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My path as an activist was hugely formed by the Taking Part  project  lead by my fellow activist and lovely friend Angelina Namiba .  Taking Part was based at Positively Women (which became Positively UK in 2010). It aimed to build up the skills and confidence of women living with HIV so that they could get involved and influence decision-making, including policy. Through Taking Part I develop awareness and determination to become open about my status and also  had the opportunity to learn how to read and respond to policy consultations, how to speak in public, what human rights are and how they apply to our lives. Therefore you can imagine how thrilled  I am that Positively UK has now put me in charge of the project has and we have relaunched it this year with a small grant from Awards for All.  So,in 2014, I will coordinate 12 sessions and I will work with people with HIV to increase our capacity to influence decision-making and develop an advocacy agenda.

We have already had two meetings. The first meeting was dedicated to understanding the new NHS participation structures and drafting a plan for the following sessions. Our second meeting we looked at increasing our capacity of being effective in meetings and was led by the former CEO of Positively UK: Elisabeth Crafer, here are some of the tips Elisabeth shared with us,

Getting Heard: Some Meeting Strategies, how to win friends and change the world

In meetings at all times be polite, but very firm show you are enjoying the meeting, engage with people around you. Try to place your allies across the table from you,  don’t sit together, it can be intimidating for other.

To get into the conversation

Do not take a breath, have the words in your mouth

Interrupt

Interrupt firmly and clearly when the speaker takes a breath, this way it doesn’t look deliberate or rude. If they indicate they wish to continue, smile and say: ‘Oh ithought you had finished, I ‘ll wait’ then the chair should let you speak next.

Following on

Do this by assessing when someone is coming to the end of what they are saying, and starting to speak before they actually finish. Be warm and engaging with your point to get attention or the other person might continue.

Relating

Relate your opening statement to something the previous speaker has said. You can interrupt the speaker to add your agreement, nod smile etc. then make your own  unrelated point. ‘as well as this, which I support, there is also…’ Or  ‘I agree and that is similar to… ‘or needs to be take into account…’

Agreeing with another speaker gets you the attention everyone like to know they have been heard. You can then go on to make your completely unrelated point. You have probably made an ally.

Serious or Smile?

Laughing/smiling can  be a good way  of indicating that what has been proposed is not worth considering, it can also indicate approval for a proposal. It is a way to get into the conversation, show your agreement with a point and the person speaking is likely to give way and let you in.

Ending well

Staying serious if you end your point with a laugh and saying ‘well that’s how it seems to me’ you won’t be taken seriously

Don’t let your voice go up at the end of your sentence (like asking a question) you are showing that you don’t really believe in your point.

Some ways to make a good ending

Sum up in a few words what you have been saying

Make a direct request to an individual, the government, the group etc. or ask what they will do: ‘How will you achieve this?’

Or tell them what you want them to do

More information on Taking Part and future sessions are available here

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