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Operating Synergy Groups

Once a group is up and running it's important to ensure the positive energy and momentum don't
fade. Several key areas contribute to a group's ability to operate effectively:

EFFECTIVE MEETINGS

Meetings are not necessarily everyone's favourite activity. That said, meetings can be an effective way for any group or organization to work towards its goals. It also means meetings need to keep people interested, participating and feeling like something is getting accomplished.

Meeting Agendas:

Effective meetings start with an agenda - the map - to shape how the meeting will progress. Without an agenda, meetings can lack focus, miss important issues or discussions and fail to accomplish anything concrete. A clear agenda also allows the person chairing the meeting to better manage time, keep discussions on topic and ensure nothing gets missed. Items can always be added, time permitting, and agendas can also be a useful tool in following up on action items from the previous meeting to ensure the group is moving forward.

The keys to effective meetings lie in creating useful and manageable agendas, sticking to those agendas, balancing input from all members and keeping goals in mind throughout discussions.

Facilitation:

Facilitation is one option groups choose to ensure meetings are focused and effective. A facilitator helps the group to create useful and manageable agendas and stick to them. They also assist in balancing input from all members and keeping goals in mind throughout discussions. See finding a facilitator for more information.

Here are some resources to help your group with facilitating its own meetings, planning meetings and creating agendas:

Additional resources for structuring meetings:

 

DECISION MAKING

It's beneficial to identify how your group makes decisions and ensure all members understand the choice. Options include consensus (majority agrees after discussion and those who don't agree are OK with the decision) and votes (majority rules).

Samples of how groups handle decision-making:


PLANNING AND GOAL SETTING

Having a clear direction is key to a group's success and growth. Check out creating a vision, mission and goal setting in the set a direction section for more information on this important step.

Planning, annual goals, evaluating results:

Planning is vital to any organization. Synergy Groups can benefit from adopting a planning process that forms the basis of their work. Practically, this means having a plan / strategy that serves as the driver of meetings (frequency and content), staff and work plans (if applicable), and can be used as a snapshot of what the group has done, is doing, and will be doing. A planning process often aids groups in staying on course and achieving results. The results intended are understood by all, the activities implemented to achieve these results are monitored and measured, and the results are shared and celebrated.

There are a number of planning models, ranging from highly structured and linear to more fluid and adaptive. Synergy groups across Alberta operate successfully using a variety of models ranging from very formal to very informal. Each synergy group needs to assess the structure and needs of their individual group in order to determine the most appropriate model for their needs.

Resources for planning models:

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY- GETTING THE WORD OUT

Many synergy groups emphasize information sharing as a key objective. Here are some tips on getting information out beyond the people who regularly attend meetings:

  • Word of mouth - This is an excellent way to get people out to meetings and events. It also gives you an opportunity to explain what a synergy group is, what's important and answer any questions that might arise.
  • Neighbouring synergy groups - Check in with synergy groups you share borders with for industry member contacts who might also operate in your area, as well as community people who live near the boundary. You can also ask other groups what they've found works well (or not) in communicating with the community in your area. Send public event invitations to these groups to be shared with their members.
  • Newsletters and E-newsletters - These can be mass distributed or sent to a mailing list. Mailing lists for conventional newsletters can be developed by gathering names at public events, regular meetings or even through the media.

    Newsletters are a great way to get information to a large number of people. They do require some time and expense but could be a good way to disseminate information in your synergy group's region.

    E-newsletters are much more economical to distribute but remember Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) requirements must be adhered to when creating or utilizing distribution lists.

    Newsletter resources:
  • Media / Press Releases – It’s worth taking the time to learn about writing press releases or other submitted material. Groups can use the media to help spread their message, contact details and information about events and meetings. Advertising in a newspaper or on a radio station can be purchased, but there may also be no-cost options available.

    Community newspapers are especially interested in new initiatives going on in their regions, coming events, etc., and often welcome submitted material if it is well-written and includes relevant information. Some groups build relationships with their local newspaper and submit regular columns updating community members on group activities, upcoming meeting dates, information nights, etc.

    Sample media releases:

  • Operators' Groups - These groups can provide contact information on which members of an industry are active in your area or they can send out information to their members on your behalf.
  • Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) - The AER has representatives in each field centre office who are responsible for assisting the public. If you are able to provide a boundary area to search, the AER staff member can provide you with a list of oil and gas companies that operate within the boundaries you requested.
  • Website - Synergy groups may create their own website or they can choose to create a webpage through the Synergy Alberta website. Maintaining a web presence is one of the endorsement requirements for membership in Synergy Alberta.

    A web presence allows your group to post meeting minutes, dates and locations of upcoming meetings and events, links to best practices, newsletters and lists of member companies, agencies, etc..

    To arrange for a webpage on the Synergy Alberta website, fill out a Web Page Planning Worksheet [.doc] and e-mail it to webmaster@synergyalberta.ca.
  • Social Media - There are several social media platforms available that you can use to spread the word about your group. Understanding what demographics make up your target audience can help you decide which ones are best suited to reaching them. It is important to ensure that any content you place on your social media sites will be in alignment with the guiding principles of synergy and your group. (i.e. respect, transparency, etc.)
  • Open Houses - Many synergy groups host Open Houses or Information Nights to share information with members of the public in their communities. There are many formats for these events including informal 'trade shows', where group members set up booths or displays for attendees. Other options include presentations (with or without question and answer periods) or a combination of booths and presenters. Open house resources:

HIRING HELP

Like purpose and funding, Synergy Groups vary widely in whether or not they chose to contract or hire someone to assist their group. Alternatives include volunteer-run (no need to hire), using facilitators for specific events only (strategic planning or public events), ongoing facilitation/administration support, part-time staff, full-time staff and office space.

Whichever direction a group chooses, here is some information on creating job descriptions, advertising your job opening and hiring a candidate:

General hiring tips:

Sample job related forms:

Human resources information:

  • Human Resources Management for Employers
  • Employment Standards in Alberta (Human Resources and Employment)
  • Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy
  • Personal Information Protection Act https://www.alberta.ca/personal-information-protection-act.aspx

  • INCORPORATING YOUR SYNERGY GROUP

    Some synergy groups choose to adopt a more formal structure as a society. Although a society does not need to incorporate, there are several advantages to formally incorporating a society including:

    • Society members are not held responsible for debts of the society.
    • A society may own property and may enter into contracts itself, as opposed to its individual members entering into the contract.
    • The public's perception of a society is one having a more permanent status than an unincorporated group.
    • An incorporated society may be eligible for government grants and to become a registered charity with Revenue Canada. (Source: servicealberta.ca)

    Resources for forming a society:

  • How to Form a Society – Alberta
  • Application to Form a Society – Alberta
  • Incorporate a Society – Alberta
  • Society Bylaws form