Gathering Guru: How to Come Together with Passion, Purpose, and Power - Rancho La Puerta
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Gathering Guru: How to Come Together with Passion, Purpose, and Power

Week of April 27, 2024

What Facilitating a Wedding, a Funeral, a Bat Mitzvah, and a Board Meeting Have in Common
We spend much of our lives gathering with others, but too often these experiences make poor use of our time. Sometimes we meet professionally, with staff, boards, or others in our fields of interest; at other times we meet with family and friends to mark rituals of passage and celebration. Whatever their setting, crafting gatherings rich in purpose takes intention and skill. Engaging in them fully takes a similar intention. Join foundation and nonprofit strategy consultant Melinda Fine, Ed.D. to explore five ingredients essential to designing and engaging in gatherings that are powerful and meaningful for participants, setting the stage for more fulfilling experiences in the future.

“Why the heck are we meeting, anyway?”
Accessible and useful for those who design, lead, or simply participate in gatherings in a professional or volunteer context, this session will explore how to participate in forums that challenge both the head and the heart. We will cover strategies to foster goal definition, framing work expectations, and collective sense-making. We will also problem-solve common challenges, such as people moving at different paces, holding different perspectives, and gravitating toward challenges rather than assets. Through individual reflection, group dialogue, and work sheets, participants will identify characteristics that have contributed to successful as well as unsuccessful gathering experiences in the past, and what they might plan to execute in the future.

“If You Can’t Think of Anything Nice to Say …”
This session focuses on what lies beneath the surface in gathering design and execution – including the strengths (and potential inhibitions) we bring with us into spaces where we gather. We will consider planning for submerged dynamics (such as power differentials and hot-button issues) and unpack the “choreography” of a meeting’s arc, mindful of the ebb and flow of participants’ energy and the time it takes to build community and foster candor. Through individual reflection, group dialogue, and worksheets, we will also explore how participants can build on their personal strengths when facilitating or simply joining in collective forums.

Taming the Middle Schooler Among Us
This final session explores what it takes to ensure productive and inclusive engagement among diverse gatherers. We will problem-solve when events go off the rails, identifying common disrupters — the backseater, the nay-sayer, the interrupter, the middle schooler, and more. To foster skills in building consensus in the conference room (and around the family dinner table), we will name dragons to slay, questions to consider, and tools to tap. Through individual reflection, group dialogue, and worksheets, participants will leave having committed to one concept, approach, or tool they will try out in a future gathering after their time at the Ranch.


Melinda Fine, Ed.D., Founder and Principal of FINE Consulting, is a seasoned strategy consultant and executive coach who has partnered with leaders, nonprofits, and foundations of all shapes and sizes for over three decades. A skilled facilitator known for listening deeply, asking probing questions, and crafting meaningful gatherings that foster collaboration and effectiveness, Melinda’s local, national, and global clients advance progressive social change through grant-making, community organizing, advocacy, policy, and more. An avid potter, swimmer, mother, daughter, wife, and friend, Melinda draws on insights gleaned through personal and professional experience, believing that successful collaboration requires embracing different ways of knowing and a hefty dose of emotional smarts.