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Topic 5 Assemblies and Meetings

Assemblies and meetings are a tool at the service of groups and are the most practical, extended and useful instrument for democratic organization and social participation.

The meetings are the expression of a way of interacting, relating and participating from co-responsibility, equality and horizontality.

Meetings need to be prepared and cared for. It is also necessary for the group to carry out a learning process so that the meetings are operational, fulfil their function and are a space where everyone feels comfortable.

Sometimes, the meetings are not properly prepared, as well as internal dynamics of misunderstanding roles, low participation, overload of the agenda… This makes the meetings not useful and people stop coming.

It is also common to fall into an excess of “an acute mania for meetings “, understanding this as the tendency to convene an excessive number of meetings, generally not very decisive.

Whether they are meetings of an association, with its regulations and its board of directors or of an informal group with which we are working, the assembly practice provides a philosophy and an adequate work methodology to favour equal participation. On occasions, the assembly methodology has been confused with a space in which anyone can talk about whatever they want, whenever they want, for as long as they want. It’s not about that.

The assembly methodology is based on horizontal relationships and develops egalitarian decision-making, in which all members have the same capacity for influence and decision. In the assembly, the groups participate in all the stages of the process, from the analysis or deliberative phase, conflict resolution and decision making, but it must be done in an orderly and clear way for everyone, as well as of different dynamics for each objective and moment.

In order for the assembly to fulfil its function correctly, it is necessary to implement a certain assembly technology and certain principles.

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Assemblies and meetings. Lorenzo y Martínez (2001)

To start working in an assembly way and motivate towards these practices, it can be introduced in a very didactic way, through games, using some group dynamics to exercise consensus or debate and starting with short-term experiences according to age and experience.

It is important to invent mechanisms that promote the participation of all members of the group. There are people who are less motivated to participate, either because of shyness, lack of self-esteem or because they have fewer tools to do so. The reasons are multiple.

For this, some mechanisms can be put in place to collect opinions. One of them may be the so-called consultation systems and opinion wheels. Opinion wheels are a simple technique by which the opinion of each person is asked in turn, one by one and without debates.

Consultation systems help us to collect the opinion of all the actors involved. Sometimes it is useful to use non-verbal techniques, as they facilitate the participation of people who do not feel comfortable speaking. We can do it through corporal expression, showing coloured cards, etc. When the subject is controversial, anonymous and written expression can help reveal some opinions. Likewise, the separation into small discussion or work groups favours active listening and participation. It is a tremendously simple tool to apply but with extraordinary results.

Horizontal relationships seek to reach decisions preferably through consensus. The decision by consensus is a decision process that seeks not only the agreement of the majority of the participants, but also pursues the objective of resolving or mitigating the objections of the minority to reach the most satisfactory and inclusive decision. The consensus does not seek to exclude the minority but to include it. The consensus process is, without a doubt, complex, but the benefits are high, since it avoids unresolved conflicts and seeks the integration of all the participants so that they are not excluded. In addition, the solutions it arrives at are usually complete and imaginative. Consensus does not mean that everyone comes to think the same or try to completely convince the rest, it tries to bring the different positions closer, generating an alternative that contemplates aspects of all. This implies being willing to move from our opinions and seek agreement, not entrench ourselves in our opinion and be able to modify our point of view.