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Tips for How to Manage Large Groups

Across the country, many Indivisible groups have grown very big, very quickly. We love seeing all the photos pouring in of groups with hundreds of people showing up to stand Indivisible.

This surge in growth for local groups is really exciting—the more people can we can recruit, the more power we’ll have. But organizing large groups presents some unique challenges, ranging from logistical hurdles (like how to make sure everyone can fit in a single meeting room) to organizing problems (like how to communicate amongst yourselves).

Here are a few tips to help manage some of these challenges and get the most out of a large, enthusiastic group.

Types of Meetings

Large groups need more than one type of meeting to succeed. In particular, decision-making and brainstorming can be very difficult in large groups. Here are a few things to consider if your group has grown too big to deal with everything in a single meeting.

  1. Steering or leadership meetings. Your group may need a small number of leaders to meet separately to help plan out group meetings and actions, develop long-term strategy, and make some operational decisions. Be careful: creating a leadership team can be divisive as other group members wonder how the team was selected. As you’re building a leadership team, ask yourself these questions to make sure you are modeling progressive values:
    1. Is the leadership team diverse? It’s important for your leadership team to reflect your group’s values as well as its membership.
    2. Are these leaders making a respected and important contribution to the group? People who have been involved for a while, or who have stepped up to lead significant parts of your group’s work, may have earned the respect of their peers.
    3. Does your team reflect complementary perspectives and roles? For example, you may want to discuss your media strategy as a leadership team, so incorporating your press contact might be a good idea.
  2. Create sub-groups or committees. Empowered committees with the responsibility to lead areas of your group’s work, like media or action planning, can be a great way to move things forward. Some ideas for setting up committees are discussed in the next section.
  3. Full group meetings. The key here is to run efficient meetings, with a tight agenda and well-organized logistics. Concentrate on keeping everyone in your group informed and involved. Read more about these meetings below.
  4. Social events and parties. A lot of what draws people to local groups in the first place is civic engagement: being part of a social group with their family, friends, and neighbors. With large groups it’s particularly important to have social events, because otherwise the members of your group may never get to know one another—and those relationships are what will keep your group strong and keep people participating.

Creating Sub-Groups or Committees

One of the best strategies for running large groups is to create empowered committees with clear responsibilities.

Here are some possible ways to divide your group:

  1. Functionally: This allows you to divide your work into different work streams. Here are a few examples:
    1. Media: This subcommittee would lead in planning how your group will engage with the media to tell your story. They would be responsible for coordinating with the media, writing press releases, distributing photos and videos, and training spokespeople on core talking points.
    2. Action Planning: responsible for the logistics of high-visibility actions designed to pressure MoCs, such as Town Halls and visits to your MoC’s office.
    3. Recruitment and Outreach: responsible for publicizing your local group’s meetings and events, tapping into new communities, and doing outreach to ensure your group is growing bigger and stronger.
    4. Group Coordination: responsible for making sure the logistical details are covered, including scheduling regular meetings, making sure there are effective communication channels to keep the group organized, etc.
    5. New Member Orientation: responsible for making sure new members feel welcomed into the group, are plugged in to do meaningful work, and are supported along the way.
  2. Geographically: If your group covers a large geographic area, you may want to have subcommittees covering each Congressional district or each town within a large district. This would allow tailored planning to each district office.

In creating sub-groups or committees, you should ensure each group reflects the core Indivisible principles of inclusion, respect, and fairness.

Group Coordination

Regardless of how many committees you may have, you will need a clear organizational structure to make sure communications and coordination within your group is open and dynamic. Have a clear reporting and sharing process. That could look like:

  1. A weekly email with updates from each team.
  2. A shared calendar of activities, deadlines, and your MoC’s activities.
  3. Devoting a portion of your in-person meetings to cross-committee updates.
  4. Clear internal communication. See the “Stay Connected” section below.

Running an Efficient Meeting with A Lot of People

If your group has hundreds of members showing up to local meetings, you’ll likely need to change the structure of your meetings to accommodate this growth. Check out our handy one-pager on how to run a meeting, and keep in mind a few additional suggestions below.

Have an agenda that sets you up for success. For example, if 100 people all try to introduce themselves in 30 seconds, your meeting will have gone on for almost an hour before you get to anything else.

Here’s a suggested agenda for running a one-hour meeting with large groups:

Section  Description  Time
Welcome & Overview Welcome everyone, provide updates on actions and latest issues, go over the agenda/schedule for meeting. 5 Minutes
One-On-One Intros Find a person you don’t know, spend one minute introducing yourself and talking about why you #StandIndivisible. Switch. Then, reconvene and have a few people share something they learned about their partner. 5 Minutes
Sub-Group Pitches Explain sub-groups, have a representative from each group pitch their group and what they’ll be talking about in the breakout. 5 Minutes
Sub-Group Breakouts Groups split up into sub-groups to tackle specific projects and issues. 30 minutes
Sub-Group Report-Backs Groups report-back with a summary of what was agreed upon and next steps. 10 minutes
Closing Exercise Sharing a song, quote, or some other group exercise can help unify a large group. 5 minutes

Nail the Logistics

When organizing a large group, certain logistical details demand a bit more attention. You’ll want to ensure that:

  • Your meeting room can accommodate the anticipated size of the group—community centers, libraries, and places of worship often have large meeting rooms that you can book. If you are too big for even that, split your meeting into two days—just make sure to cover the same information.
  • You have an audio system for large groups/spaces so everyone can hear you.
  • Your meeting room is ADA compliant (clear access routes for members in wheelchairs or walkers, seats for members who need them).
  • The room is set up in advance and comfortable to be in (nobody likes a warm meeting room!). Designate a comfort captain (or two) for each meeting who arrive early to set up the space and make sure the logistics work, including the audio.

Staying Connected

The more people you have, the more difficult it is to keep everyone on the same page. We recommend collecting email addresses and cell phone numbers at every meeting, and having a few simple systems to share updates:

  • An email list that group leaders can post important updates to. A Google group works well—just make sure to make it a moderated or announcement-only, since large email group discussions can be difficult to manage.
  • Facebook groups provide a forum for discussion and create a more informal, social space for people to get to know each other and share ideas, pictures, videos, and more. Remember that if your group is not closed, any one can see what you are talking about though!
  • Phone-banking or text-banking can help alert members to important updates, especially if you have members who aren’t regularly using email or digital media.

Welcoming New Members

With a large group, you’re more likely to have a broad range of perspectives and experiences. Some of the local members of your Indivisible group may be lifelong advocates and grassroots political organizers. Others might be brand new to politics.

Here are a few tips for making sure you meet everyone where they are at:

  • Have a sub-group or special orientations for new members who are attending their first meeting—you want to create a welcoming, supportive space for less experienced folks to seek guidance and ask questions.
  • At every meeting, try to quickly cover the core principles and ground rules of your meetings so that new members aren’t disoriented—but don’t spend too much time on the basics or experienced folks might get bored. You might say something as simple as:

“Our Indivisible group started in January with just 11 people. Now look at us. To all the new people who are joining us for the first time here today, thank you for coming. Our group is committed to two guiding principles: 1. Donald Trump’s agenda will take America backwards and must be stopped. 2. In order to work together to achieve this goal, we must model the values of inclusion, respect, and fairness. This group has been meeting every week, and we’ve been pressuring our elected representatives, and we’re making a real difference.”

  • Speak in clear, accessible terms—and avoid (or explain) political jargon.
  • Make valuing all of your members a priority. Allow different voices to share the spotlight. Give credit to all the great work happening.