The first meeting
The aim of the first meeting is for members to start working together.
We found that using interactive ways of introducing participants is a good idea. For example, organising people to work in pairs, telling each other about their background and their reasons for participating. Then let the person listening introduce the person talking to the group.
ECGs rely on participants trusting each other. It is imperative to start with discussing what rules a group should follow with regard to confidentiality, presentation to other people and so on. We have devised a list of principles based on previous experience that can be used as a starting point. ECG Principles
The matter of concern
In the first meeting it is important to recognise that everybody will be approaching the issues differently. We found that brought objects were a very effective way to bring this point home. Letting people tell each other about what they know about an environmental problem starting with an object also prevents scientists from going into teaching mode. In the Pickering ECG university scientists and local residents were surprised by what they learned about each other: Working with academics.
It is often useful to create a timeline of the occurrences of the environmental problem together. Local residents may remember past events. Perhaps some of the scientists have access to measurement archives. Some people may be interested in local history and know of historical documentation. Together different sources of information can be used to construct a timeline of relevant events in the locality. The flood ECG in Pickering created a timeline in this way, you can see the details in this transcript excerpt. Timeline
To keep going over the year ECGs need to think about what they aim to achieve already at the start. It is not necessary to settle on an aim but to start considering what participants think would be a worthwhile outcome.
Preparing for the next meeting
It is important to plan ahead for the next meeting. What do people want to investigate? Will anybody be able to bring specific materials (e.g. photographs, data, documentation) for the group to work with? Does the group need to ask somebody to prepare a presentation on a topic they know a lot about?