The un-meeting or…. what to do when your plans don’t go the way you planned

March24_UnmeetingOne of my favourite meetings unfolded in a most unlikely way. It was a bridging evening for our multi-branch unit in early spring. The third-year Guides were with the Pathfinders, and the Sparks, Brownies and remaining Guides were going to go cookie selling in the neighbourhood. The girls would be in groups according to their next branch. I think we were all looking forward to an ‘easy’ meeting – few supplies and little advance planning required. Maybe we all thought someone else would think to check the weather. Or have a back-up meeting idea ready to go. No one did. We had no plan B. It was cookie selling or bust.

And wouldn’t you know it, it rained that evening. Not just a sprinkle. An epic, can’t-see-five-feet-in-front-of-you downpour, with no sign of letting up. The Sparks, Brownies and Guides started to tramp into the meeting room as all the Guiders clustered in a semi-panicked knot in a corner. Play games? Pull out craft supplies? One really, really long sing-along? None of us was sold on any of those ideas. And then I remembered something I had read as a tip for a rainy camp day, something that made perfect sense in Guiding: let the girls do it all!

We called it our un-meeting, and this is how it unfolded. First off, we called everyone together for opening circle, and then we came clean. We told them that we had all been so sure of our cookie selling plan that we had not thought to have a back-up plan. Some of the older girls were quite amused by this – it was as though they had caught us being less than leader-ly. I thought it was really important to tell them the truth, to let them all see that Guiders are human, too! Then, we told them that since we didn’t have a plan that they would have the chance to do it. We broke the group up into four groups, each with a mix of Sparks, Brownies and Guides. We gave them 15 minutes to plan an activity. Their activity could be anything, so long as it fit all the ages, would last about 10 minutes, and would only use supplies we had on hand.

Guiders checked in on the groups, mostly to answer questions about available supplies, and to start planning the sequence of the activities. Only one group struggled to find an idea. The oldest Guide said all she wanted to do was throw paint. With a little facilitation from our part, we came up with an alternative that honored the spirit of the idea, but made it achievable: tossing water-soaked paper towel balls in a relay. After the planning stage, the groups each lead their activity. There were a couple of games, a facilitated drawing craft, and we ended with the paper towel toss – outside – as the rain had finally let up a bit.

I don’t think we could have planned a better meeting. Without the older girls there, the younger Guides had a real chance to take the lead. All the girls had a say in what we would do, and everyone had the chance to see what planning and running a meeting is like. Each activity was pretty simple, but that’s not what mattered. It was seeing every one of the Sparks, Brownies and Guides take over from us.

Guest post by Kathryn Lyons, with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Group, Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Check out her previous posts: Big ‘mistakes’ make good memories;  Small actions for inclusionManaging Friend DramaSustainable crafting: Or, what can we do with all of that leftover fleece?;  How do you organize all your Guiding stuff? 

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