1. Platform you use?
Any virtual platform can be used. If you have a professional Zoom account that works well, or GoogleMeet. We do require that the leader of the group (there may be as many as 2-3 co-leaders) has access to a virtual platform that they feel comfortable on and can use for the community's meetings.
2. What would you say is the ideal number of participants in the group / in a virtual meeting?
We suggest 10 people but you can go a bit higher. Any more and it starts to get difficult for everyone to participate. If your Virtual Community is large and you have significantly more than 10 who wish to attend a meeting, you might wish to consider breaking up the group and having more regular meetings. Hopefully, someone else within the group can volunteer to help moderation of meetings.
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 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?
We meet once every two months but also connect through a special Channel within the RGD Slack Workspace for Members.
5. When you meet, how do you decide what to discuss, what examples of successful past discussions?
I set up a Slack Poll to ask our 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 should set 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. (Once we have a few more Communities operating, RGD may organize a meeting of moderators 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?We have a Slack channel on the RGD Slack, but we also correspond through email. Not everyone is an active Slack user. When a physical RGD event is planned, such as DesignThinkers or an In-House Conference, we 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