group. From the start, it’s important to choose the right document for your group. The ‘Community Door’ is a Queensland-based website offering information to help community-managed groups in all aspects of operation. Sample governing documents can be found on this website, along with many other resources.
How can your group be more effective?
- Value honesty.
- Create an environment where members feel free to speak their mind.
- Set goals – what constitutes “success”.
- Determine roles – what’s expected of the members? What is expected of each other?
- Agree on rules – what are the agreements on decision-making, working together and how to act?
- Relationships – how do members handle conflict, ambiguity, rumour, secrecy, trust?
- Results – how does the group measure its effectiveness? What are the performance indicators?
- Rewards – what’s in it for the group – individually and collectively? Is everyone OK with that?
Information in this section was drawn from the following sources:
- Sustainable Communities North East Initiative 2015, Brighter Futures Together Toolkit, Set up a Community Group, Sustainable Cities Research Institute, Newcastle upon Tyne. Available from: brighterfuturestogether.co.uk
- Cringe the Binge n.d. A guide for community groups on taking action to address alcohol related issues and harms, booklet, FARE.
- Community Action, 2010, Factsheet: Why groups don’t work, Community Action, Derby.