Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Want Good Meeting Attendance – Feed People and Give Them Something to Do – Part 2

Another way to make sure that people continue to attend your meeting is giving them something tangible to do. Believe it or not when most people are asked to do something they feel a responsibility to do it. So it is important when someone volunteers an idea that the Chairperson at the Coalition meeting says, “That’s a great idea, can you make that happen? How will you make it happen and by when?” Most people come to Coalition meetings because they want to actively participate and get something done. And tangible projects and work will make people feel like the Coalition meeting is more than just a meeting.

After every meeting there should be action items that Committee members are responsible for. If there are no action items then you have a problem. In addition, it helps to space meetings out so that they are not too often or too few. Timing is everything. Our Coalition Committees meet approximately six times a year. Sometimes if there is an event or project it may be necessary to meet more often. But do not meet more often than necessary.

Sometimes attendance at meetings is arbitrary but in general there are some variables we can control that will positively effect whether or not somebody comes back to another Coalition meeting and most times these variables are very simple.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Want Good Meeting Attendance – Feed People and Give Them Something to Do – Part 1

The San Francisco Immunization Coalition has four working committees and an Advisory Board. Over my four year tenure at the Coalition each one of these committees has had growth and attrition in membership. Sometimes a committee will lose its chairperson or a few members that had a lot of energy. Some times attendance falls on a particular committee for no reason. In general, I do not worry too much if a meeting has low attendance as long as the committee is getting things done. But lets face it – a Coalition only functions as well as its members are willing and allowed to participate. We have learned there is one really effective and relatively cheap way to assure decent attendance at Coalition meetings – it is called food.

A couple of years ago our Marketing/Outreach Committee was sputtering. Attendance and energy were down. For a change of pace we decided to hold our meeting at the local Chevy’s Mexican restaurant. We scheduled the meeting at 3:00p.m. (which is dead time at Chevy’s) and told Coalition members that the Coalition would buy them an appetizer and a drink for attending. A magical thing happened – this committee has been producing amazing things ever since. This Committee meeting is now always held at Chevy’s. Of course we can’t attribute all the change in this committee to the change of meeting location but it does have a noticeable effect on the mood of the meeting. The good thing about Chevy’s is that they serve free chips and salsa, the bill for each meeting is rarely over $40 and for that we get a free meeting place, free chips and salsa, and a fun atmosphere to do the work of the Coalition. It also allows Coalition members to get out of their office buildings and gives them an incentive to come to our meeting. Ever since then the Coalition has been providing food at most Coalition meetings. Luckily, San Francisco has a wealth of relatively cheap and good restaurants. In general I try not to order the standard pizza or Chinese food and really try to do my research and introduce members to new cuisine that they may have never been aware existed. In general, this doesn’t cost the Coalition that much – maybe $2000 a year. But what it does is provide that extra incentive for members to come to a meeting and participate. You can even get local restaurants to donate the food. And in general healthier foods make people less sluggish and better ready to work in a meeting. A committee in a carbohydrate-induced coma is not the most productive committee. So consider feeding your Coalition members good food taking them on a local culinary tour of your town or city at every meeting. It works!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Other Person’s Shoes

I am always saying in meetings and presentations that Coalitions exist to fill the gaps between the public and private sectors and between organizations. For some people this may sound very obscure or esoteric. Gaps between the public and private sector? Between organizations? What the heck does that mean?

Well in immunizations it means this. Vaccines are developed and manufactured by the private sector. They are regulated, recommended, promoted and to a large part distributed in the public sector. There are different organizations responsible for making the vaccines, administering them, making sure they are effective and safe, and making sure everyone is getting them. Unfortunately, these different organizations do not always talk to each other. They do not always have meetings together on a regular basis. They do not always understand the environment the other organization is in. There is information that each has that will benefit the others. That is where Coalitions come in.

One the main strengths of immunization coalitions are to have people from diverse backgrounds and diverse incentives sitting around the table talking to each other. In immunization we know that neither diseases nor patients stay in the confines of one organization. They move around and so therefore it requires a broader approach to solving problems.

At any given San Francisco Immunization Coalition Committee Meeting (we have four committees) you may have a public health nurse, a private pediatrician, a school health worker, a pharmaceutical representative, a community clinic manager, a health plan representative, a Coalition Director (me), a community college instructor, a government health official (State and/or local), and a regular community citizen all sharing information about immunization and finding new ways to prevent disease. This is not the only strength of Coalitions but it is a facet that should not be overlooked. Any economist (I am one myself) will tell you that a lack of information by members is the biggest impediment to building a perfect system/society. Getting diverse groups to share information is a powerful step in finding solutions to huge problems in immunization and in society. Successful Coalitions recognize this and act as a conduit for the flow of this information.