Chapter 1 - Small Group Organising

1 Basics

This guide is written by student organisers who started out with no experience and learnt by making countless mistakes and false starts. The idea behind this handbook is to support the next generation of student activists to not only avoid many of the mistakes we made, but to actively build and strengthen our movement. Hopefully, this will also serve to “de-mystify” the process of organising, and give more people the confidence to take part.

The important point to remember in all of this is that none of us are “experts”. The only real difference between people that “make things happen” and those that don’t is confidence and attitude. If you think things through carefully, and keep your plans simple, it is actually quite hard to do things “wrong” at all. There is no reason that your ideas are any better/worse than anyone else’s. Though of course, people who talk loudly and dominate meetings can make us forget this sometimes!

1.1 Getting Started

The type of groups or organisations you build at your university or college should depend on the circumstances you are in. Ultimately we’re working towards a mass movement, but in the short term this normally means organising a small group of people and building from there. If there are no groups already – no anti-cuts group, no anarchist society, no feminist society etc. – then starting from scratch can be a daunting task. Be encouraged though – if there is no radical left voice on your campus, you can bet there are other people just waiting for something to happen. Persuading people can be hard – but finding them is a little easier. Here’s some tips:

Starting to organise on your campus should mean you are talking to lots of people. This can be intimidating. Remember to listen to people when you do this – it’s far more effective to say “what do you think about…” than it is to just say “we should do something about this! Here’s what I think we should do!”, because as well as possibly having good ideas, people like to be listened to!

1.2 Growing a Network

If a small group is to grow into something bigger, one of your tasks needs to be ‘networking’. To understand this, it’s useful to imagine your group’s influence as several ‘concentric circles’ – with active members at the centre; student sympathisers and staff allies next; and then the rest on the outside (see Figure 1.1)

image showing three concentric circles
1.1 - concentric circles

The point of networking is partly to draw people further into the ‘circles’, and partly to make the most of people where they are. For example, one thing you should aim to do is establish contact with staff trade union reps and militant members of staff – drawing them from your ‘everyone’ circle into your ‘allies and sympathisers’ circle. Another thing that’s important is not just talking to the ‘inner circle’ – sympathisers may not want to come to all your meetings but they can still provide invaluable support. Some of them will have networks of their own. So, make sure that you have a way to keep them up to date with what you are doing too.

Tips for networking

1.3 Finances

Students normally manage to get a lot for free - using anything from university resources to shoplifting. However, you’re still likely to need money for something at some point. Try to keep your finances managed in a democratic way - delegate someone (a ‘treasurer’) to hold money for the group. Keep it in a locked money box with a book listing every time money goes in or out. Fund raising should be done in a way that is fair too - events can be donation or “no-one turned away for lack of funds”. If you are fund raising be clear how you intend to spend the money, and don’t pressure people to donate. If you have membership fees, make it so that people can opt-out if they are really skint (or do it on a sliding scale - the more you earn, the more you pay).

For more on managing finances check out Financial Literacy for Co-operatives from Seeds for change -

Fundraising Ideas

1.4 Be organised!

“Just because we’re anarchists doesn’t mean we can’t have a conservative filing system!” – Overheard at a Bristol University occupation, 2010

Being a student organiser means that it is really important to be well-organised. This doesn’t really need a whole sub-section to it’s own, but it deserves mentioning! Distributing meeting minutes and decisions quickly is vital for keeping a group going. Always give people notice of meetings, events, etc. well in advance, and send reminders just beforehand. Holding an archive of meeting minutes (for example, in an online folder), means that people can easily look back to see what was decided and what the main action points were – this prevents a situation where the students who’ve been involved longer have power over the group, because they remember meetings the others weren’t even at. Archiving of posters, demo-reports, materials, etc is also really useful – it will make it far easier to produce things in future, and will mean that any work you do will have more effect even long after you’ve left university or college. Finally, keep a list of contacts, meeting places, and maybe even lessons learned from each event you organise. Having this information accessible not only means that less experienced organisers feel more included, but it also saves time and means that everyone can take on work that is often left on the shoulders of people who’ve been around the longest.

1.5 Security

If you do well and your group becomes a force for change on campus, people are going to start taking an interest in stopping you. Your institution’s management don’t want dissent at ‘their’ establishment, and police already actively monitor and disrupt grassroots organisers. Over the past few years, we have seen students considered to be organisers earmarked for expulsion at some universities. One guy in Cambridge even got suspended for reading a poem. Future employers may also be interested in identifying potential trouble-makers. There has been a lot written about this in-depth (see the resources section!) but there are a few simple tips that we can give, which might have saved people a lot of hassle over the years if they had been followed!

  1. Use your group name, group Facebook etc. for anything public (eg. organising events) – rather than the names of individuals.
  2. The real full names and contact details of members should never appear in print or online in relation to your group. First names or fake names should be enough if anything.
  3. Student societies normally need a few named people down as ‘secretary’, ‘president’ etc. These people could get legal trouble if your society organises any demonstrations. So, consider calling the organisation something different and not formally linked to you when you are running a protest or action. (for example, in Bristol we created the group ‘Reclaim Education’ to run a week of action, and used our ‘Bristol Left’ society to book rooms).
  4. When talking to the press, give a fake name – it is highly unlikely they will check. This practise also helps weed out “career activists” and people who just want their moment in the limelight.
  5. Make sure it isn’t always the same person speaking in public or talking to management. They will get treated like the ringleader even if they aren’t.
  6. Do not discuss anything ‘sensitive’ (eg breaking the law) over the phone or over normal email. Leave no written record and discuss in person only with people you trust. Assume university-run email can be read by management.
  7. However ‘friendly’ a cop or security guard may seem, anything they overhear you saying will be noted and passed on. They can be very skilled at getting information out of you via ‘friendly’ conversation. The best thing to do is to simply walk away, or say nothing.
  8. Not everyone is who they say they are. Students in Cambridge recently recorded the police asking someone to go to meetings and spy for them! So don’t share risky information unless you have to (as an example: “hey everyone look at the hat I got off a copper at yesterdays protest!” is definitely a bad idea). Action plans should not be shared with anyone who isn’t involved and trusted, nor should people ask or expect to be told about them.
  9. Don’t get paranoid. Taking simple steps to protect your security is worth it – but if they don’t work it isn’t the end of the world. After all it’s better to take some risks rather than never doing anything at all. Court cases can be won and expulsions can be challenged – it just takes a lot of effort which could be used for organising instead!

1.6 Internal Politics

Student groups should be run by the people active in them – not lead by one any person or ‘steering committee’, and not instructed from the outside by a political party. Positions of power regularly get taken up by people who will abuse them for their own gain and there are countless examples of this happening in left-wing groups. They also encourage apathy – if not everyone has an equal say and equal responsibility, not everyone will want to pull their own weight. Finally, positions of power disproportionately get taken up by white men – which leads to misrepresentation and bias. Not being instructed from outside is also a practical principle – the people who know best how to organise students are students themselves. If people who have no stake in your success have a say in your actions, they will be far more likely to make bad judgements.

As well as this, those of us who are marginalised by society often get excluded from resistance groups in the exact same way. Since we are socialised to exclude people, our groups need to make an active effort to be welcoming, to make sure everyone in the group feels involved, to address barriers to people participating, and to empower marginalised people to challenge internal oppression. This is not simple and will require self-education and action, in addition to policies and ideas.

Exactly how to put this into practise is up to you, but the following ideas may help…

1.7 Public Speaking

At some point or another, someone from your group will need to do some public speaking…

1.8 Newsletters

Setting up a radical university newsletter can be a great way to grow your group and reach lots of people. There are already guides online for setting up newsletters, for example:

From personal experience, there are a couple of things worth adding. First, running a university newsletter is a lot of hard work. Just getting something out is easy – but putting all the effort in to publicise, format, and distribute it, so that it actually has an impact, not to mention producing it regularly, isn’t so simple! Second, if you want to get staff involved, one thing that has worked well is to time it so that it can be a collective response to a grievance. For example, if the newsletter is going to be released after or before a strike, staff will find it easier to see the point and will be more likely to read and engage.

1.9 Theory

“There is nothing so practical as good theory” – Kurt Lewin

There have been many good texts written about organisation and small groups, as well as on dealing with some of the problems that can arise. Below is a small selection, if you are interested…

2 Sustaining Resistance

Even when everything else is done brilliantly, the student movement often fails to achieve it’s potential because it isn’t ‘sustainable’. People get tired and drop out, and we fail to keep our momentum going, so great protests and actions end up leading to nothing. If anything this is the most incomplete section of this guide – sustainability could have whole books written about it, and there are many conflicting and competing ideas about it out there. More importantly this is something that most movements do not do well – how to be sustainable is a question that still has not been properly answered.

This all does assume that the organisation you are part of is something that needs to keep going, that needs to sustain itself. A similar problem to sustainability is when groups keep going with no purpose – all action and organisation taking place simply for the sake of surviving. No group or project is an end in itself – if it becomes this, once the reason for it has gone, it needs to be allowed to die! Spending energy on keeping a project going can actually stop anything new growing in its place.

2.1 General points

2.2 The Personal is Political

(disclaimer – none of the advice here should be seen as an alternative to getting support for mental health issues from trained professionals)

2.3 Sharing out the Work

It often happens in a group that a few people end up doing most of the work and taking most of the initiative – for example, calling all of the meetings and producing all of the publicity. This is a complicated situation. On the one hand, those doing all the work feel exploited because they are pulling other people’s weight in addition to their own. On the other hand, everyone else feels like they are at the bottom of an ‘informal hierarchy’, where they are excluded from taking initiative and doing work due to their lack of experience and confidence. If this continues for too long, then the ‘perceived hierarchy’ becomes a real one. Because the active minority always have to take initiative, they have effective control of the organisation. Because the inactive majority do little work, they have less access to information and have less practical understanding of how the group is structured, and so have no power to change it. When this happens it is important to make it visible by raising the issue at meetings and talking about it – but often it turns out that talk is not enough. If you find yourself at the top of one of these ‘informal hierarchies’, the best thing to do is to just stop. It is not good for you to take on a disproportionate share of the work and others have no right to expect that of you. If you are lucky then other people will pick up the slack – sometimes these situations come about because no space was left for other people in the first place. If you are unlucky, then things will start to not get done – which sometimes needs to happen if people are to realise what’s happening. This can actually have the effect of making people feel more involved with the organisation! If you are at the bottom of an informal hierarchy, the important thing to do is to assert yourself – you have as much right to be there as anyone else, and that should be respected! Take active steps to volunteer for tasks, and demand that space be made for others to take on roles in the group. Hopefully this will be enough – most of the time people are more than happy to share out work! If you do meet with resistance, you will have to balance whether it is worth conspiring from within to take back control of the group, or simply leaving to make a better one – both of these options are good, in different situations.

2.4 Collective Burn-Out

“Burn-out” is something that tends to get seen as an individual problem – someone overcomits or cannot handle pressure, so they get worn out and can no longer be effective. However, more often than not, burn-out is a collective problem. When one person gets it and drops out, then more pressure is placed on everyone still involved – if more people then drop out as a result then you can end up with a cycle which ends with everyone burning out the group falling apart. The causes are also often a result of collective practises too – when we try to do more than is actually possible, and when we do not take care of those who are having a hard time,burn-out is inevitable.

2.5 Student Specific Issues

It is really hard to maintain momentum in student organising. The structure of student life, of holidays and exams, puts ‘speed bumps’ in the way of our movement. Three of the problems commonly faced will be looked-at here, along with some ideas for dealing with them

The Winter Problem

When big student protests in the UK have happened in the first term (for example, the 2010 protests and occupations against fees), they have not lasted through the winter. Around winter time, people often have exams to study for, and afterwards the pace of work at universities tends to pick up a bit. Just having the few weeks holiday seems to slow momentum too. Another problem is that after the first term, people tend to start thinking about student union elections (if elections are in the second term) – which means that anyone who is helping with an election campaign has far less time to give to organising.

One solution to this problem may be to just “bite the bullet” and accept that more is going to happen in the first term anyway. That means to work most effectively, it is necessary to start planning things in the summer, before term even starts. Having some events planned before the first week is normally a good idea anyway – that’s when lots of freshers will be looking for things to get involved in, and generally the first month of their term is the best time to get them in (less workload!). Another idea might be to lower your sights a bit – try and have a planning meeting before you break up for winter holidays (to make the most of any momentum you have), and plan a few lower-key actions and events for the next term. That way you can keep things happening, even if it’s less than before. However, it is possible to make big things happen in the second term – a good example being occupy Sussex – who held an occupation and national demonstration on their campus in the spring of 2013.

The Summer Problem

During the summer, most students go home to another city or go on holiday, and it’s very difficult to organise anything. This isn’t a bad thing - it’s probably good for us to have some kind of enforced break from organising and studying once a year. However, there is one issue which does deserve a mention. Knowing that the opposition will be away, universities will sometimes try to make controversial decisions quietly over the summer. So by all means have a break, but try to keep some contact with supportive staff and student union officers over the summer, so you aren’t surprised when you get back!

It’s also worth making sure you have one last meeting before everyone starts to leave - which isn’t easy as some courses finish at different times. Decide when this meeting will be before exams even start and publicise it well in advance in case people decide to go home early. You should aim to reflect back on the year (espescially the positive stuff you have achieved), and make some basic plans for the next one (when the first meeting will be, how to plan the freshers’ fair, etc). Make sure you leave some time afterwards for celebrating and socialising too!

The Three-Year Problem

Most students are only at a university for three-four years at a time. This means that, once you have spent years nurturing a group and building connections, it will already be time to leave. It is extremely hard to build a group that gains new members and keeps going with this kind of turn-over. Becoming ‘political’ and getting the confidence to organise is not something that happens overnight. But it is vital that our groups do survive – without any collective memory, we will be doomed to constantly reinvent the wheel and repeat the same mistakes as those who have gone before us. Here are some ideas that might help:

3 Meetings

Lets be honest, meetings are often dull and exhausting – but they are necessary if you want to get things done, and doing meetings well is really important. If they are undemocratic, if people don’t feel involved, or if meetings last forever without anything getting done, then people won’t join. However, welcoming meetings where everyone shares ideas and things get done: those can be inspiring! Sadly, there’s no simple solution that will work in every situation. In a meeting of three people it would be weird to use voting or have a ‘chairperson’, and you’d expect everyone to speak. Compare that to a meeting of 30 – it would make the meeting unbearably long if everyone got a chance to speak to the whole group on every issue, and you would need a formal structure just to make it work. So be flexible, and don’t worry if it takes a while for your group to figure out what works best.

3.1 Holding a Meeting

Use a facilitator (or ‘chair’)

The role of a facilitator is to make sure the meeting runs smoothly. This could mean taking hands when more than one person wants to talk at once, introducing the agenda, etc. How much the facilitator has to do depends on the decision-making structure you want to use – some groups also give the facilitator a more active role of helping the group make decisions, and getting the best possible contribution from everyone there. In this case the facilitator should reflect back to the group about what they’re saying and where their main differences are, point out if a few people are doing all the talking, and encourage people to speak who have been quiet. Since the person who is chairing or facilitating a meeting has influence over it, it’s important that they try to be as neutral as possible – they shouldn’t raise points themselves or respond to other people’s ideas unless it is urgent. If you’re discussing something difficult or controversial, consider bringing in someone from outside to facilitate the meeting and if not, definitely pick someone who is good at diffusing tension and isn’t a big supporter of one side or another. See the contacts in Appendix A for a list of groups who provide training in facilitating meetings.

Have an agenda

Having a list of topics that will get discussed and doing them in turn makes a meeting more focussed

Assign action points

When one of your decisions requires an action, this should be delegated to one or more people, and written down in the minutes as an “action point”. The best action points are clear, and have a time scale (eg “Sam will design a poster for our event and send it round for people to look at before our next meeting”). Make sure tasks get shared out fairly – not all the action points should go to just one or two people! Sharing action points can help with this if people aren’t confident enough to take on tasks alone, but there should always be one person to bottom-line a task. Otherwise no-one assigned to it knows whether they should be the one to take initiative and start or not, so it ends up not being done. Finally, each meeting should have a ‘report back’ stage, where the actions points from last time are looked over and the people assigned to them report back.

Take minutes

‘Minutes’ sound bureaucratic and dull, right? Only, when you get home, suddenly you don’t remember what you said you’d do, or what time the next meeting is, or anything that was discussed. And for people who aren’t at the meeting, minutes are their only way of knowing what happened. So, minutes are important! They also help make sure things get done. People will want to remind themselves of what they agreed to do, and minutes mean you can look back at previous meetings to make sure things happened as they were supposed to. As a general rule, short minutes are good minutes. The important things to get down are decisions that got made, and ‘action points’ that people agreed to take on. There’s normally no need to write down everything that got said or every discussion point that got raised, beyond a note saying ‘this thing was discussed’.

Use hands

This feels a bit like being back in school to start with, but getting people to put their hands up when they want to speak really can encourage less confident people to share their ideas. To make the meeting flow more naturally, some groups let people signal that they should get priority, for example:

It’s important that any hand signals you use are explained at the start of the meeting, or it will be very confusing for anyone new! In very small meetings things can be more relaxed – it is usually enough to just speak and only use hands when lots of people have something to say.

Be accessible and inclusive

Make sure that your meetings are inclusive and as free as possible from sexism, racism, homophobia, and all other kinds of oppression. It’s worth pointing out that you are trying to do this whenever you send out a call-out for a meeting, as this will get people thinking about oppression before the meeting starts, and let people who normally get excluded from meetings know that you’re making an effort. If your planning meetings exclude people, then your events and actions probably will too. Oh, and the other obvious but neglected point about including people: if you don’t, then you miss out on all of the extra ideas and energy they could bring!

Don’t just vote

Voting on issues is far better than letting a minority decide everything, but just going with what the majority wants isn’t always a good idea either – especially in a small group. If possible you should try to reach decisions that most people are happy with, even if that means making compromises. There are a few reasons for this:

3.2 Tips for making meetings good

Use rotating roles

Unless your meeting is really small (ie less than 5 people), you’ll want to have people take on some roles to make sure things run smoothly – for example, a ‘facilitator’ and a minute-taker. The danger with having roles in a meeting is that they often end up getting taken on by the same people every time. This isn’t good for the person who ends up with the role as it’s tiring to be doing the same thing over and again. It’s also bad for everyone else – it can mean that the person who takes on the role has power over the group, can leave others feeling less involved, and means that skills don’t get shared (so when the one person who always takes your minutes leaves, no-one else knows how to do it). So, try to account for this by ‘rotating’ the roles regularly. During a long meeting, switch minute-takers so that they get a break. Make sure different people take on roles each time – for example by keeping a list of people who are happy to take them on, and going through it alphabetically. Also try to be aware of which groups of people always end up taking on certain roles – for example, if the facilitator is always a man whereas the minute-taker is always a woman, then you have a problem. New members need to be encouraged to do things like facilitation – for example by starting them off chairing just one part of a meeting. Finally, consider organising a training session for your group on how to chair meetings well – this will encourage more people to do it as well as making your group better.

Don’t just take points

Putting hands up and then saying something on an issue isn’t the only or best way for people to contribute to a meeting. For one thing, it can mean that you get an endless circle of people saying why they agree with something, when everyone is on the same page and nothing really needs to be debated. For another, less confident people often get left out unless space is made for them to speak, or if they’re given another way of contributing. For example:

Split into smaller groups

Ever been at a meeting where a few people spend ages discussing something you don’t really care about, or aren’t involved in, and it keeps going on and you get more and more bored? Or at a meeting where you really need to discuss something in detail, but only a few people have anything to say about it and everyone else just switches off and looks tired/annoyed? Working groups are the solution! A “working group” takes on a specific task – such as drafting a statement, or planning an event – and meets separately from the rest of the group (eg after a meeting, or on a different day, or whatever). The working group can bring all their ideas back to the main group to be ratified if necessary, but they do most of the nitty-gritty discussion and work. They should be open to anyone in the group if possible, and should be inclusive and democratic. That means it should be clear exactly what it is about, and everyone in the group should be informed about it. Working groups should report back to the main group in meetings (but keep it brief!). Finally, you should always mandate one person to bottom line making sure the working group meets up. More confident people are ok to just make it happen, but many inexperienced people will just leave the organising to ‘someone else’.

Be actively inclusive

Challenging hierarchy and exclusion isn’t simply a list of do-nots that will magically make your group perfect. To be successful, you need to actively work to make your group inclusive. This isn’t a chore – having more people who are more actively involved makes your group more effective and means less work in the long run. Here are some examples of things you can do:

Have discussion as well as debate

A really democratic meeting needs a balance of three things – decision-making, debate, and discussion. Decisions need to get made, and get made by the people in the group, for anything to get done and for people to be involved. Decisions also need to be talked over and debated – so that everyone gets a chance to convince other people of their opinion on issues. A lot of meetings only have those two – decision-making and debate. The problem with this is that what gets talked about in the first place, i.e. which issues get debated and decided on, can end up being left in the hands of a few people, or even not decided properly at all. For everyone to be involved, and for the group to be effective, it’s important to also have more general discussion about what the aims of the group should be, what issues they can take up in the first place, etc. A meeting that takes initiative in working out how to resist university management will always be more interesting and effective than one that just responds to the issues that come up, or a group that allows it’s strategy to be dictated by a few people.

Encourage autonomy

Not everything can be talked over in meetings. Part of being effective means making it clear what people should just go for without raising it at a meeting first, and working out how to keep any ‘autonomous’ actions accountable. For example it is probably ok for anyone to post to the group facebook page (can always be taken down again if there’s controversy!), but probably not ok for someone to do an interview with the university newspaper without checking in with the group first. Remember that although these things might be clear to more confident people who’ve been in the group a long time, it won’t be clear to anyone who is new. So if you don’t want the group to end up with an ‘inner circle’ of people who do things on their own, formally agreeing what people can do on behalf of the group is a good idea.

Think beyond structure...

Having good processes and practises in your meetings is important for being productive and for challenging hierarchy. The thing is though, structures aren’t the be-all-and-end-all – they don’t solve everything, and there is such a thing as too much structure (aka bureaucracy!). If you’ve been in a group for a while, then what you do on a personal level is also important. Making sure you befriend new members and listen to their opinions is more likely to mean they stay members than anything listed above. No matter how careful you are, decisions and discussions won’t all take place in meetings and within your structures – social relationships happen and we shouldn’t try to stop that! Instead, involve people in your social circle and make an effort to ensure you don’t just rely on conversations with old friends to form your opinions. Watch who you choose to encourage and speak to – is it just white men? If so, then you need to branch out. Oh, and be careful of approaching this like it’s a duty – people can see through that! Conversations with people you disagree with or don’t even like keep you grounded and keep you thinking, as well as benefiting the other person.

3.3 Crash course in facilitating

The purpose of a facilitator is:

  1. to keep the meeting together (make sure people stick to the agenda, keep time, pick who speaks next, etc)
  2. to encourage participation (point out that only a few people have spoken, suggest processes that involve more people such as splitting into smaller groups, etc)
  3. to help the group make decisions and have useful discussion (suggesting go-arounds, reflecting back the mood, etc)
  4. to help challenge oppression (eg people speaking out of turn, prioritising marginalised voices, supporting people calling out oppressive behaviour, etc).

Tips on facilitating:

Tips on helping the facilitator:

3.4 On Consensus

Many activist groups use a process called ‘consensus decision-making’ in meetings. There are extensive guides for using it and solving problems commonly faced by small groups on the website ‘Seeds for Change’ – it’s linked to in the resources appendix, and you should check it out! There are a few points that need to be made about the process. First off, it isn’t right for all groups. As a bare minimum, read up on the ‘conditions for consensus’ – if your group doesn’t meet these, the process will not be effective.

Second, it isn’t simple – participants will take a while to get used to it, and ‘facilitators’ need to either have had training or experienced consensus meetings before. Think carefully about whether the time needed to get used to it is worth it. For a group that meets regularly it probably is, but for a one off meeting using the full process may take more time than it is worth. Make sure that any new people have everything explained to them clearly, so it isn’t too confusing.

Finally, even thought the aim of consensus is to make groups more democratic, it can be used in an oppressive way. People who understand the process better will have more influence than those who don’t. Many communities and groups already have their own ways of making decisions, and activists that come in and blindly demand they use consensus are basically practising ‘activist imperialism’ – this is something that does happen and is worth being aware of.

That said, consensus can be a really helpful process for getting everyone in a group involved, and for making good decisions. It has been well thought out and has resources behind it that have been put together over years and years. Also, many critics of consensus don’t really understand it, and are actually criticising examples of consensus being used badly! So read how the process is meant to work rather than just assuming that a group you saw using it was doing it right. And don’t let the warnings above scare you off!

3.5 Online Meetings

There are a number of different services and websites you can use to have online meetings. IRC is something that has been used for international student meetings before, for example. A simple guide created to help people connect to those meetings can be found here – For a more secure solution, consider “cryptocat”. Both of these need a bit of technical skill to get going – so if you plan on using them it’s worth having a guide to hand for your members to look through. Meetings do need to be structured a little differently when online. One format that worked fine is still online here –, and ‘Seeds For Change’ has a (very different) process outlined in the ‘consensus handbook’ (available here:

Like any meeting, there are some social guidelines which will make a chat meeting run smoother when people follow them. Some things worth considering are: