1. Platform you use?
Any virtual platform can be used and the RGD can provide access to a Zoom meeting link that can be used on an on-going basis for Meetings. If this is the case, however, you will need to ensure that meetings are held consistently on the same date and time and that RGD staff are aware of that timing.
2. What would you say is the ideal number of participants in the group / in a virtual meeting?
Most of our Virtual Communities have between 10 and 50 Members in them. Not everyone attends every meeting so it generally meetings remain fairly intimate. If you are finding that there are too many (or too few) attending meetings, please discuss the situation with RGD staff. 10 people but you can go a bit higher. Any more and it starts to get difficult for everyone to participate.
3. What is your role as the group leader?
As group leader, you are asked to set up an email list of our Community, set meeting dates/times through Google calendar, take notes from the meetings to share with those unable to attend (or recruit someone from the group to do so!), moderate the discussion, welcome new members and communicate the discussion subject to everyone before the meeting. Also, RGD asks that you be in touch if any concerns or ideas are raised that would assist the RGD to be a better, more inclusive organization or augment our efforts to offer valuable programs and services to Members and the entire design community.
4. How often do you meet?
It is entirely up to you and your Community how often you meet. Several groups have meetings once every two months, some are more frequent, some focus on interacting in the private Channel set up fo the Community within the RGD Slack Workspace for Members.
5. When you meet, how do you decide what to discuss, what examples of successful past discussions?
A Slack Poll may be helpful to ask your Community to vote on their favourite discussion topics. As a moderator, you might wish to compile a Google doc with those suggestions and add new ones as they come up. Before each meeting, you may wish to identify one or two topics (just in case one is not enough to keep the Community occupied for a whole meeting) and let the Community know what the topics are in the meeting invitation. After a topic is discussed, you may wish to change the text colour in the Google doc or add the notes from the meeting there. Some successful past discussions for the Municipal Designers Virtual Community have been: brand ambassadors, accessibility, project management tools, department hierarchy, unionized environments.
6. How you ensure discussions are productive, open to all to contribute?
Usually, discussions work quite organically. Asking questions or prompting other participants can be helpful if one or two people are dominating the discussion, but sometimes it’s of value to other Members to hear a longer-form discussion between a couple of Members. Another idea is to do a lightning round at the beginning to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak about the topic for a minute or two, and then open it up to the more organic format. (The RGD organizes meeting of Virtual Community leaders to share knowledge from this perspective.)
7. What other advice is there for potential group leaders / participants?
It’s important to set discussion themes to get the ball rolling, but let the discussion proceed organically to allow for a tangent once in a while. You can have surprising results. Not having set themes can lead to some awkward silences and puts extra pressure on the group leader.
8. Are there other ways that the group corresponds outside of meetings?Each Virtual Community has a private Slack channel on the RGD Slack Community, but not everyone is an active Slack user. When a physical RGD event is planned, such as DesignThinkers, you may also discuss who might be attending and take advantage of the opportunity to get together in person. When and if that is possible!
9. What has been the value of the groups (anything unexpected)?
"With in-house designers for municipalities, we often work in small or single-person departments, so this has provided us with an extended group of colleagues that helps us feel more connected. We find we have many issues in common and have been able to get suggestions from each other. One in our Community says it’s her support group. It’s nice to know you’re not alone when you’re facing a certain situation. It’s a type of hive mind (in the best possible way)." Ruth Farrugia RGD