Do you work from home? Are you retired? Are you a stay-at-home parent that can afford an hour or two of babysitting? If you have a strong interest and some knowledge in a favorite subject, consider starting a local group. Examples of such a group topic could be art, writing, photography, gardening, sewing, tennis, golf, current events, even blogging.
Recently, I decided to set up a group for artists. In an earlier part of my life, I took many art classes, including attending art school at Boston University for one year. I didn’t want a beginner class, and I am not ready to take out the time for a university level academic course. Plus, I wanted to meet others locally who share my interests. When a fellow artist with similar ideas moved back to my area, I decided it was time to set up my artist group. This post will review how I set up the group, and in my guidelines I generalize the steps so they can apply to other subject areas beside art.
How to Set Up a Local Group – a Checklist
- Identify the Subject – be specific about the group you are forming. I was specifically interested in visual artists. If your topic is too narrow or too broad, you may have a harder time getting other participants. Talk with a friend about your ideas before going public with your request.
- Find People. Who will join your group? I talked to a few friends and acquaintances locally in order to find other people. I also posted to a local Yahoo group. You will have to investigate how people communicate in your local area if you are unsure how to find others. Maybe there is a place to post at your local supermarket? If you don’t want to reveal personal information such as address or phone number in your public post, consider using throwaway email address as your initial contact information.
- Pick a Leader. Ideally, you will be the leader of your new group. If you are shy but have a friend who is willing to take on this role, you can delegate this requirement. But to maintain control over how the group will go, be prepared to take on a leadership role. You will need to send out messages to your group. You will also need to decide who talks when and what sorts of activities your group will do when meeting.
- Study Group Dynamics. In a discussion prior to our first meeting, a friend and I discussed how we would deal with the problem of someone “hogging the floor” and either interrupting or talking to much. Fortunately, this was kept to a minimum in our first meeting. But I have found in past groups, if no one is moderating, others can monopolize the floor too much, and everyone else gets frustrated. Setting guidelines and sticking to them can be a good approach.
- Pick a Setting. I knew I would be able to hold meetings in my own home, and a friend graciously offered hers as well. If that is not possible, find out if there is a local space your group could use, ideally for free.
- Connect with the Other Group Members. I am using email to connect with the other group members – I ask for feedback at the end of each email. Also, I have a book for members to sign in when they attend a meeting and to post any ideas or feedback they have for the group.I found having the phone numbers of group members in my cell phone helpful as I wanted to remind members to come while I sat waiting for my daughter to finish her ballet class.
- Show Off Your Group Online. If you already have a blog, you can post about your group. Alternatively, if members are willing, you could set up a site in WordPress specific to your group and maybe even make some money off the new site.
Mental Health Focus: Why Form a Local Group At All?
- If you are working in one area but find your mind often or your web browsing often wanders to another topic, maybe your body is suggesting it needs an outlet in that area.
- If you are working alone, wouldn’t it to be nice to socialize with a few local people who share your interests?
- Forming a group can feel empowering. After our first meeting, I expressed my joy to a friend on how successful it was. That felt good!
Take Care of Yourself: What Would You Do?
Have you ever set up or joined a local group? When I posted about my art group last week, someone commented that she was excited about a local photography group. What has been your experience with local groups? If you haven’t participated in a local group, play around with the idea of having a group connected to a favorite topic – what would the topic be? What problems might you need to overcome?