This page will help you figure out how to organize and sustain a strong program team that will be able to keep your garden project thriving. Check out the ACGA Growing Communities Curriculum for detailed advice on organizational development, including workshops, handouts, and activities. This page includes information for: building a strong team; creating team roles; strategies for successful meetings, growing your team and governing your team.
Building a Strong Team
A strong garden project needs a strong team. A few ingredients for success include:
- Dedicated, Motivated People
It is helpful to have at least a handful of people who are very motivated and dedicated to the project. Having a few dedicated people is more important than having dozens who are not passionately involved in the project.
- A Healthy Mix
Diversity helps strengthen any project team, so you should ideally have people of different ages, backgrounds, and skill levels. Everyone will have a unique approach to solving problems and completing tasks, which will keep your group flexible and adaptable.
- Clear Lines of Communication
Establish open and honest communication between team members to ensure that people feel included in the decision making process. Set up meetings to discuss issues that impact your project, and make sure that everyone feels comfortable expressing their views. When people feel like their views count, they will be more dedicated to the project. You may want to set up informal gatherings or events to help build relationships and trust.
- Clear Roles and Responsibilities
Too many chefs in the kitchen and you will never get cooking! A strong leader is important, but so are other roles that will keep you moving, growing, and organized. Check out the next section for some possible roles that you may need to fill.
Creating Team Roles
This is where it will pay to really know your team members well. There are all types of jobs and responsibilities to fill in your garden group, and not everyone will be suited for every type of role. People should be matched to roles according to their interests, experience, and skills. Do you have a math whiz? This may be just the person to manage your budget. What about an artist? They may be the best person to lead a mural-painting project. Remember that roles and preferences change over time, so it may be helpful to check with everyone periodically to make sure that they are comfortable with their position.
Possible roles include:
This person will be responsible for keeping all the parts of your garden group working well together. They will need to be able to communicate well with all types of people, so they will need good listening and speaking skills. They will also need to be highly organized and have the capacity for long-range thinking. Attributes and skills of successful leaders include: vision, creativity, humility, reliability, confidence and perspective, as well as the ability to think critically, cooperate well, and inspire and motivate others.
This person will have the important role of seeking out continued funding to keep your project going. This person should be well organized and creative, and be able to present themselves well. This person should be confident, so that they are able to feel comfortable approaching businesses, individuals, and organizations for funding. Good writing skills are also important for effective fundraising, because your group will need to write letters to ask people for funding, as well as to thank them for their support!
This person should be creative and outgoing, and able to present themselves well. This person will often act as the "face" of your organization, so they should have a good grasp on what the mission and goals of the organization are. Because this person may be responsible for creating materials such as fliers, brochures, posters and press releases, they should also have some artistic skills.
If your group would like to recruit new participants or volunteers, it is a good idea to put someone in charge of membership. This person should be good at talking to new people, and enthusiastic about your garden project. They should be able to communicate well with all types of people, and feel comfortable with going to new events and locations to find new gardeners.
The treasurer should be very well organized and thorough in the work they do. This person will be responsible for tracking all funds that your group spends/earns, and should be able to communicate with the fundraiser about what type of funds may be needed in the future.
This person will have an important role in keeping records of meetings and making sure that everyone has access to these records. This person should have good writing and listening skills, and should be reliable and able to be present at every meeting.
Strategies for Successful Meetings
Successful meetings are critical for the long-term success of a gardening project. It is very important that meetings are effective and that they make efficient use of everyone's time. If your meetings are very productive, you will have more time for the stuff that matters - like gardening!
The following steps were developed by ACGA and are available in the publication Growing Communities Curriculum. Download the PDF excerpts Meeting Facilitation and Group Decision Making to share with your group members.
Elements of a Well-Planned Meeting
- Set clear goals for the meeting
- Be selective about choosing a meeting site
- Don't forget about childcare or other supports
- Choose a convenient time
- Schedule meetings regularly
- Set up the room beforehand
- Actively recruit members
- Meeting facilitator
Keeps the meeting on track, sets the tone of the meeting, makes sure everyone feels safe, understands what is going on, is heard, and stays involved.
Keeps track of the essence of what is said, writing on a black board or flip chart so that everyone can follow what has been said.
Records the details of the meeting, and types up meeting minutes for distribution to all group members (overlaps with role of Secretary).
Paces the discussion by letting people know when it is time to move on to another topic.
Welcomes people as they enter the meeting, recording their names and contact information. This is particularly important when new people are present.
Solutions for Facilitators to Common Challenges
- A point is being discussed for too long
- Suggest tabling the question for a later time
- Two or more members are in a heated discussion
- Summarize the points made by each member and then turn the discussion back to the group
- Invite the two to stay after the meeting so everyone can talk it over
- Dealing with a "one-person" show
- Interrupt with a statement giving the speaker credit for their contribution, but politely asking them to hold any other points until later
- Interrupt with "you have brought up many points that will keep us busy for a long time. Would anyone like to take up one of these points?"
- A speaker has drifted from the subject
- Interrupt, give credit for the idea, but explain that it is a departure from the main point
- Present to the group the question of whether it wants to stray from the outline or follow it
- Bring the discussion back to the topic by using the related idea as a transition
- A member is having difficulty expressing him/herself
- Build up his or her confidence by stating appreciation for what has been said and then re-phrase the material with a preface such as "Is this what you mean, Mr. Jones?"
Growing Your Team
Any successful gardening project needs to continuously be receiving new people interested in joining the effort. Even if you feel like you have a stable and committed group, new members keep ideas fresh and ensure the longevity of the program. A few strategies will help you attract and sustain new members. For more information on growing a strong team, download the Growing Communities Curriculum PDF excerpt on Community Organizing.
- Get the Word Out
People won't come to you if they don't know who you are! Make your presence known by passing out fliers at festivals and events, posting signs at churches, schools, and businesses, and utilizing internet forums, blogs or websites. Sending out mailings is another way to target specific groups of people, and can be useful in reaching out to your neighbors or local organizations.
- Pull out Your Address Book
Don't forget the people you already know. Ask group members to compile lists of people they know personally who may be interested in joining your gardening group. Have everyone contact the people on their list, and then ask them if they know anyone else that may be interested as well. Ask your parents, siblings, and friends for people they know–you may be surprised at how many people you can contact this way!
- Throw a Party!
Hosting an event at your garden - a picnic, barbeque, or concert - is an excellent way to introduce people to the members and goals of your group. Don't forget to send invitations out to your neighbors a week or so before the event, and make plenty of signs to publicize exactly what you are doing. Even the people who decide not to join you will feel included, and that is a great way to build support for your project. At events, make sure you ask people to sign a sign-up sheet and provide you with their contact information so that you can keep them updated on what's happening in the garden.
- Don't Give Up
Even if a certain tactic didn't work once, that does not mean that it won't work the second or third time around. Seeking out new members for your team can sometimes be frustrating, time-consuming work, but just one committed recruit can make it all worth your while.
Governing Your Team
Once your team is built, it's important to have some guidelines for governing your group, and making sure there is equal representation of all people involved, both youth and adults.
Here are some resources that have been developed by the Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development.
Creating Change: How Organizations Connect with Youth, Build Communities, and Strengthen Themselves
"This booklet explores the complex links between youth development, community engagement, and social justice. The Innovation Center has been studying these links through partnerships with local and national organizations, universities, foundations, and businesses. We are learning what works in big cities, small towns, and rural communities. The stories in this book highlight the work of our partners to engage, empower, and strengthen young people and their communities."
Youth Engagement: A Celebration Across Time and Culture
This guide is written for the facilitators of community-based discussions with youth and adults interested in leadership and community change. Its purpose is to inspire the development of youth-adult partnerships for community change by helping people sit down and talk about the power of this approach. (The video mentioned in the guide is not being distributed.)
This two-hour, highly participatory activity is designed to engage youth and adults in dialogue and creative activities that will elicit a shared understanding about a community's history of youth engagement and the power and wisdom of each participant's experience as a youth leader. This activity is combined with the Action Planning activity (see below) in one document.
This three-hour, participatory activity is designed to build on the energy of the past to create a plan for the future. Through discussion and activities, youth and adults will explore and understand the importance, elements, and opportunities of an "action plan", a strategy that can help us take our vision of where we want to be in the future and turn them into actions that lead to success and progress.
The Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development also has created an interactive user driven website to further explore youth governance. Click here to check out more of their resources.