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Group Decision Tip: Agenda Setting Access

In principle, if we are a group of relative equals, deciding how we are going to spend our time together should be a group decision, or at least the group should decide the agenda-setting process. Further, every group member should understand the agenda-setting process and have access to it.

Group Decision Tips IconIn many groups, agenda setting is closely guarded by the majority or the chair and is often used to limit opposition. In most political systems, being able to control the agenda is a huge source of power.

Practical Tip: Establish an open and fair process for setting meeting agendas and make sure everyone knows the process. To maximize creativity, air all perspectives, and share power, make it relatively easy for any new issue or idea to get at least a brief hearing.

Some groups reserve a special time in every agenda where anyone can raise any issue — sometimes called “open forum” — and then the issue might be sent to committee or placed on a future agenda. Some groups vote or consent to approve the proposed agenda at the start of every meeting.

In any case, agenda setting is not trivial and if the agenda-setting process is not formalized and widely understood in your group, it is likely limiting your creativity and your ability to make good group decisions.

Group Decision Tips are written by NCDD member Craig Freshley, a long-time meeting facilitator and group process author. Craig invites NCDDers to view all his Tips at www.groupdecisiontips.com, and to share them freely for non-commercial purposes with proper credit to Craig.

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