How to Start a Discussion Course Group

How to Start a Course

1. Choose the course(s) you think your prospective group would like. Groups work best with 8-12 people.

2. Catamount (CEI) can provide you with fact sheets about the courses, calendar announcements, press releases, flyers, and course books to help promote the course.

3. There are two tracks for starting a course:

a. Offer an Introductory Presentation

You build interest in participating in a course group and advertise a particular date, time, and place at which a CEI representative offers an introductory presentation. The representative will describe the course and explain how it works.  He or she will bring a set of course books. Everyone who wants to participate will purchase a course book ($20) and choose the starting date, time, and site for their group’s gatherings.  If more than 14 people are interested, people can form a second course group.

b. Begin with the first discussion session

Many organizers are able to connect with potential participants and can distribute course books and collect course book payments. These groups may choose to skip an introductory presentation. They choose a first discussion session date, time, and site, and ask participants to read the first session materials before the first discussion session.

4. CEI may be able provide a volunteer to facilitate the first discussion session. This volunteer will be someone who has participated in another group and has had some facilitation training by a CEI staff or volunteer.

5.    Course groups meet for a 1 – 1 1/2 hour session (usually weekly).  The only cost to participants is the course book. The Vermont Department of Libraries has sets of a dozen of the Menu for the Future, Choices for Sustainable Living and Voluntary Simplicity course books available on loan (through CEI).

Participants’ Roles

1. Participants should attempt to attend all or nearly all of the sessions.

2. Facilitation rotates among group members. The course book has clear facilitation guidelines and the CEI volunteer will serve to demonstrate the role of facilitator. People who aren’t comfortable serving as facilitator don’t have to serve in the role. Another rewarding opportunity for all course members is to provide an “opener” at the beginning of each gathering. Each session a different group member will share a short personal story related to the topic. This is an opportunity to be creative. People briefly share objects, do visualizations and other creative activities that relate to the topic.

At the end of the course

CEI appreciates having participants complete evaluation forms to help us continue to improve the course materials and process. Many groups have an additional session, often with a potluck. It gives participants an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate their group’s experience and discuss follow-up options.