Hosting a public meeting is the final step in the seed phase of food council development.
Why host a public meeting?
There are three key reasons to host a public meeting:
- Raise awareness about food councils and the context of a community food system
- Gauge community interest in a food council
- Recruit additional members to the organizing group
What is involved?
Public meetings take on many different forms and processes. Here is one approach that works. The Community Food Strategies team presents many community meetings across North Carolina. Would you like our help? Contact us for advice on your meeting or ask us present at a community meeting.
1. Handle meeting logistics
- Ensure projection equipment is present, and preferably white boards for recording reactions to the presentation
- Movable chairs helps to form smaller groups for introductions
- Expect a crowd -Market your meeting and plan accordingly
- Consider using a Google Form for an RSVP list
- Print RSVP list for sign-in to save time as people come in
- Provide nametags to encourage networking
- Share contact list with participants afterwards
- Have a way for people to join the organizing group (aka task force)
- Take pictures
2. Ensure good attendance
There’s no point in a public meeting if those who will be most affected by a council don’t attend. Some suggestions for ensuring good attendance include:
- Brainstorm: Make a list of people or groups that are most affected by the council’s work.
- Divide and conquer: Use your networks to assign sensible contacts to each other – record assignments in Food Policy Council Voice Tracking Sheet.
- Plan ahead: Check around for conflicts on the proposed meeting date, give people ample time. For example, if you are inviting city council, managers or commissioners, make sure their schedules are not in conflict with your meeting date.
- Personal invitations make a difference: Go the extra step and personally invite stakeholders who will be most influential or have commitment to the community
- Announce It: newspaper press releases, community boards, paper fliers help reach those who may not be on the internet
3. Design an effective meeting
Food councils are, at their core, about bringing people together to work together – Building working relationships – A public meeting increases connections between community and council, and strengthens the food system at the same time.
- Build in networking time: Encourage conversations while waiting for the meeting to begin or during breaks.
- Form small groups: Groups of 6-8 strangers can introduce themselves and learn what interests others.
- Provide Context: Present an overview of food councils.
- Encourage voices: Answer questions and keep your plan flexible.
- Take a pulse: Request people to share brief reactions (in five words or less – what do you think?).
- Recruit: Ask interested volunteers for joining the organizing group (aka task force) to identify themselves.
- Make time for more networking: Encourage people to use the space to continue networking after the meeting.
- Follow-up: Keep the momentum with a plan to follow-up. Share attendance numbers, reactions, photos, and next steps.