Phase 3: Engage and Develop Oasis Members to Build Community
This section describes the process of engaging the Oasis community to develop programming.
Host an Initial Oasis Building Information Session
A preliminary information session was held in each building shortly following discussions with Property Managers. The information session was advertised in different ways, depending on the rules and regulations of the building. In most buildings, we were able to post flyers (see Appendix 3a, 3b) in common spaces (i.e. laundry rooms, social rooms); some buildings even allowed us to handout flyers to each unit within the building, a practice which was facilitated by the residents themselves. In one case, a group of five residents went around to each unit to place an informative flyer under each door. Early on in the process, we also spent time onsite advertising the upcoming information session – this also acted as a way for people to ask some preliminary questions about the program. Yet we found these “drop-in” sessions did not make a noticeable difference in how many residents came out to the initial information session so we did not continue this practice with the newer sites.
The information session was held in a common space in each building; a brief presentation outlining Oasis and the Expansion project was given by the research team, but much of the session was spent answering questions and bringing forward ideas residents had for activities. An example outline of a preliminary information session can be found in Appendix 3c. Following each information session, we passed around a signup sheet (Appendix 3d) so residents could provide a phone number or email address so we could connect them with updates and for following program development meetings. At this point, residents began to identify as “Oasis members”.
Hold Twice Monthly Oasis Program Development Meetings
At the initial information sessions, we decided to hold program development meetings every two weeks as a next step, and typically scheduled them for the same day and time of the information session. Flyers announcing upcoming member meetings were posted in common spaces in the building, as well as on dedicated Oasis space (i.e. bulletin boards, the door of Oasis Lounge, etc.). An example of these flyers can be found in Appendix 3e and Appendix 3f. These meetings were facilitated by the Community Developers and to begin, focused on interactive activities in which members could share ideas for the programming they would like to see. Photos below show examples of these interactive meetings and their outcomes.
As time continued, biweekly meetings brought forward new ideas and progress updates on Oasis programming. While the Community Developers facilitated these meetings, members were encouraged to take the floor to bring forward meeting topics. After approximately four months of biweekly meetings, some sites decided to reduce meetings to once a month, as you can see in Appendix 3e. The structure in these cases also changed so that the Community Developers would no longer take an active role in the meetings, but rather, Oasis members would be responsible for creating the agenda and representing topics and ideas themselves. At some sites, a document like Appendix 3g was posted on the board to allow members to list agenda items in order to prepare the monthly meeting. However, a formal meeting style did not work for all sites, so meetings were adapted to suit the needs and interests of the members, while still focusing on improving and adding to current Oasis programming. Therefore, there was no meeting agenda template created or distributed to members. In most cases, the agenda items were listed at the beginning of the meeting or typed up and projected on a screen prior to the meeting for all to see.
We strongly recommend starting with two planning meetings a month, in order to allow for sufficient planning and discussion of proposed activities. As the weekly calendar begins to fill, you will find the meetings become shorter and focus more on reflecting on programming or planning larger outings or activities. One of the biggest challenges is transitioning to the Oasis members leading the meetings themselves, rather than looking to the Coordinator for leadership. One technique for the Coordinator is to volunteer to keep minutes or support in other ways, which require a more “behind the scenes” role. As mentioned, some sites did not benefit from a formal meeting structure. In those cases, we recommend creating a more conversational setting or planning brainstorming activities to get members more involved in voicing opinions.