The Phone Wheel - a Simple & Sustainable Design for Groups


The phone wheel is a simple concept - one person, who has an answering machine, takes on the responsibility of being the 'hub' of the wheel for an agreed time.
She or he receives messages for everyone on the wheel, then as & when appropriate passes the messages to three designated others. These three pass the message to three more, & so on.
The person at the hub can change from time to time with no disruption to communication. No one has to make more than a few phone calls.(Answering machines save time & tempers.) Everyone therefore takes the same degree of responsibility in keeping the lines of communication open - both ways. If you haven't received a call for some time, then it is up to you to call the person before you on the wheel to find out what is happening. This is especially important if you don't have an answering machine, or if your family is not reliable about passing on or writing down messages.

Not only does the wheel conserve resources like paper, (trees), time - having meetings, putting together & distributing newsletters, & money - cost of paper, running computer, printing, photcopying, postage or other delivery methods, it also keeps people in direct communication with one another, rather than staying at arm's length.

There are variations on the theme. One is a written wheel to be distributed & kept updated, so that everyone has everyone else's phone number. Another is that each person has only the numbers of the person who contacts them, & the people they then have the responsibility of phoning. if privacy is an issue, this works well. Email can be used, either in conjunction with the telephone, or instead.
Yet another variation uses a written calendar in conjunction with the phone wheel. This contains the bare minimum of information e.g.

Such brevity saves paper & resources, has a built-in RSVP (if you want to know where to go, you have to contact the hosts), but allows for forward planning. It also has the advantage that, not being a newsletter, people have to attend events to find out what's going on, & have input into future plans.

A further advantage of a good phone wheel is that changes of plan & reminders can quickly be passed on.

Phone wheels designed to co-ordinate activities work most successfully with close-knit, but loosely organised, local groups. But the concept can be used regardless of locality if it's function is only the passing on of information.

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