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Facilitating SART Meetings

By Fatima Jayoma

Welcome to the Rural Realities Blog! This month’s blog centers around the topic of facilitation. Facilitating a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) requires applying an understanding of the SART to plan and deliver the necessary structure for productive meeting interactions. The role of a SART coordinator/facilitator extends beyond ensuring the agenda is followed, managing time, and overseeing breaks. It involves a delicate balance between managing the process, fostering relationships, and achieving desired results.

While a facilitator may not be the ultimate decision-maker, they play a pivotal role in guiding decision-making processes. This multifaceted approach to facilitation is essential for cultivating a collaborative and impactful SART team. Facilitation styles can vary depending on individual skills and preferences. Here are some tips that can be beneficial during SART meetings:

  • Ice Breaker: Starting the meeting with an icebreaker can benefit not only newly formed teams, but also those that have existed for a long time. Some teams develop a practice of posing a fun question at the beginning of each meeting to build relationships among team members. Others use icebreakers to strengthen collaboration or increase understanding about the team’s work and individual members. If you run out of ice breaker questions, no worries. Reach out to us and we are happy to share our favorite ones with you.
  • Agenda: Share the agenda before and at the start of the meeting to provide members with a guide to the meeting. This can help members prepare for the meeting which can enhance engagement. You can find more information about agendas and a sample agenda in our SART Starter Kit Guide.
  • Meeting Notes: For new team members or those who have missed meetings, it is crucial to provide them with information beforehand regarding the team’s work. Ensure that meeting minutes are sent to all members well in advance of the upcoming meeting. In the case of new members, this involves a more extended process to ensure they understand the focus and scope of the team. Often, that extended process is part of an onboarding procedure. If your team does not have an onboarding process, you can explore this new onboarding resource developed under our National SART Project.
  • Community Agreements: Teams benefit from established community agreements in meeting interactions and decision-making. These agreements should be established early in team formation, shared with new members, and revisited as needed. If you haven’t established community agreements yet, starting the new year with this activity can be highly beneficial. Additionally, while developing ground rules, it’s also an opportune time to review your team’s mission and vision statements. If your team hasn’t set up these agreements yet, this could be a great activity to kick off the new year. While you are developing or revisiting your agreements, it’s also a good time to review your team’s mission and vision statements.
  • Decision-Making Process: Linked to community agreements is the establishment of a decision-making process. A decision-making process is the approach that a SART can follow when confronted with choices or challenges that necessitate a group decision. It outlines the steps, methods, or criteria used to analyze options, gather information, and ultimately arrive at a decision. For more on this, reach out to us, and we are happy to brainstorm strategies that might work for your team.
  • Meeting Format: Change the meeting format by incorporating elements such as small group discussions, activities, training sessions, and large group discussions. This approach accommodates various learning styles and fosters engagement from all members.
  • Multiple Facilitators: Teams can benefit from having multiple facilitators. While some teams find value in appointing a single facilitator, others benefit from distributing various roles, including facilitation, among team members. Coordinating a SART is no easy task. If your team is considering this, think about the various roles a coordinator takes on in a SART meeting: facilitator, presenter, agenda creator, tech support
    (recording, breakouts, waiting room, screen sharing, etc.), note-taker, attendance taker, chat box or room monitor, and others. Which of these tasks listed could others take on?Sharing tasks can allow facilitators to concentrate on the core facilitation responsibilities rather than handling other duties.
  • Time: Give members time to think and process information. If there is information that would be helpful for participants to know before the meeting, ensure it is made available well in advance.
  • Participation: Encourage input from all members. Check in with team members who do not regularly participate and see if there are things that can be done to help them engage more, even outside of meeting times.
  • Ending Meetings: End the meeting with a review of the next steps and clarification of decisions made that day. This ensures that everyone is on the same page for the tasks ahead.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-04024-RURA awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.