Coming Together to Make Decisions in Massachusetts


By Adam Winfield, SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps Member 

When living with a large group of people, it can be challenging to make decisions. There are so many unique perspectives, thoughts, and opinions that go into it.  Here at SCA Massachusetts in Hawley, we decided to have all our voices heard in decision making. That’s why we have established meetings to problem solve and determine what is best for the whole community.

The community meetings are on Mondays, after we complete our weekly chores. The member tasked with cleaning the bunkhouse is also our meeting facilitator. Whoever cleans the the common spaces is the person to takes notes.

All members of SCA Massachusetts and staff are present at community meetings. The community meeting is mandatory—it’s essential to have everyone involved.  

First, the note-taker reads topics discussed and decisions made at the last meeting. Then the facilitator starts with topics that members and staff have written on the whiteboard during the past week. 

There is a model that we follow which starts with someone bringing up a topic. The group discusses the topic, and we go in a round robin with everyone given a chance to speak. If members, or staff, do not want to contribute to the conversation, then they can say pass. 

After the round robin, there is then a popcorn round. During the popcorn round, anyone who has more to contribute to the discussion has the chance to speak. 

When the popcorn round ends a member can propose a solution, and then we vote on the proposal. There are three choices to make when voting. A thumbs up votes for approval, while a thumbs down is a disapproval. To abstain from the vote, they hold a fist out. 

If there are no thumbs down, then the proposal passes. A thumbs down sends the topic back for discussion, with another round robin and popcorn. this continues until there is a decision made on the topic. 

When the decision ends, the facilitator presents the next topic that is on the whiteboard. After the proposal passes, everyone in the community follows that decision. Issues with a decision can be brought up at the community meeting on the next Monday.

During community meetings, staff and members can make announcements. Announcements range from safety to program vehicles, or other aspects of SCA/AmeriCorps service. Then there is time to ask staff questions that only they can answer. 

Concluding the community meeting are shout-outs. Members and staff recognize each other for the good deeds and hard work that they have done during the week. 

Community meetings take care of issues that affect everyone, but we also have bunkhouse meetings on Monday night where it is only the members involved. Here we discuss any topics that relate to the bunkhouse and those that live in it. We follow the same format as the community meeting and pass a stick, so everyone knows who has the time to speak. There is also time for us to reflect on the week and to make announcements and plan events. Both community meetings and bunkhouse meetings are an integral part in how we make decisions and have helped to resolve many issues. It has helped to make living here in Hawley a fun and rewarding experience for all.

Want to serve public lands in Massachusetts? Learn more about SCA’s Massachusetts AmeriCorps program.