This is the third part of a series of three blogs outlining how to set up and run Zoom social meetings. The first part is how to download and set up the Zoom App, the second part is topics for discussion and the third part is how to set up a zoom discussion/support group.
The Zoom Room experience has been fun and interesting. I think we and others broke new group during COVID19. I have made a list of some of issues that may came up and how your group might tackle them. Option 1 is to set up some meeting protocols at the beginning. Option 2 is to deal with protocols as you go along. Initially too many protocols can be overwhelming, but they can help to set some expectations about behaviour and help build stability during a time of rapid social change and unpredictability.
Structured vs unstructured meetings: Members will have different experience with speaking out in a group or in a video format. Some people will not want to show their face and just use audio. Some people like having a set time and sequence to speak and others like a more random conversation like at a cocktail party. Try out both modes and see what the group like. The unstructured mode can generate spontaneous discussions, but quiet people may need a prompt from the group leader.
Focus Be clear about the intent of the Zoom meeting, but this can morph over time.
Security: lots of people are anxious about the possibility of being hacked. Some general discussion might be helpful about how to protect privacy on Zoom.
Behaviour: There seems to be some unwritten code of conduct on Zoom. Some of these codes of conduct are about swearing, disrespect, grandstanding, interjections, people talking over each other etc. A group leader needs to attend to these behaviours so they don’t sabotage the meeting.
Privacy/confidentiality – I have found that bonding occurs in most Zoom meetings. This includes my ESL students as well as friends and acquaintances. I have found conversations are quite deep and that people are open about self disclosure. As a result there is an assumed level of privacy, which is not often explicitly discussed in the meetings.– Decide if you mind having family, guests or others in the Zoom room. Sometimes girl talk is private! Sharing the meeting content with people outside the meeting may come up as an issue. Find a level that is acceptable to most people. If you are a blogger and want to blog about your experiences with the group, get a pre-approval from individuals if you want to refer to their blog or post pictures. One Zoomer says ” What is said in Zoom stays in Zoom”.
Time out– Feel free to take time out or leave when you need to. Give the group the heads up.
New members/visitors/guest speakers– There may be subtle groups norms in your group. Its a bit like clique in high school. One group may want to keep the same members and others may welcome new members. In this moment of COVID 19, being open to new members may be the more altruistic approach but it may be challenging for new members to get up to speed. Getting some agreement about these issues early on is wise.
Zoom fatigue:- Many people who are working at home may be too Zoomed out to participate. This might lend itself to a once a month drop-in Zoom meeting with a guest speaker that doesn’t require a high cognitive demand.
Leaders:- constant vs rotating. Once members have learned the Zoom process, they can take on some responsibility for organizing meetings and being the discussion leader. Having the same facilitator is easy but rotating facilitators builds Zoom confidence and polishes up social skills in a time of isolation. Give people a few weeks to get comfortable with the format.
Leadership skills: Having a group leader which experience with organizing and chairing meetings can be an asset. Having a chair who understands meeting dynamics is helpful too.
My thoughts about Facebook communication on Hornby Island
There are some novel communication methods on Hornby Island. One of the traditional methods is a weekly printed newsletter called the First Edition sold at one the two stores. Quaint is the adjective that comes to mind. It is printed in a style and font that is reminiscent of yesteryear. I suspect the font is done intentionally as it and the name The First Edition hark back to the time of the printing press. Articles include gardening to spiritual life and updates from local committees and events. There is some advertising. Communication to and from the many non profit groups on Hornby exists through email, FB, signage, word of mouth and the COOP radio station which does not reach the west side of the island.
In recent years, Facebook groups pertaining to Hornby Island have come and gone with various foci including s events, ferry updates, calls for assistance, buy and sell, housing pleas, job offers, and discussion of hot topics such as funding for different projects and causes. Among the hot topics that have emerged in the FB groups are a proposed center of the arts, seniors housing and funding for a bus. In other places these items would come to city council but on Hornby there is no city council as there is no municipal government. Hornby and other Gulf Island come under the governance of the Islands Trust and the Comox Valley Regional District. There are elected reps to the IT and to CVRD.
Residents of Hornby can express their needs and concerns to their elected reps who are active in the FB groups and are accessible via email. However, the FB groups appear to act as a public form to either garner support or raise concerns about proposed changes. FB groups act as combination of letter to the editor and town hall meetings. According to the Economist, 30 % of the world is on Facebook. Outside of Hornby, some places have set up citizen panels to advise on issues via surveys and/or public meetings. (West Van and Vancouver).
Island Trust Survey Results
The IT conducted a survey in 2016 by phone, had a 2% response rate and concluded they needed to do more on island in person polling. Fifty-six percent of respondents were over 65. Most respondents prefer to receive information from their local government through local newspapers (63%) and email (55%). 2-in-5 respondents prefer to receive information via Canada Post (39%). This is only 3 years ago. It is striking the lack of interest/use in online information.
There is an interesting snap shot from the survey showing the challenges on the islands with the biggest challenges being transportation (ferries) followed by housing. The issues of access to WIFI appears to not have been included in the challenges list. Nevertheless, it is an issue of concern on Hornby, Gambier and Thetis.
The pros of using Facebook as a city hall are:
There is active participation by those who are engaged in Facebook. There were about 1000 members of a recently closed HI FB group. With a resident population of 900, this would represent more people that who actually live on Hornby but many people are only part time residents.
New ideas are generated.
Incorrect information flagged
Residents are informed about issues
It is easy to use by those people who use Facebook
Facebook has emerged as a vehicle to build and foster special interest groups and in some cases has become a tool for social change. To a small degree, that same function occurs in the HI Facebook groups. It has been a good tool to see which way the wind is blowing on a variety of issues. Although one cannot say the sample is representative. It is like a mini Gallup Poll.
Membership in the Groups is closed and, in some cases, limited to people who live on the island but no strict criteria for membership is used.
Some people on the Island are older and either not computer savvy or chose not to be computer savvy or can’t afford computer access. As the survey below shows, most people prefer mail or newspapers.
Posting on the FB groups is at the discretion of the group admin.
Some postings can sometimes lead to emotional reactions that are not well received. This can result in people being labeled as rebels or outcasts and could have negative repercussions on individuals or the community.
Facebook postings are limited in length and do not lend themselves to a coherent or thorough examination of complex issues, in much the same way as email can lead to misunderstandings.
Its really hard to follow the train of the discussions on FB.
The discussions have no way to be captured and communicated to the governing bodies.
If discussions go nowhere, FB users may increase their level of irritation resulting in uncivil level of discourse.
If there is no record of the discussions on FB, the governing bodies lose the rich material generated by the discussions.
Facebook is changing with more and more advertising which may lead to a fall off in readership.
Questions about Facebook City Hall.
How are the FB group working for HI residents?
How can non-residents become involved? Should they be involved?
How can the FB groups be used by the IT/CVRD?
Is the community input to IT/CVRD adequate?
Are staff of the IT/CVRD members of the groups?
Possible Goals of Communication Systems on Hornby
Visitors and HI residents will:
have timely input into discussions at the IT/CVRD/HIRRA
be more informed about issues
Have input valued regardless of which side of the issue they are on.
have greater confidence in the capability of governance entities.
So what would an ideal communication tool look like on Hornby?
Accessible to people with or without a computer. Some people choose not to use computers and rely solely on a land line phone or mail to communicate with others.
People without computers can use the mail and a 1-800 #. Maybe have a free drop box at the COOP might work. The existing free mail at the CO-OP is messy and not secure and would benefit from an improved mail box structure. In time these mail boxes will probably become obsolete.
Priories and annual work plan of the IT/CVRD/HIRRA would be combined into one document and be reviewed each year in a community forum and clearly posted on web sites. It would be ideal to have one meeting annually that would include the three entities.
Information/participation should be accessible to people who visit HI or who can’t attend meetings in person.
All this work would be done by staff at IT/CVRD/HIRRA.
All business meetings would have a min 30 min for networking.
IT/CVRD/HIRRA report on community feedback.
Information be summarized in the following brief way, posted on line and paper copies be made available by mail:
Executive summary including recommendations 2 pages
Content of report
Environment scan within the Gulf Island and perhaps the San Juans.
Pros and Cons
Costs and benefits
The day will come when all residents of HI will be computer users. How far in the future? 5-10 years?
100+ committees on Hornby (truth or rural myth?) could be involved in the communications systems and processes. How many? Phase in over time?
Recommendations about communications on HI with governing organizations.
The three governing organizations Islands Trusts, Comox Valley Regional District and the Hornby Island Residents and Rates Payers Association will facilitate the development of:
a formal FB group for feedback into policy decisions on HI. Staff of the 3 entities to monitor FB group discussions.
an annual schedule of open meetings of Governance Entities posted on all websites and FB
a process to attend meetings through audio conferencing..
email lists and address lists for distribution of related information and meeting notices.
notice of meetings distributed by mail and First Edition until uptake is adequate via email.
substantive networking time at all business meetings.
brief power point presentations to summarize issues at meetings
annual open calls for volunteers for each governance entity with clear roles and responsibilities, qualifications needed, job description posted on websites and recruitment through FB group and websites.
This is my first Christmas on Hornby Island after past Christmases at Puerto Vallarta, Costa Rica, Phoenix Ottawa and Vancouver. This will be a very different Christmas. This morning the power went out for the third time since I came in June. By now I have acquired both candles and the skills to start a fire in the wood stove AND make cowboy coffee on the wood strove. The pot of hot water heated faster on the wood stove than the electrical stove. The power came on at 8 am, just in time for the co-op radio program that I had been invited to guest DJ. The station only broadcasts to the island and only half of the island can get the transmission so that’s a possible an audience of about 500 would be listening if everyone was up at that hour of the morning. All did not go well. I had a small set of Christmas music I had hoped to play for my new Hornby friends, but the technical elves were up to their old tricks. My new Iphone 7 had a different jack than the radio station and my back up plan of a USB stick could not be read by the machines. So I will be getting some training on the equipment next week. I have been invited to host a once a month classical radio show.
Following the radio follies, I took my weekly trip to the recycling center to feed the deer this week’s organic material. Lots of mandarin orange peels but they don’t seem to fancy them. I hit on another real find at the Free store.. an ottoman for me and my landlady’s cat. (see above) She (the landlady) is in Mexico.
I came home and baked a huge apple crisp for the potluck dinner at New Horizons tomorrow. I got the apples from the heritage orchard on Hornby which has been in existence for about a 100 years. The orchard has now become a community project. The apples taste better than the ones from the store.
I have to teach on-line for an hour tomorrow to a group of nine grade 7’s in Ontario. They are all English speaking but are wanting enhanced reading experience. Managing 9 kids online at the same time seemed like a bad idea to me but everyone seems to be on their best behaviour. The book we are about to read is called Replica-Lyra which is about cloning. It was their choice not mine!. Very topical. The other student I have is a grade 2 child in an international school in Shanghai which means English immersion. She is on a 3 week snowboarding trip at the moment but we are still having classes.
Tomorrow night is a house concert at a Yoga retreat on the island. I have had very good things about the musicians and have not been to the yoga retreat. Then Sunday is the life drawing session, followed by the Hornby Island Photo club. We have to bring 4 photos of Leading Lines.
Next week a new Hornby friend from Victoria is coming to stay for a few days. Although many people leave Hornby for Mexico in the winter, I haven’t made any plans to go south yet but if the power frequently goes out I might consider it. I think the Christmas period will be quieter and I hope to get back to doing some watercolours that I have been leaning by myself but started a few years ago at Emily Carr.
People often say that they have never been to busy since they retired, and I have to agree. Even here on Hornby it is common to be double booked. There are fitness classes, the bridge club, the community choir and many many volunteer opportunities that I have not yet explored. Everywhere I go I run into people I know or who know me after about 5 minutes of chatting with me. This is so much better than Vancouver or even Mexico. And walks, like everything, are within a 10 min drive of where I live.
The downside has been trying to find housing over the winter. There are some strange rules and regulations from the Islands trusts about long/short term rentals that take a lot of the housing off the market in the winter. Crazy making if you ask me. Not unlike the strata council in my condo in Vancouver that has banned rentals of less than 12 months. Thus my continued stay on Hornby!!!!. Fortunately the BC government has just released their housing task force report that recommends banning condo rental restrictions. I have been fighting with my strata council about this since May and I am glad to see the tide may be turning. So far they have fined me $ 500 for some short term rentals I did over the summer on AIRBNB. It’s a crazy world. The summer rentals here start at $ 1000 a week. The other downside is that I haven’t had much time to update my blog.
I hope to see more visitors to Hornby next year. I have two futons for guests and 2 bathrooms so lots of space. It is however a 6 hour trip from Vancouver via 3 ferries. Still, it is a pretty scenic trip and well worth it. Save it until the summer to enjoy the beaches and kayaking.
My best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas and Happy 2019. Can’t believe it will be 2019!!!