In support of OccupyWallStreet, people are assembling all over the country. Here are some suggestions from the world of peer support for these gatherings. More details on some of these suggestions are available on this website under “NIPS Model.”
RESPECT FOR EMOTIONS. Everything is not cognitive. In addition to task discussions in large groups, take breaks periodically and divide the large group into twos or threes to take turns talking to each other so everyone gets a chance to speak—and express their feelings. Use cell-phone timers to keep the turns equal. After letting off steam and clarifying their thinking in these turns, people will be much more effective speaking in the large assembly and in doing their work. This is very helpful when some issue has become emotionally-charged.
EQUALITY. Ability to speak in public does not necessarily guarantee good ideas. Breaking a large group into Topic Groups can contradict the advantages of income and education that make for charismatic speakers. Anyone can suggest a Topic Group and then people pick the Topic Group they want to join. In the smaller groups, everyone is given a chance to speak before anyone speaks twice, no one speaks four times before everyone speaks twice, etc. The small group discussion results are reported back to the larger group. These Topic Groups often stay together as AFFINITY/ACTION/WORKING GROUPS.
SET UP SUPPORT GROUPS. When there are longer breaks in the general meeting—or as an alternative to that ongoing big task meeting–set up an area where people can form into support groups of 6-8 to do the same kind of listening turns. In that space, a facilitator should ask what groups people would like to form into. Similarities usually make safer support groups. Some women will often ask for their own groups or some Latinos or people of different sexual identities or political positions or geographical areas. These groups may also decide to stay together as AFFINITY/ACTION GROUPS as things progress and decide to take on various tasks.
HAND SIGNALS FOR ASSEMBLIES. I am glad you are using the guidelines developed by the various international demonstrations (Spain, Israel, etc.) have come up with the following guidelines for Assemblies. It takes a good moderator, facilitators, floor-time and logistics committees to keep these large discussions working well. In addition, there are hand signals for participants which have been developed to keep people from shouting at each other: agreement (hands open above head), disagreement (arms crossed over head), taking too long (hands over head, bring them together like the hands of a clock), that point has already been made/get to the point (hand over head rotating as used in sports for a substitution)
NONVIOLENCE. As others have said, strong nonviolence is key (no property damage as well as no violence to people). Some elements, often from governmental agencies, will infiltrate your event and try and incite violence to discredit your work and justify a crackdown.
Hope this is helpful.