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Organise a nuclear ban round table!

Organising a round table is one of the best ways to raise awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian harm caused by nuclear weapons and garner support for a new ban treaty. Few activities are as effective as an interactive face-to-face discussion in which the participants are given an opportunity to state their views and express their concerns. Although it takes some time to prepare, it is well worth the effort, and by following the steps outlined in ICAN’s new round table guide (see below or download here), you might find it to be a pretty enjoyable process.

  1. Working document: To make it as easy as possible for you to organise your round table meeting, we have developed an organiser’s excel working document that allows you to gather all the information you need in one place (click here to download the working document).
  2. Date, time and venue: As you can see from the working document, the first thing to do is to decide on a date and a time for the round table. We recommend you to give yourself at least one month to prepare the meeting, as this will increase the likelihood of a good turnout. The second step would be to find a venue for 15 – 25 people. If you have a budget, most hotels would be able to offer you a conference room. Alternatively, you can ask an organisation whether they have a conference room you can use.
  3. Participation: The single most important factor determining whether your round table will be a comes down to who you decide to invite to the meeting. A good place to start is to contact your national Red Cross society and other humanitarian organisations in your country. Some organisations, especially peace and disarmament organisations, may already be working on nuclear weapons, but remember that this should not be a requirement for participation. Parliamentarians, academics and experts on humanitarian preparedness and international relations might give valuable contributions to the discussion. Depending on how confident you feel about the event, you should consider inviting civil servants from your Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), as these are the ones you eventually will need to convince. If your government participated in the Oslo conference, their participant list would be a good place to start (click here). If they didn’t, invite someone working on humanitarian or disarmament affairs in the MFA.
  4. Programme: A round table meeting is supposed to be an open and interactive discussion, so there is no need for an elaborate programme. However, it is helpful to develop a minimal programme identifying the topics or questions you would like to address and to ask a few of the participants to give short introductions to each of the topics. This is usually a good way to get the conversation started and to lower the threshold for participation in the discussion (click here to download a programme example).
  5. Producing invitations: If you have identified 15-25 participants to your round table and finalised a programme, now is the time to start producing and sending out invitation letters. To make it easier for you, we have produced a template invitation letter that you can translate, adapt and use to produce your invitations (click here to download the letter). If you know how to use Mail Merge or another similar programme, producing your invitation letters should only take a few minutes if you have filled out all the fields in the excel working document. If you don’t know how to use Mail Merge, you can either produce your invitations manually or send your working document and your translated invitation letter to ICAN Network Coordinator Magnus Løvold ([email protected]), and he will do it for you.
  6. Sending invitations: As soon as you have your invitation letters, send an e-mail to each of the participants and attach their personalised invitation letter and the programme. We have produced a template e-mail text that you can translate, adapt and use for your e-mails (click here to download the text). The e-mail text includes links to a number of background documents to help participants prepare for the meeting. Again, if you know how to use Mail Merge or another similar programme, producing your e-mails should only take a few minutes if you have filled out all the fields in the excel working document. If you don’t know how to use Mail Merge, you can either send out your invitations manually or send your working document and your translated e-mail text to ICAN Network Coordinator Magnus Løvold ([email protected]).
  7. Discussion prep: To prepare for the discussion, it is important that you are yourself familiar with the background documents that you have sent out to your participants. So take a couple of hours to study the papers. It is also usually a good idea to liaise with the participants you have asked to give introductions (see step 4), to make sure that they feel comfortable with what they are going to say. Try to think about what the different participants are likely to say during the meeting, and think about how to respond and which questions to ask in order to bring the discussion forward in a good direction.
  8. Setting up the room: To provide for a good and interactive discussion, organise the chairs and the tables in the room in a circle or a square. Research shows that organising the room in a way that puts everyone at the same level greatly increases engagement among participants. Put hard copies of the background material, the agenda, an ICAN partnership form (click here) and a name plate on each participant’s place (click here to download a template name plate). If you are not able to print the background documents yourself, send an e-mail to ICAN Network Coordinator Magnus Løvold ([email protected]) and he will send it to you.
  9.  The meeting: When all the participants are gathered around the table, it’s time to start discussing. Since you are the organiser, it is expected that you or someone from your organisation facilitate the meeting. The facilitator is expected lead the discussion, introduce and close the meeting, and make sure that everyone who indicates that they would like to speak is given the opportunity to speak. If you are a participant, try to lead the discussion in a good direction, and let people know how they can get involved. In general, the more people talk, the better the outcome, so it is better to ask questions instead of providing lengthy responses. Click here to download a set of ICAN talking points on the humanitarian initiative and a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
  10. Report and follow-up: A few weeks after the meeting, send a brief report summarising the main points and arguments raised during the discussion to the participants and remind people of eventual follow-up actions you discussed during the meeting. Remember also to send a brief report from the meeting to the ICAN campaign list ([email protected]).