Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Who wants to go to a meeting?

Ben Chastney's picture
By Ben Chastney |  November 3, 2016 |

Sometimes we have to arrange or go to meetings.  It can be the only obvious way of discussing issue A or finding solution B.  Very often this is not the case though and so many agencies, GATE included, might be guilty in having meetings where something different would work best for all.

 

There are two things worth challenging; language and format.  Too often meetings are set up in a way which is not welcoming or inclusive.  Plenty of our members, and I am sure this is the case for many excluded people, may automatically be put off by the idea of formal discussions which instinctively feel anything but equal.  Where the meeting happens matters.  As does who leads the discussion.  And when this happens.  And who picks the topics of discussion.  These key elements are got wrong so often.

 

The options for members or other marginalised groups are restricted when trying to raise and debate issues with formal agencies, whether say Council, Government or police.  Too often these vital factors have been decided; that the meeting will be in an office, led by the agency, at a time to suit them and with a formal structure.  The result is that people with valid concerns and important things to say are less willing to participate or their contributions are not heard so effectively.

 

We at GATE continue to challenge ourselves to hold true to our principle of being owned by Gypsies and Travellers.  That involves asking members how they want to raise matters of interest and encourage other agencies to be as open and inclusive in how meetings are held.  Whilst some level of formality can’t be avoided and sometimes we need to work within the structures of professional bodies to get them to the table there needs to be room for much more creativity and flexibility.

 

Language also matters though.  With perhaps the exception of an Annual General Meeting, when do we really need to use the word?  Whether consciously or not we at GATE avoid it; using discussion, coffee morning, action group or pretty much anything else.  It is not about being disingenuous or trying to get people to come to something on false pretences, but setting a more welcoming impression. 

 

Making it clear what the purpose of the ‘discussion/chat/group’ is also essential.  Time is precious to us all and we all need to see that participating on this time is quite frankly worth it, particularly for many of our members who have seen their voices ignored so many times before.  Leeds GATE are developing the idea of ‘action groups’, to set the tone of the discussion.  Meetings are too often seen as something held for the sake of it; it is best to start with a goal and work backwards.     

 

It comes down to asking people; what would be helpful and interesting to you?  Too often this question isn’t asked, certainly not to Gypsy and Travellers, to the detriment of all.

 

 

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