SGA Uses Google Docs to Improve Efficiency & Transparency
By Max Sminkey ’13, Student Government Association President
Like any organization, the Student Government Association (SGA) at Ravenscroft requires a tremendous amount of organization, planning, communication and collaboration in order to function properly and effectively. Through the introduction of a common Google Apps platform and the roll out of the Chromebooks this year, SGA’s past ways of keeping meeting minutes, creating event plans/scripts have become standardized, which helps in tracking group progress and efficiency.
The full SGA meets every Tuesday during lunch. In the past, SGA planning took place during these meetings, which involves all representatives and advisers part of SGA. Though these meetings are important to help brainstorm solutions and events time is valuable since meetings are limited to 45 minutes in length. Consequently, having a lot of lengthy detail-oriented planning for an event during one of these meetings can hinder productivity and limit the projects SGA can do simultaneously. The use of Google Docs, specifically, has dramatically increased the amount of projects SGA can focus on throughout the year.
For example, before Google Docs, all SGA meeting minutes, plans, and initiatives were recorded on the “Student Government Forum” on the Ravenscroft website as it was the only medium at the time for keeping track of such things:
Though useful, they way this was set up was not conducive for keeping the plans and minutes organized. Everything created in the forum had to be in the form of a “discussion topic,” even for items that may not have required discussion. There was no way to create folders for different topics, so all topics, regardless of type, were arranged chronologically. There was no standard “form” for meeting minutes so they varied from week to week in their form depending on who was taking the meeting minutes that week. Its location on the website was difficult to find for SGA members, which discouraged participation. Moreover, the forum was only available to those in SGA.
One of the complaints from students has been that SGA operates behind closed doors, doesn’t respond to student suggestions, and doesn’t get things done during the year. Google Docs has helped us address these problems and improve as an organization thus improving transparency within the student body. It still is a challenge for us to make sure our fellow students recognize these resources are available to them, but hopefully over time Google Docs will help bridge that divide.
As the SGA president I see four different folders in Google Drive:
The first, “SGA”, is where most documents and sub-folders exist; and its sharing settings allow for great flexibility:
All Upper School students and faculty can view all documents that are created in this folder, while anyone in SGA can create/edit any document. The other folders have varying degrees of visibility: “SGA-Private” can only been seen and edited by SGA members; “SGA-Executive Council”, accessible to only members of the executive SGA council; and “SGA-Personal”, only visible to myself. This lets SGA share documents appropriately, and keep certain items, like election or survey results, private.
Within the “SGA” folder, there are further subcategories This allows us to organize documents not only chronologically, but also by event or topic.
Prior to each meeting, the agenda is updated with the topics of discussion for the meeting. During the meeting, minutes are taken live and added to the document, including any project updates and action items for next meeting. Again, all aspects of the minutes are editable by those on SGA, so if someone has a certain topic he or she feels needs discussing, he or she can add it to the agenda before the meeting.
The freedom Google Docs provides has also allowed us to become more detailed in planning events:
I’m proud of the way SGA members have taken to using Google Docs. When certain committees work outside of the weekly Tuesday meeting, they often collaborate through Google Docs in their planning. I hope in future years this trend continues as the sharing capabilities of Google Docs allows for passing along the organizational aspects of SGA from year to year.