How do we get an A-Group started?
1. Assemble about 6 to 8 members who are interested. It is best to have diversity of genders, schools, ages, professions and nationalities. Just avoid highly domineering personalities who may not last long in group dynamics. You also want to avoid having two people who are direct competitors in business or who are relatives or who are in a relationship. The recruitment is normally done by 2 champions who agree on the desired mix of people to invite. A group of 6-8 can go forward and it leaves room for the entire group to decide who else to invite (up to 12-14 members eventually).
2. Plan for the first meeting when everybody can devote 4 hours and can be on time. One of the most important and most difficult parts of running an A-Group is implementing an attendance policy. By definition, its members are very busy and that’s really the reason you don’t want people to waste their time waiting, or repeating things for latecomers. Have a comfortable air-conditioned private room where you are not disturbed by waiters or servers or passing guests. A boardroom is ideal. The table should be set where everyone faces each other as in a square or rectangular arrangement, with plenty of personal space for a 4-hour meeting. Round dining tables do not give enough elbow room and long dining tables have the same problem. A whiteboard is useful but not absolutely necessary.
3. Identify a facilitator who has experience in an AIESEC A-Group. Alternatively, you can certainly find in your community some AIESEC Alumni who are now part of YPO (Young Presidents Organization), WPO (World Presidents Organization), or EO (Entrepreneurs Organization). Their Forum experience and training are valuable.
4. The first hour of the meeting is normally just explaining and discussing what an A-Group is all about. The second hour is just making the group relax with brief personal introductions, ice-breakers, and go-around exercises. The third hour gets into deeper personal updates once the members are comfortable with each other and a commitment of absolute confidentiality is made. The fourth hour goes into one or two presentations. Finally some minutes are devoted to housekeeping, planning the next meeting, sharing the bill, naming the A-Group and choosing a Moderator. The position of Moderator is rotated every year so there is no point for dominant personalities to want to be the first. In fact, the softest personalities make the better Moderators in an A-Group.
5. At a certain point in time, the A-Group would be ready to invite new members. Also, there would be more facilitators and training programs available for improving the level of discussion in A-Groups. On the second meeting the Moderator would propose an outline of a “constitution” for the A-Group, essentially a two-page document that outlines confidentiality, attendance and membership rules.
6. At first, having 6-8 meetings a year lasting 4 hours sounds like a chore and difficult to achieve. After the second meeting, people derive so much value from the meetings that they do make time and make sure they come on time. It is thus imperative that the A-Group eventually plans its calendar half-a-year in advance as it is difficult to coordinate the schedules of 12 busy people. Also, there are obvious dates when people travel or take family holidays and only A-Group social activities can be scheduled.