Inclusive meetings: encouraging collaboration from all  

Remote working means that the way organisations and teams collaborate has changed. 

We’ve created 7 guidelines that we hope will help people to collaborate effectively, respectfully and inclusively. 

Here they are. You can download them in poster format here.

7 guidelines for inclusive meetings


  1. Give everyone the opportunity to contribute 
  • Ask people if they want to contribute. 
  • Allow people to contribute anonymously or in smaller groups. 
  • Check if people can access the tools you’re using, explain how to use them and offer an alternative if necessary. 
  • Use visible timers and allow thinking time. 
  • Use captions and transcripts where possible. 
  • Consider how people could contribute outside of the meeting, in their own time. 

  1. Set clear expectations, early 
  • Send out an agenda in advance. 
  • Clearly state the purpose of the meeting and the outcome you want to achieve. 
  • Give a running order, include approximate times. 

  1. Give context: do not assume any prior knowledge 
  • Reiterate any information that someone would need to know to be able to contribute. 
  • Give regular recaps. Consider taking notes as you go so you can easily refer back. 
  • Be mindful of late joiners and the context they might lack. 

  1. Use clear language 
  • Do not use acronyms without explaining what they mean. 
  • Use plain English. 
  • Be mindful of people who are new to Co-op, or a team. If you use jargon, explain what you mean. 

  1. Respect people’s time 
  • Book only the amount of time you need with people, and allow people to leave if they’ve contributed all they need to. 
  • Plan your meeting to allow people breaks between meetings, for example 5 or 15 minutes past the hour. 
  • If the meeting is long, schedule in regular breaks. 

  1. Value all contributions equally 
  • Give everyone a chance to speak, do not allow one voice to dominate. 
  • If you’re referencing what’s been inputted, reference contributions from a range of people. 
  • Consider your audience. Be prepared to adapt your approach or process to encourage contribution from more people. 

  1. Encourage clarity, curiosity, and challenges 
  • Explain how people can ask questions. 
  • Encourage people to get clarity on things they do not understand. 
  • Allow people to ask questions anonymously, for example by adding post-its to a collaboration board. 

Why we created inclusive meeting guidelines 

With a lot of collaboration now online, it can be harder for people to contribute effectively. This can mean some voices are not heard. 

We want everyone to be able to contribute in a way they feel comfortable. This means being thoughtful about people who, for example: 

  • have a disability or condition 
  • are new to a team 
  • cannot attend a meeting at a specific time 
  • cannot access certain tools or systems 
  • need thinking time 
  • are introverted  
  • are extroverted  

We hope these guidelines will encourage more inclusive discussions and more perspectives to be heard. 

As a result of more inclusive collaboration we believe Co-op will: 

  • become aware of problems earlier 
  • save money, as problems can be fixed earlier 
  • create more inclusive products and services 
  • open up our products and services to more people 

How we created these guidelines 

Our hypothesis is that remote working has made some of the ways we collaborate exclusive. We wanted to see if this was an issue for others and if so, how they’d overcome it. 

Using a survey, we asked people: 

  • what they believed could prevent people from engaging with and inputting into a meeting 
  • for practical tools and techniques that can help people to engage and input in to a meeting 

We gathered loads of valuable advice, ideas and knowledge from people in Co-op and from other organisations. After synthesising the responses, we ended up with broad themes that helped us form the guidelines. 

Using what we’d learnt to structure the guidelines

From the analysis it was clear that people were time-poor and often meeting-fatigued. They wanted to get the most out of collaborative sessions as efficiently as possible.   

So, we reflected this in our guidelines.  

We focused on the actions – the tools, techniques and ideas  – that could be immediately useful for facilitators and attendees at the start of a meeting.​  

The guidelines are not overly prescriptive, to allow them to be adapted for different contexts and scenarios. And we hope they’ll be shared in a whichever way works well for the facilitator – maybe added to the start of a Miro board, a Word document or a meeting invitation. 

We’re looking forward to learning if and how they’re useful, and if they encourage more mindful and inclusive meetings. 

What’s next 

These inclusive meeting guidelines are a first draft. We will continue to: 

  • get feedback and make them better  
  • understand if and how they’re being used  
  • understand if they’re helping us have better discussions 
  • share updates and get involved in wider inclusion discussions 
  • see how they can complement other work that’s happening in Co-op and beyond 

We’d love your feedback 

If you download the guidelines as posters, we’d love to learn: 

  • how you’re using them  
  • if they’ve helped you, your team or your organisation  
  • how we could improve them 

Get in touch by emailing us at: accessibility@coop.co.uk. We’d also love to hear if you’re doing anything similar in your organisation, and would like to talk more.  

 

Jake Cohen, CX designer  

Suhail Hussain, UX designer   

Jack Fletcher, Lead service designer   

Joanne Schofield, Lead content designer 

4 thoughts on “Inclusive meetings: encouraging collaboration from all  

  1. David Clift October 12, 2021 / 9:17 am

    Great principles and if I may can I add one more to this great list … from the world of Nelson Mandela …

    ‘leaders learning to speak last’ …

    … so all ideas (and people) are valued and listened to … and all ideas (and opinions) are taken into account … in order to ensure the best possible outcomes.

    Mandela Reference:

    “How did you become such a good leader?” someone asked Nelson Mandela. “Because I learned to speak last,” Mandela succinctly replied. He recalled that as a child he’d accompanied Jongintaba, the tribal king who raised him, to meetings.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s