Quaker A-Z: U is for Underlying Issues

Clear as...

There are many items which have underlying issues that make them just too big and complicated to cover in a short meeting.

Documents in advance can be helpful in ensuring that people are aware of what will be on the agenda, and what they might expect to make decisions on, wait for discernment on and need to learn about before the actual meeting.

Draft minutes can let people know what you expect to be a minute of record, a holding minute, or an item that requires discernment.

But these can also be used to ‘wave through’ complicated items where one group of people understand and feel that xxx should happen, and another doesn’t understand, or have different views or don’t agree.

Quakerly Threshing

Threshing meetings or workshops that help to explore underlying issues before the actual business meeting can be helpful.
Asking for external facilitation help from another group can be helpful. It allows everyone involved to participate, and can bring in different perspectives.
Don’t be afraid to give out suggestions for resources, or discussion questions if you’re expecting representation from other groups. For example:
  • Local Meetings receiving them and sending minutes to Area Meeting
  • Committees needing to consider budgets or required work to be done.
If you have been sent the resources and questions from another group (MfS for example for Quakers) then send them out as widely as possible as early as possible, and then again with reminders.

Yet another committee!

I hesitate to say ‘set up a sub-committee’ but with clear expectations and specifications agreed beforehand, that can be a useful way to ensure that the work is done. It gives a set group permission and authority to explore any underlying issues and discover more as they go along through the exploration and discernment process.
A good example here would be the various groups set up to explore the merging of charities or administrative groups.

As a Londoner, I’ve followed the careful unpicking, consideration and clarification required for the Pan London Working and Steering Groups with admiration and interest.

Accepting mistakes will be made

My favourite line in Advices and Queries comes from no 17, ‘consider you may be mistaken’, which applies to meetings and communities as well as individuals.
A minute which says you don’t know what to do and need to get help from others is completely reasonable if that is the feeling of the meeting.
A specific request for help can be helpful, and enough in some cases. However, it may be more truthful to say that you are only considering where to start, or accepting the community and individuals need to do more learning and exploring the issue before it can come back for any action and decision-making.
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Wendrie Heywood

MBS Founder

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