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Design Brief Sheet

Please download this worksheet, so I have the information I need to create the design you are looking for at the most reasonable price. Link

Group development in a share house

I have lived in share houses since 1993 and lived in one long-term rental since 2003. Professionally I also work with groups and have recently realised how valuable it could be to consider group development in a share house context. Looking back I can see how considering the group development of a household would have been useful to create a more functional home environment.

This information supports all housemates to understand how groups develop. It is useful for long term housemates to support new housemates to integrate them into the household more smoothly.

The 5 stages of group development was created by Bruce Tuckman: Forming (beginning of household), Storming (productive conflict), Norming (cohesion of the household), Performing (working well as a team), Adjourning (the leaving of a housemate) and another stage was added by Timothy Biggs which is Reforming (the introduction of a new housemate) and then back to the Storming and so on. In discussion with a friend these titles have been changed.

Emerging

This is the time when the group is first coming together and a new household group is emerging. If housemates don’t know each other well they might avoid conflict as there is a strong desire to be accepted by others in the group.

The important focus for this time is to

  • become familiar with each other
  • create a group purpose

Outcomes

  • defining group purpose
  • who will be responsible for what
  • clarify group guidelines
  • establishing shared resources

Re-emerging

Often in share houses a housemate leaves then another housemate joins the group. It is important to realise that the group needs to reform again similarly to the original re-emerging stage. It is also important to recognise that the new member is joining a potentially cohesive group of friends and needs to be actively included into this group. At this stage the new member is at the re-emerging stage while the old housemates are at the reforming stage.

Below are some things long term housemates can do to foster reforming

  • interact regularly both socially and to organise the household
  • coordinate work efforts by valuing everyone’s contribution
  • engage in healthy debate and conflict based on tasks
  • openly discuss the relationships dynamics in the group

Expressing

In the expressing stage, housemates start to contribute their opinions, insights and ideas. There is more opportunity for conflict here because the individuals become confident to disagree with each other. Understand how conflict works can help see conflict as a positive experience for the household (See Raising Issues Post). In this stage the housemates can now address more important issues related to sharing a home.

Activities that can be helpful at this stage could be to

  • creating a common purpose together
  • fostering a commitment to success of the household
  • building trust and supportive relationships
  • resolving personal conflicts and supporting task related debate
  • explain the stages of group development if needed
  • sharing both information and resources with everyone
  • acknowledge hierarchies and responsibilities (landlords > tenants, lease holder > subtenants, long term housemates > new/short term housemates, assertive > quieter personalities)

It is important for long term and vocal housemates to support the new or quieter housemates to share their options. It is also important for new and quiet housemates to find ways of communicating to the group about any issues. See Raising Issues Post if you feel you may need help in these areas.

Long term housemates need to be aware that norms have been previously set and it’s important to include new housemates in defining new norms. Just because something had been done one way for some time doesn’t mean it’s the best way. It might be worth trying an idea contributed by a new housemate, even if it has been tried before, as a new group of people may create a different result. There is a lot of need for clarification at this stage especially for the new housemates. This can be a lot of work for old housemates to do, so it’s important that new housemate do as much as they can to learn about their new home. It is important that all housemates experience a level of stress the leads to creativity and new ideas, not a level that inhibits their interaction with the household. As you can imagine some household do not get past this stage.

Satisfaction

Once clarification the group can focus on the common ground they have established thought the expressing stage. In this stage the morale is high and the household works as a cohesive group.

At this stage the housemates are

  • actively acknowledge the styles, abilities and knowledge each housemate brings to the household
  • flexible, interdependent and trust each other
  • are sharing leadership in their particular strengths
  • sharing their options freely and diverse options are respected
  • experiencing a sense of connection
  • focused on the purpose of living together

Team building ideas that could be useful

  • Personality-based team building is used to increase the acceptance within the group and to communicate better with each other. Use this if housemates aren’t getting along. This can be a personality test to learn about themselves, each other and how they work as a group. The results can be used to create developmental activities to better work together and appreciate each other’s contribution to the group.
  • Activity-based team building are a set of challenging tasked aimed to creating space for problem-solving, risk taking, trust building and change of mindset. Use this if the household if having trouble solving problems together. These could be different from activities required for share house living but serve as an important example for the house to work as a group.
  • Skills-based team building aimed at improving specific group work skills that housemates need to accomplish their goals and work as a group. Use this if the group is having trouble going through the functions of team work. Skills such as team work, listening, conflict management, giving and receive feedback and running effective meetings could be developed.

Performing

The performing stage is the most productive work wise.

At this stage housemates

  • are unified, loyal and supportive
  • value each other contributions which creates a space for independent decision-making
  • are achieving their mission by experimentation and testing solutions

When a household is working as a team they are

  • recognise and create solutions together
  • improve and create systems
  • add their own style, ideas, skills and knowledge to the household
  • take on responsibility for aspects of running the house
  • create mutual accountability and support systems
  • enjoy each other’s company and the home they have created together

So / and

• new or short term housemates will no longer look to older or long term housemates for solution to problems
The housemate may have a series of goals to achieve and/or one simple goal (to enjoy living together). Once the group has made it to this stage it may fall back into previous stages as new goals are defined.

Home making

Home making are things housemates do for the home and each other that makes somewhere feeling like a home over a place where people are coexisting. These gestures make a big different to the wellbeing of the group. You may have your own ideas about what these are and I’d love to add them to the list if you would like to share them.

Here are the ones that I have noticed

  • making a cake for the house and cutting it together
  • organising a fun activity for the household to do together
  • inviting housemate to go to an event together
  • come home with fruits or flower you have gathered
  • letting housemate know you’ve cooking them a meal to eat when they return
  • welcoming housemates home
  • celebrating special occasions together

Wrap-up

After a group have successfully (or unsuccessfully) lived together one person’s situation may change and a housemate may move out.

This is a time for

  • Wrapping up the household activity
  • Creating a sense of closure to the group that has formed
  • Reflection and acknowledgement of group members contribution, especially the housemate who is leaving
  • Celebrating the groups achievements together

This can be a sad and/or challenging time depending on the circumstances. Often you can feel happy for the housemate leaving to following their dreams but sad for yourself in losing the household that has come together well. When a new household combination it can be useful to use the learning from previous experiences to aid in the development towards the performing stage.

Diagram outlining the stages of group development

group developement of a sharehouses

I have learnt a lot from doing this research which I hope to use to be a better long term housemates to future housemates that join my home. I hope it is useful to you too. Feel free to contact me via the contact page with any feedback.

References

http://education-portal.com/academy/topic/work-teams.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuckman%27s_stages_of_group_development
http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_86.htm
http://www.groupharmonics.com/videos.html

Raising Issues

This has been created for raising issues in a share house but it can apply to other circumstances of working together. To some it can sound a bit serious but it’s worth raising from the beginning. With regular house checkin it’s likely nothing this serious will need to be raised. These tips could be handy in other parts of life and I certainly have benefited a lot from them. If by some chance something serious needs to be raised these are some tips but feel free to do it your own way…

Some pointers on giving negative feedback

The most important part of this process is to work out what part of this feedback you want to give comes from issues you need to work on yourself. Journaling about your feelings is a good place to start.

(Clearness Booklet by New Society Publishers – summarised/altered)

  • Be firm and direct
  • Be as clear and specific as possible
  • Raise one issue at this time (not everything at once)
  • Own your feelings “When you do…… I feel……, because……”
  • Acknowledge your part in the problem – feelings and actions of your that get in the way or contribute to the problem
  • Affirm the person when sincerely possible. Think of things your do like or appreciate about them, ways they act in the group or towards you. Do this as close to the beginning of the conversation as possible.
  • Leave space for the other person’s feelings, listen to them and try to separate content issue from feelings. You can also say when you have heard enough
  • Be prepared for their feedback to you
  • Be prepared for them not to agree as some time it takes people time to process negative feedback
  • Be clear about what you will and will not negotiate on
  • Practice ahead of time. Find someone you trust to say it too and see if it makes sense. If it is scary role play a couple of times.
  • Ask for a third person to join you if needed. Someone who the person receiving feedback will feel comfortable with and invite them to bring someone you would feel comfortable with???

Since we are opening the floor up for honest communication I thought I’d get prepared for receiving negative feedback myself… here is what I have found.

Some pointers on receiving negative feedback

(http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/2010/04/29/how-to-handle-negative-feedback/ – summarised/altered)

  • Pause first and try not to react. Focus on your breathing and listen to what they are staying to you. As for a moment to process your feelings and content of the feedback if it is in real time otherwise a few days if it is via email.
  • Recognize receiving negative feedback is a positive thing and the gift that it is.
  • Understand what the person’s concerns are. Some questions you could ask yourself of them is:
  • What are the key issues?
  • Why is the person reacting this way?
  • What happened that affected the person?
  • Write down these answers so you can evaluate them in step 3.
  • Assess if the feedback is true.
  • Evaluate the feedback objectively. Do you agree on the feedback? Is there any truth behind it, and would this be an alternate perspective you missed out originally? Is it something you should look into?
  • Sometimes it’s hard to maintain an objective stance, especially since you are right in the middle of this. I found it’s helpful to seek out friends to get alternate opinions. You can ask them:
  • Their overall assessment of the feedback
  • What they think are the areas of concern
  • If they saw any truth behind it.
  • Reply to the person in kindness. Someone actually putting themselves in a position of giving your feedback is a gift. This is suggested flow for a reply:
  • Reiterate the concern the person has so it is clear you understood them.
  • Share your point of view, whether you agree/disagree, along with supporting reasons why
  • Create an open space for discussion
  • Agree on the next steps to move forward. Sometimes it’s possible that there can’t be an agreement met, and if that’s the case it’s about agreeing to disagree
  • Thank the person for sharing. Giving negative feedback is hard to give (and receive) so thank them for taking the time to be honest to you.
  • Learn from the feedback. There’s always something to learn from every feedback. Ask yourself:
  • What have I learned about myself?
  • What have I learned about others?
  • How can I improve? What can I do differently from now on?
  • What you’re learning can either be about the feedback how you dealt with the feedback or both.

DIY marketing worksheet

Knowing how to most effectively and professionally market your project is vital to the success of your venture.
These documents seek to extend your understanding of marketing processes which need to be considered for most effective outcomes. Making it possible for you to do most of your marketing work for yourself.

Free do it yourself marketing worksheet. Updated Nov ’13
This document is designed in word so you can add your own notes to creating your own marketing plan that has real value to your clients and service users.

Computer user health

Using a computer can be very taxing on the body. Below is some information about how to set up your computer area with little or no cost.

Set up

  • Monitor at eye level
    • If you have a laptop just get an external keyboard and prop your laptop up on books
  • Eyes are 45-70cms away from the monitor
  • Light is behind you when looking at the monitor
    • Keep your back to windows
  • lower arms and elbows resting on the desk
    • push your keyboard and monitor to the back of the desk to give your arms room to rest

I have been standing behind my desk since early 2013. Changing this has improved my health especially my back

  • all the above ‘Set up’ points still apply
  • raise your desk with bricks
  • use a rubber mat or carpet under your feet
  • move your feet around regularly

If you sit at a chair

  • lower back supported by the chair
    • use pillows and ockie straps if needed
  • thighs horizontal on your chair and feet are flat on the ground
    • lift desk or put books under your feet
    • easy to use mouse that supports your palm comfortably

Here are some extra tips that will reduce the impact of computer use on your body

  • breath through nose slowly into belly
  • shoulders relaxed, chin back and back straight
  • blink often and look into the distance to exercise your eyes
  • move away from the computer for 5 mins every 40 mins – set up alert to breath, stretch and move about
  • after a day of computer use do stretches for neck, back and hips

Writing image alt text

Alt text (alternate text) are the words used to describe an image when an image is not able to be seen on a computer. Here are a few tips on how to write appropriate alt text to explain images.

  • Only use 130 characters (approx. 16 words) to put the images in context for a person using an audio reader. You are not required to give all the details of the images.

For example
Two children – good but still not explaining the context
Two children’s feet standing on milk crates looking over fence – this explains why the images has been used for this flyer

  • For logos put in the actual name of the organisation (and don’t add in a logo to the end of the words).

If an image is only for impact and not to help you understand the information. Simply call it a spacer image or something similar.

Please feel free to contact me with any feedback and I will update this post.

Add alt text to images

Alternate text (alt text) is used in both PDF and website images to support people who use audio readers to understand documents that use images. To be enjoyed my more people the alt text needs to be added to images. Adding alt text is an involved process, one that can be assisted by identifying descriptions for the images. Since you know your images and the reason (context) for using them you will be able to identify more accurate for people using audio readers. Doing it this way will save you from your designer completing it.

Firstly go to the image in the finder or folder that you wish to work on. Right click on an image (or similar on a mac) and a menu list will appear. Pick properties at the bottom of the menu (left image).

spacer

This will open the properties dialogues box (right image). Under the details tab at the top of the dialogue box, place the alt (put) text next to the title box. You’ll need to let your designer know that you have put this information in or they will use custom settings.

Please feel free to contact me with any feedback and I will update this post.

Public speaking tips

Prepare

  • Take plenty of time to write the speech
  • Know the content so well that you can do the speech without your notes
  • Sleep well and do breathing exercises or meditate beforehand
  • What have you liked about others speaks?
  • How can you put that into your speech?
  • Think about how you want to respond if something goes wrong during your speech. It really isn’t a big deal if something goes wrong or if you lose your place. Be calm and continue on. People are unlikely to remember or care if you make a mistake so just improvise.

Write hand written notes such as

  • relax
  • pause
  • pay attention
  • slow down
  • calm down

Fake it and you will become it

(Check out ‘Amy Cuddy: your body language shapes who you are’ on Ted talks).

  • relax,  breath slow and deep through your nose, keep hands calm and relax your shoulders
  • show how enthusiastic you are about what you are sharing
  • look like a confidence knowledgeable speaker with eye contact and varied tone

Think the best of the audience

  • most audiences are kind and want you to do well
  • think about people who care about you and imagine them near you

When you are not speaking and you are in the audience consider showing some care and be an active audience member by projecting care, enthusiasm and most of all your attention.

One way to tell the story could be to share your experience and background, share the discovery and then share the benefits.

 

Social media starting ideas

Like all networking and marketing efforts consider how you can give real value for others and what you want to share with the world. Below are a few ways to use social media.

  • Share your own story – what are you working on as the coordinator
  • Share your client story – you can share how your product impacts on their work or life
  • Behind the scene – your process and how you work, what you’re working on
  • New things that you are learning for your business that could be of interest to others

Blog with

  • a distinct voice
  • fantastic advise
  • amusing videos

How to use Social Media (Hoot Suite and other platforms can manage all your social media profiles in one place)

  • Facebook profile – keep it fun and/or personal (not too personal make sure it is still relevant to your readers)
  • Facebook Business Page – give things away of interest and keep it as fun and interesting as possible
  • Twitter – 140 character limit, link to your blog for more info or just keep is short and snappy
  • LinkedIn – is a space where your work and professional life can be showcased
  • WordPress blog – have a RSS feed on your blog so others can subscribe and when you post in your blog put it on your appropriate social media

PDF Digital Accessibility

Often when I create a printed design, I then convert it into a PDF to use as an eflyer to send out via email. When the PDF is specially formatted to be accessible to audio readers then information can be enjoyed by more people on the web. However, when a PDF is automatically created the text is not in the correct order for an audio reader. This makes it difficult or impossible to understand the information. If you want your PDF designs to be accessible for people who use readers to hear the PDF, you’ll need to tell your designer so they can correctly format it.

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Karen uses visual art, print & web design with individuals and groups using a collaborative approach. This happens using dialogue, workshops and/or training to facilitate creation through to the final product.

Karen mainly works in Turrbal & Jagera Country (Brisbane).

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