Communications and Consensus
How can this Organizers' Toolkit section help?
Much of the work of organizing through DLF involves thoughtful internal and external communication, open and respectful collaboration along shared timelines, and careful consensus-building. We recommend a number of resources in this toolkit as a guide, especially in sections on "General Facilitation and Goal-Setting" and on "Facilitating for Diversity and Inclusion." Ideally, the schedules — and tone — you help set for your group’s projects will allow for all voices to be heard. And in a perfect world, you’ll have plenty of time to loop Team DLF in as appropriate, for collegial advice, help where needed, an occasional sign-off on something big, and/or assistance with a communications plan.
However, as the organizer of a DLF group, you may sometimes need to respond independently to a situation arising outside of your regular meeting cycle. This could happen because:
- another organization, group, or individual is seeking signatories to a statement or commitment to a collaboration, with a quick deadline
- you enter a public conversation related to your DLF group work, on social media or in a face-to-face venue
- you are approached by a member of the press for comment in an article appearing shortly
- something else unexpected happens!
Situations like these may prompt you to:
- rely on pre-established group norms/authorizations for “emergencies” or short-notice opportunities
- follow your group’s regular decision-making processes but skip a few steps in order to come to quick consensus
- use your wits and best judgement, being especially careful to clarify the extent to which you are speaking independently vs. for your group
- determine independently whether or to what degree DLF staff involvement is needed.
More info on all of these topics is available below. Remember: this wiki is editable! You are warmly invited to share your favorite resources and help refine the advice given here, based on your own experience with DLF groups.
Speaking as individuals and groups
One of the greatest powers DLF groups have is in speaking from a well-informed, collective position, with a unified voice. DLF group conversations and creations may also inform your personal and professional views, serve as something to reference or point to, and generally become a terrific resource in your day-to-day work.
Whenever you are called on to represent your group, formally or informally — as well as on occasions when you are speaking as an individual whose opinions have been informed by the work of the group — you should be as clear as possible about your own role and stance, and the degree to which what you say does or does not represent the (consensus or diverging) views of fellow group members.
We also ask that you be careful in situations where an individual or group statement might be taken for an official position from the DLF or its non-profit parent organization, CLIR. We are always happy to advise on the wording for public announcements, even on short notice!
Developing group consensus
So, how do you foster healthy group consensus and create environments in which all participants can be respected and heard? Here are a few helpful frameworks and resources:
- background resources from Seeds for Change (open the section on consensus-based decision-making, which includes long and short guides and a set of helpful videos)
- Public Engagement Strategies (UNM guide includes a section on consensus decision making in public engagement and the pros/cons of other types of decision making)
- Co-operative Decision-making for Activists, Co-ops and Communities (a free, 228-page PDF)
- Quick Consensus Decision Making from Seeds of Change (concrete strategies for coming to quick agreement in fast-moving situations)
- Consensus Process for Virtual teams (a LITA guide with high-level tips on developing consensus in geographically distributed groups)
- Diversity and Consensus (“Are consensus and diversity at odds?”)
- "Lazy Consensus" (a code4lib talk on strategies that can help shift an organization’s default “no” to a “yes”)
- Warnock’s Dilemma (on non-responsiveness, a stumbling block in lazy consensus)
Amplification and sign-off from DLF
Formal DLF sign-off on group outputs and communications is not usually necessary, but sometimes a check-in is helpful. It’s generally a good idea to keep us informed of upcoming announcements because we can amplify your message through social media, newsletters, messages to member organizations, in-person events, and more. Keeping DLF staff in the loop also helps us connect your team with aligned work happening in other DLF groups, or with outside organizations and funding or partnership opportunities.
How do you know when to check in? We’re happy to hear from you anytime! Call on Team DLF if you would like a boost from our social media accounts or other help getting the word out — and please do a gut check if you think we might need to know about something coming from a grassroots DLF group because it could impact our nonprofit status or our relationships with member institutions, peer organizations, or funders.
What’s the best way to reach us? Messages sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will reach the entire DLF staff and get the speediest response. If you’ve already been working with a particular DLF staff member on an issue or feel most comfortable sharing something with just one of us, individual emails are fine! Direct messages sent through various social media platforms are less easily tracked and handed off, so we discourage them as a primary means of contact.
|“DLF groups are loosely organized by design.”—Stacie Williams|
Our goal is not to slow you down or place unnecessary controls over your group’s public statements. We pride ourselves on DLF’s light touch, and on our low-bureaucracy, community-based approach. Mostly, we want to boost your good work! We also ask your help in working with us on potentially sensitive issues that could impact our relationships with other organizations and/or our nonprofit status. We might have advice to give or small requests to make with regard to wording and representation. When in doubt, please reach out!
Tips for effective communication outside the group
One of the biggest challenges the DLF team has seen with group communications is the tendency to go heads-down once work begins. We encourage you to create a welcoming environment by sharing periodic news and issuing invitations to others to join.
- DO remember to communicate outside your group!
Don’t fall into the trap of only sending messages to the insiders on your email list. Periodic open invitations to group meetings or updates about your work for the wider community are always welcome on DLF-announce.
- Always provide context.
Don’t forget that this message might be the first time someone is hearing about your work. What is the name of this DLF group? What, in very brief terms, is its overarching purpose? If it’s a sub-group, how does it connect to something larger?
- Make a clear request.
What is the goal of the current project or activity being shared? What is being asked of the reader? What is the best way to offer feedback or ask a question? If the request is to participate in a survey or provide input, how long should that take? Is there a deadline?
- Invite deeper connection.
Where can readers find out more about the group? Are there related resources to explore? How can they join an upcoming meeting or otherwise get involved?
- Clarify your own role.
Most group projects will be shared as a collective effort, credited to the group itself, but if you or others had a specific role to play, please don’t be shy about giving/accepting praise. All group members’ labor and specific contributions are valuable and should be acknowledged! And in situations where you are speaking as a group representative but without having vetted the message ahead of time, or as a private individual whose opinions might be construed to reflect those of your fellow group members or DLF as an organization, you have special obligations. (See above, “Speaking as Individuals and Groups.”)
Table of Contents
- About DLF and the Organizers' Toolkit
- Working with Team DLF
- Starting a New Initiative or Working Group
- General Facilitation and Goal-Setting
- Facilitating for Diversity and Inclusion
- Communications and Consensus
- Preventing and Managing Burnout
- Gathering Info/Building Enthusiasm
- Planning an In-Person Meetup
- Setting Up Year-Round Meetings
- Planning Virtual Meetings and Webinars
- Talking and Writing
- Organizing and Sharing Your Work
- In a Nutshell