February 23, 1995
While much of the research during this round of investigations will be conducted in smaller working groups, or by individuals, some co-ordination at the level of the focus group is going to be essential. This is particularly true during the early phases, when resources are being identified, background information assembled, and subtopics defined. We think it's important that everyone in the focus group has some understanding of the nature and significance of the projects that other members and working groups are contemplating. Among other things, you will want to make sure that not too many individuals are crowded into a narrow band of topics, with other very significant issues and questions falling through the cracks.
Having settled on four foci (and there still being only three of us) requires that a more complex schedule of meeting times be established. For today, at 9:00, meetings will be held of "Euthanasia" (with John), "Holocaust/Schindlers" (with Thom), and "Rushdie" (with Russ). At 10:15, the folks working on "Viet Nam" will meet (with John). (These arrangements are temporary, and we'll do some adjusting as we go.)
At these meetings, individuals and working groups will present their written proposals (or, if necessary, make oral ones), sketching out the particular aspects or angles that might be pursued. (The original and expanded feasibility studies will also be available.) After the proposals have been presented and discussed, obvious kinks worked out, and working group memberships adjusted and finalized, each working group should develop a strategy, identifying preliminary tasks. The nature of the tasks, and the individuals or groups taking them on, should be clear to everyone in the focus groups and recorded in the form of "decision minutes." Tasks should be clear and specific enough so that there's a reasonable chance that they can be completed (or come close to be completed) by Tuesday afternoon when your focus group meets next. We'll need to identify someone, or a couple of people, in each group to act as scribes so that copies of the "decision minutes" can be entered into drive Q:, so they're available to everybody as soon as possible.
On Tuesday at 2:30, the Viet Nam and Rushdie groups will convene for progress reports; then at 4:00, the other two groups. Working groups will present written reports, which should also be available in Q: drive, of what they have accomplished thus far.
Looking ahead . . .
We think the more often working groups have the opportunity (and responsibility) to present their work to the rest of the focus group for feedback, the better. After all, we have about a month to do the investigation, so we need to keep things moving and developing. Since you will be reporting and responding to the reports of others in writing, focus group meetings will generally be short and will "bookend" those days devoted to a cycle of reading, reflecting on and responding to reports. Such a day might include a brief morning "text-exchange" meeting, part of the day set aside for reading and feedback, then responses exchanged in the focus groups again in the afternoon. We'll schedule all this as seems appropriate, and the schedules might be different for the different focus groups.
New electronic mailing lists have been set up to help focus groups organize their work and share information. You'll already have received an email message checking to make sure they're working and that the lists are accurate. They work this way: to send a message to all the members of any of the groups, send email to one of the following addresses (as before, the addresses have to be keyed in carefully and completely).
We're organizing some workshops for helping folks learn some new strategies for research; specifically, for working with periodical indices and reference works in particular fields. We'd like at least one person from each focus group at each of these sessions, and there is room for a couple of others who are particularly interested. You'll need to let us know in advance, and the only time that's likely to happen is this morning. Here's the schedule: