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Creating Higher Ground Rules

Group work and group life can be challenging and inspiring. This activity will help group members share expectations re: how to engage one another in principled and authentic ways, encouraging discussion of important matters even when — especially when — they surface conflict and strong emotions.

Follow these simple steps to develop proactive, shared “ground rules” or norms to help your group address their differences with integrity, creativity and care for one another.

Step 1: Help the group to clarify their SHARED PURPOSE
Craft a statement of its shared purpose in a way that inspires everyone and reflects their shared understanding of their goal, task or larger purpose. Write that on the board or flip chart paper.

Step 2: Next, brainstorm the VALUES that will be critical to achieving that specific purpose identified in Step 1. Dialogue about the meaning of these values to the group’s work and reduce the list to the 3-5 most powerful values, given the group’s most pressing needs (and likely problems working together).

Step 3: For each value identified in Step 2, brainstorm SPECIFIC ACTIONS that will be evidence of the members’ living the agreed upon values – identify behaviors that all will be held accountable for – the new, inspired ground rules that the group agrees to uphold. (i.e., If Value = Accountability; then perhaps Action = arrive prepared to class/meetings). Identify 1-2 specific actions per value.

Step 4: Have the group formally adopt its customized Rules for Higher Ground. Post them in the room where the group meets. Consider using a short survey after meetings to assess if the Higher Ground rules are being honored; celebrate group success at honoring their higher ground rules and Identify any weakness that should be overcome to be more fully effective as a group.

Source: Drs. Marina Piscolish, Frank Dukes and John Stephens, excerpted from Reaching for Higher Ground: Creating Purpose-driven, Principled and Powerful Groups (Jossey Bass 2000)

Recommended to calendar by: Marina Piscolish

CRE Calendar Usage: 3rd Edition