I think most people find it easier to work with people they have had some fun with – having fun together also helps us remember each other when we are networking in coalitions over long distances (Which Jessica just got on the conference call? Jessica who yodeled at Open Mic!) and it helps build trust to work through tough conversations.
But how many coalition and/or activist gathering have appropriate space for having fun? So often these “fun” activities are late in the evenings when lots of folks are too tired to participate – or they involve alcohol, which also bumps out lots of folks from enjoying in the fun.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how people have fun at different times of the day – people are awake at different times of the day – and people relax in different ways.
Maybe this sounds overly precious, but I think that there is a lot of value in creating safe spaces where folks can participate equally in our meetings and events – and having fun is part of our meetings! I think some of the best work at meetings happens in the margins – but when the only free time is after 10 pm, that cuts a lot of folks out of that work.
One great example happened recently at a meeting of the Beehive Design Collective – they took a several hour break from their packed annual meeting to host a public reception for their amazing Mesoamerica Resiste poster that they are in the process of launching. Since the collective is scattered across the continent, it was a rare chance to everyone working (and laughing) together, it was a modest fundraiser for their work, and it served as a way to test out the ways the narrative graphic can be shared with different audiences. As a bonus, what a fun chance for the community to get to be in the same room as so many incredible folks!
I think it was a pretty awesome idea (and it wasn’t even my idea 😉 ) and got me thinking that every time there is any kind of multi-day meeting we should should a local reception and fundraiser. Of course, that’s probably overdoing it.
But as with most things, I think the first step is just asking the group what they think. Some one on one conversations before the meeting are a simple start, or take 10 minutes out of the meeting to ask – “What are some of the fun things your group has done to have fun and actually get to know each other? Any ideas besides staying up late and drinking? How do the different cultures present in our group affect what fun activities are appropriate? When have “fun” activities not gone so well or felt very fun?”
I think the common instinct is that we have such few opportunities to meet together that we need to work work work through all the material. But are there any short activities that could help bond folks together, relieve tension and energize folks to make our work time together that much more productive?