For Effective Meetings, Put SPIRIT First on the Agenda

SPIRIT First!  Then SCIENCE, to drive ACTION for the best RETURN.  When leaders use the Spirit-Science-Action-Return Cycle of the Science of the Positive to organize agendas, they create meetings with a natural organizational flow that encourages engagement, fosters collaboration, and maximizes effectiveness.

The Science of the Positive Cycle of Transformation

The Science of the Positive Cycle of Transformation


Most meeting agendas only contain Science and Action items; that is, they focus only on what needs to get done and who is going to do it. Organizing meetings with the Spirit-Science-Action-Return Cycle creates opportunities for leaders to begin by aligning the group around a common goal and to close with meaningful discussion and reflection that builds energy and purpose for next steps.

Remember that order matters in the Science of the Positive Cycle of Transformation: SPIRIT – SCIENCE – ACTION – RETURN. 

SPIRIT elements should be introduced first to establish the why behind meeting. Leaders model the tone that they want to set for the meeting, such as: being engaged, being willing to work across organizations and systems, being energized by the work and positive about its potential outcomes. Spirit agenda items include:

  • Introductions
  • Ice-breaker discussions or activities
  • Goal or mission statement sharing or development
  • Articulating shared purpose of meeting
  • Current events in the community that are concerning or hopeful
  • Discussing the 7 Core Principles for your group or organization

SCIENCE elements come next. These focus on what we know and what we need to find out. Science agenda items include:

  • New information or data from the field
  • Information, brainstorming, and idea gathering from the group
  • Identifying information gaps and needs
  • Research reports or findings
  • Evaluation reporting

Necessary ACTION elements become clearer after spirit and science are established. Action items cover what we are doing and what we are planning. It is where we make sure we are being effective (as opposed to just busy) by implementing best practices or evidence-based actions. Action agenda items include:

  • Committee reports and task assignments
  • Communication, program, or other planning work
  • Strategic planning
  • Items in need of approval
  • Training opportunities

RETURN allows the group time to reflect and evaluate, focusing on questions such as what have we accomplished and how did we do?  Leaders will take time towards the end of the meeting to share a common laugh (as intentional team building), a story, or to reflect on what energized the group most, and how this energy could be harnessed going forward. Return agenda items include:

  • Structured reflection activity
  • Feedback from clients, others in the field, the media or the community at large
  • Report on accomplishments since previous meeting
  • Setting agenda items for next meeting
  • Scheduling upcoming meeting dates

The words spirit, science, action, and return do not, of course, have to appear in the agenda itself but may serve in the background as a structural framework that maximizes engagement and effectiveness. Give it a try, and leave a comment below to let us know how it works for you.