What is that meeting really for?

Most meetings a waste of time. Most meetings do not leave an impact on their attendees. Most meetings also don’t have a clear, bold purpose. And those things are related.

A traditional court proceeding is adversarial. It has lawyers from either side go at each other’s throats in order to surface the truth. The traditional courtroom also seats the judge above everybody else, portraying her as the overlord who calls for order with her gavel and powdered wig. The dark woods in courtrooms also convey a sense of gravity, judgement and power.

But what is the real purpose of a courtroom gathering? Is it to point fingers, or is it a means for different parties to come together to solve a societal problem?

The Red Hook Community Justice Center decided to rethink court proceedings. It wished to remodel courtroom proceedings as problem solving sessions rather than meetings where sharp tongue lawyers point fingers with aplomb. Its experimental court room was setup in a school. The interiors were sunlit, with light-coloured woods with a judge’s bench that puts her at eye-level to the litigants – so that she is not looking down on them. The judges in this courtroom take a personal interest in each case and behave more like a strict, caring uncle or aunt than a traditional judge. They addresses each individual personally, often shaking their hand and praising defendants who have shown good progress.

The tangible results? The Justice Center reduced the recidivism rate of adult defendants by 10 percent and juvenile defendants by 20 percent. Imagine the impact that improvement might have, if scaled up to national levels.

If a meeting is broken, ask what its true purpose is. Exploring its purpose afresh lets us reorganize a gathering in a bold manner that leave a true impact on its attendees.

Inspiration: The art of gathering – Priya Parker

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