Effective leadership, open communication, coordination of efforts, celebration and participatory planning are just a few elements of healthy communities. The same principles apply to effective action groups working on community-defined projects.
Characteristics of effective action groups include regular organized meetings, the value of contributions and time of each group member, planning, communicating openly, recognizing people’s capacities, talents and interests and matching them to required tasks. Also, follow-through on commitments; seeking and valuing diversity; asking everyone to contribute; taking risks; evaluating and reflecting on their actions; solution-oriented and flexible; embracing shared leadership from within the group; and celebrating successes of all sizes.
Most productive groups have effective leaders to coordinate and guide their work. Group work often requires people to fill many different roles. Effective leaders coordinate these roles to help the group stay active and on task. These roles include facilitation, asking for information or ideas, giving information or opinions, making decisions, clarifying points, summarizing, suggesting direction, checking for agreement. Group building roles include encouraging others; including others; active listening; suggesting compromise; relieving tension; helping to solve problems; expressing feelings; and finding common ground. Effective leaders share leadership with group members and empower them to take on different and sometimes challenging roles.
Regardless of the size or the project, most groups go through phases in a developmental process. Recognizing these phases and knowing what to expect in each can help group members get through them and go on to achieving goals.
Communication and coordination, both within and outside the group, is important for the success of action groups. Frequent communication to the community about the group’s actions and progress is important to attract and retain volunteers and community interest. It’s difficult for community members to get involved if they don’t know what’s going on. Frequent effective community communication is the key to keeping community members connected, informed, involved, interested and supportive of issues, projects and activities. In addition, action groups should contact local, county, state and federal agencies.