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Organizing a Cluster Meeting

Page history last edited by Mike Austerlitz 12 years, 3 months ago



   Beginning the Planning Process

If you have not done so beforehand, you should organize the following at the Student Leadership Conference (SLI):


A.   Establish a Leadership Committee

Before any decisions are made, figure out who is making them. Establish a Leadership committee consisting of at least one Director or Coordinator and one Congress representative from each school in your cluster. Most importantly, the following two roles should be filled:

1) Lead Organizer

The person most often suited for this role is a Congress representative from the hosting Bonner school. Especially if the event is taking place on campus, this person will be in the best place to figure out accommodations and work with the cafeteria and local establishments to arrange meals.

2) Lead Facilitator

Next, select the Lead Facilitator. This could be the other representative from the hosting school or one from another campus. This facilitator will leave the logistics up to the Lead Organizer and will focus on the agenda during the event, setting the tone and ensuring that the event has a sense of continuity. This Lead Facilitator will work closely with the Organizer and the rest of the committee to design the agenda.


B.   Planning the Date

During the SLI, if not before, the Leadership Committee should meet with school calendars in hand to plan a date for the event. If your school calendar has not been set up yet, contact appropriate offices (Public Affairs, Athletics, Fine Arts, etc.) to find out what big dates you should avoid when setting a time. Bringing a record of these dates is essential to successfully scheduling a Cluster Event. Do not forget them!

Together, pick a date and stick with it so that when the students come for orientation, you tell them right away to set this time aside. Setting the date well in advance will also allow you plenty of time to plan. Remember you are part of a group. It can be difficult to find a date that works with everyone’s calendar, so be as flexible and understanding as possible. Focus on enabling each school to come for the entire duration of the event with the maximum number of students in attendance.

Make sure that the Lead Organizer and the Lead Facilitator can attend the entire event. If not, either the dates or the leaders must be changed. Some directors and coordinators suggest that it is best to schedule a Cluster Event for Spring semester because it gives organizers more time to plan and more opportunity for First Years to grow, meaning that they will be prepared to take on more responsibility during the event.

Others argue that since the First Year Service Project is usually scheduled in the middle or end of the spring, it is best to hold the Cluster Event in Fall semester to avoid over-committing first year Bonners. Take these perspectives into consideration when selecting a date.


C.   Additional Considerations

1) Pick a School to Host the Event

Keep distances in mind. To be fair, a different campus should host the event each year. Keep in mind, however, that it is best to have a centrally located campus host the Cluster or to have the event at a nearby conference center or campground.

Pick a host with strong Congress representation. Congress reps at the hosting school are generally the ones responsible for the bulk of the organizing. It is therefore best to pick a hosting school whose reps are ready to accept this challenge.

2) Choose a Specific Location

Decide if the event will take place on the hosting school’s campus. If it is hosted on a campus, then the Bonners from other schools will have a chance to get to know another Bonner campus. On the other hand, if it is hosted at an alternate location, participants may be less distracted and the event could end up with more of a focus on the Bonner community.

If the event will not be hosted on a campus, decide where it will be. It is possible to find reasonably priced retreat centers or campgrounds which often offer two prices to choose from, depending on whether or not you would like meals provided.

3) Decide if an Overnight will be Required

Many directors and coordinators argue that an overnight is needed because Bonners need the extra time to get to know each other and to bond. Seriously consider an overnight, however, if your schools are close together, then it may not be practical.

If you are having an overnight, decide where visiting participants will stay. If the event is being held on campus, you might have students stay in residence halls. This gives them more opportunity to get to know the campus and other Bonners. It also gets the hosting school’s Bonners more involved in the process. On the other hand, if you choose to have them stay in a hotel (budget permitting), it may make the event more of a special occasion.

4) Decide Who is in Charge of What

Consider how much responsibility the hosting school will take on. Will it be in charge of all of the logistical planning? What help can the visiting schools provide?

Students must take charge: they should be the ones doing most of the planning from the start. Directors and coordinators can encourage students to set realistic goals. Especially at the beginning, directors and coordinators must give student leaders a clear idea of what is expected from them. Then the students should be encouraged to take over the process.

5) Make a Plan to Stay in Touch

Make a plan to ensure that the schools will be working closely together throughout the planning process. No matter how you decide to divide up responsibilities, it is essential that the campuses maintain regular contact so that in the end the event flows smoothly. For example, a Cluster might decide that each school will be in charge of conducting a workshop at the event. Without consistent communication, the workshops may all be too similar (i.e. all include lectures or be on over lapping topics) or too different. Without incorporating each school in the planning process, the event runs the risk of not flowing well.

6) Set “Group Expectations”

Ensure that each school and each committee member is on the same page by establishing a list of “Group Expectations.” This list should take into consideration the schools’ different cultures and policies. Such factors become particularly important if an overnight is involved. Students who are hosting visiting Bonners in their rooms should understand the responsibilities of hosting. The issue of alcohol use should be addressed directly since schools may have different policies.

II.   Initial Brainstorming

After addressing all of these important considerations, it is time to brainstorm ideas. At this time we will begin using COOL’s Civic Engagment training modules model to narrow down the mission and goals of the event.

  1. Generate intended outcomes or big ideas.
  2. Design a basic skeleton.
  3. Block for flow.
  4. Fill or flesh out individual blocks.
  5. Walk through for integration.





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