Circle Secretary

Congratulations!! :tada: :confetti_ball:

As filler of a circle secretary role, you keep the circle’s documents in order. You make information accessible, help us all collaborate, and keep us true to our value of build-in-public.

Exciting, right? :grinning:

Role Description

Aims: What you do

  • Basics

    • Taking notes
    • Supporting planning the agenda from the backlog
    • Supporting the facilitator during meetings (timekeeping, helping formulate proposals, suggesting ways to resolve objections)
    • Organizing files
    • Paying attention to the next broader circle’s and sub-circles’ meeting reports, announcements, and documentation
  • Advanced

    • Writing circle documentation
    • Ensuring participation is accessible across our various collaboration platforms (helping members adjust their notification levels, providing technology support, making sure members know how to reach one another in accordance with each member’s communication needs, promoting image descriptions)
    • Training other members on the secretary role

Domains: What you manage

  • Circle’s Google Groups information and membership
  • Circle’s Hub category description and membership
  • Circle’s Calendar events
  • Circle’s Google Shared Drive organization and permissions

Related Circles, Roles, and Policies

  • Collaborate closely with facilitator and coordinator role holders to plan meetings
  • Use the internal comms circle as a resource for learning all our systems

The First 30 Days

1. Share your new role
Let people know about your new role as circle secretary. This helps folks know who to go to for help and makes leadership transparent.

YPC Specific Directions
  • Update the members and roles section of your circle’s meeting notes
  • Post in #announcements (or make sure another member of your circle, does!)

2. Join Circle Role Holder Groups
Get to know other secretary role holders! We learn so much from community.

YPC Specific Directions

3. Become an expert in the top how-tos and policies related to the secretary role
Your project/team/organization will have how-tos and policies related to the secretary role. Learn and follow them, then make them better!

YPC Specific Directions
  • How to take meeting notes.
  • How to add events to the YPC Admin calendar - this is one of the MOST important responsibilities you have since people need to know where and when to meet!
  • How to use google groups, especially how to add people to it. Else they won’t get those calendar invites or any other emails you send to your circle. :joy:
  • How to use the Shared Google Drive. If there’s just ONE thing you teach your fellow circle members, teach them to put all files in the shared drive and NOT their own personal drives!

As you grow in your skills, check out all the docs

4. Ask your circle to give you feedback after you’ve been secretary for about 3 meetings.

  • How am I doing with making sure notes are taken, approved and stored?
  • How am I doing with keeping track of all documents of the circle?
  • How am I doing with supporting agenda planning, room & IT preparations, etc.?
  • How am I doing with supporting the facilitator during meetings (timekeeping, helping formulate proposals, suggesting ways to resolve objections)?
  • Anything else?

5. Update this post to make it even better for future secretaries.


Recognize Your Power

  • “Taking notes is power. Whoever takes notes is choosing what to highlight and share with the broader community. Taking notes is a skill. It requires deep listening and the ability to communicate clearly and concisely - not everyone can do it. Taking notes is about accessibility and transparency. Notes allow people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access information get what they need to be influential. Taking notes is far from menial and the fact that it is often viewed that way is tied to misogyny and the discounting of “invisible” labor. We have all members consent to the meeting notes because they are that important.” —Originally posted by Deborah Chang in the Nonprofit Happy Hour Facebook Group, lightly edited for clarity

Never Repeat Yourself

  • Search for what already exists before creating anything new.
  • Have a single source of truth.
  • If you must repeat yourself, add a link from the repeated information to the source material.
  • Update the source material directly. Never delete its link.
    • If you want to save a historical version of your source material before updating it
      1. Make a copy of the original document and label it something like “2019 version” or “archived”
      2. Add a link to the copy from the original document
      3. Update the original document
    • If you must move the source of truth, add a link to the new location from the original document.

Create Accessible and Inclusive Content

Keep Things Simple

  • Only make policy that is worth doing. “Policy is both constraining and freeing: it frees people by creating a clear frame in which they have freedom to act, and it constrains the options of how things can be done. Each circle has to find its own balance. This might be an enlightening question to ask our circle in an evaluation: are we operating within the sweet spot between limitation, clarity, trust and choice?” —Many Voices One Song § 3.1.1
  • Cut policies wherever you can. What you can make culture is always better than what you can make policy. Also make sure that policies are being created to address root causes, not to add upon all the policies that already exists.

Keep Things Updated

  • Set reminders to review each circle record and policy
  • Teach fellow circle members how to give feedback on and update records

Understand that Knowledge Lives in Community

  • Cross-train your fellow circle members. You’re the lead manager of circle records, but every circle member shares responsibility for it. Cross-training your fellow circle members allows them to step into the secretary role as needed, gives them the tools they need to thrive within their roles, and makes your job more delightful.
  • Cultivate spaces for other forms of information sharing such as a forum for folks to ask questions and crowd-source responses or time in meetings for people to reflect on previous discussions
  • Promote a documentation culture, where people take the time to create documentation that passes on our policies, processes, and stories

Ideas for Improvement

Clearly credit Sociocracy for All
Separate YPC specific section from general section
Add more fun like emojis, photos, and casual language
Create a video where a couple of secretary role holders talk about the role, what people should know, the challenges — can do this type of video for all roles.
Update links so they open in new tabs


Please share this guide with credit to Sociocracy for All and Youth Power Coalition. Sociocracy for All trained us in sociocracy and we adopted their content for our youth-led context. You can add or change it all you want, just keep your work free for everyone to use.

The legalese

You are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

Under the following terms:

  • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
1 Like

@Far-Pritte I wrote the first draft of a guide for new circle secretaries that I hope you’ll find helpful. Please read and let me know what you think. I’m especially curious about

  • What’s confusing and needs to be revised?
  • What can be deleted?
  • What’s missing?
  • How’s the tone? I was going for friendly and informative, not dry and prescriptive. I want whoever reads this to feel really excited.

Yes!!! Like that!!
Super awesome!

And now the other 3 roles :wink:


1 Like

Love that you like this! I feel very accomplished. Feel free to share with others / modify it for more general publishing if you find it useful!

When the need arises!!

This was super helpful and most definitely clear! Will always refer back to it.

1 Like

I just updated this document!

I added some fun like emojis and casual language because I think documentation needs to be fun to be used and updated.

I tried to simplify the document so it’s not super overwhelming.

  • Aims are now split into the basics (when secretary role holders are first starting out) and advanced (when secretary role holders grow into their skills)
  • Links to the top how-tos and policies. Before it was just a link to EVERYTHING and I’m like, that’s way too much.

Let me know your feedback. Especially you, @erinac4163 as our newest secretary role holder!

This looks great! It’s very specific and easy to understand! I also really liked the addition of the “Basics” and “Advanced” sections in this guide.

I added a new guideline:

@jessizheng 's our newest YPC secretary role holder! Jessi, check out this Circle Secretary role guide + follow the YPC-specific directions so you get access to all the fun things.