Moving into Tomorrow with Online Meetings
Roswell NM USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 1, February-March 2004, pp. 8-9.
As our world is changing, so too is the "face" of LLLI. In an effort to keep up with changing times, La Leche League must also look toward the future. In its dedication to reach mothers in all facets of life, the LLL Online Communications Department is growing and progressing. LLL Leaders are helping mothers online in a variety of ways via the many services offered on our Web site at www.lalecheleague.org, including online LLL meetings. LLL offers a monthly Online Group meeting for mothers in the US in addition to six other LLL online meetings (chats) every week.
LLL Online Group Meetings
The LLL Online Group was started as a pilot project of sorts nearly three years ago. Paid membership is restricted to mothers from the USA, since mothers from other countries that are LLL Affiliates or part of the International Division, pay dues locally to fund their local LLL entities. Anyone is welcome to attend the meetings, however, especially US citizens living abroad. These mothers may have LLL Groups near them, but don’t understand the local language well enough to feel comfortable to attend the meetings. We currently have mothers living in Italy and Germany who attend Online Group meetings!
LLL Online Group meetings are a wonderful way for mothers to come to "LLL meetings" even if they can’t get to meetings in person. Mothers register for the Group, and receive a monthly invitation to the meeting. We ask that mothers register so that we don’t end up with a chat room full of 50 mothers who all want to talk at the same time. While we encourage good attendance, we try to limit the group number to have more intimate meetings. Mothers can also join the online Group with a paid membership, which is available online as well.
Like the typical Series Meetings, LLL online Group meetings are topic-specific, and we try to meet for about an hour. We follow the standard LLL Series Meeting guidelines and, like many LLL Groups, we hold extra online workshops for mothers who are interested in becoming Leaders. All Online Group meetings can be a source of great information for attending mothers.
You can learn more about the Group and how to participate at: www.lalecheleague.org/Online1.html
Online LLL Chat Meetings
Online LLL meetings (commonly referred to as "chats") began about eight years ago, using IRC, or Internet Relay Chat software. Initially, Leaders had a "channel" called Lactchat for chatting with one another. Gradually, as mothers began to come and participate with the topics offered, scheduled meetings were offered.
In 1996, more online meetings became available to mothers, hosted by the Parent Soup venue at America Online (AOL). The chat Leaders were trained by Parent Soup for its chat format, and the chats were available to anyone who had the AOL service.
One year later, LLLI chats ventured to a new, Web-based venue, Momsonline.com. This allowed for a broader base of mothers to attend. Anyone who could get onto the World Wide Web could easily come to the LLL online meetings.
About a year ago, LLLI online meetings dramatically changed. Administrative changes at the hosting Web sites resulted in both existing chat styles being without hosts. Online meetings "moved" to AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) for a few months. In those few short months, online staff members found chat software that is compatible with most computer operating platforms, and we were able to secure donations that allowed us to purchase our software. (Thanks to Anne and Troy Easterday, in Nebraska, USA, and the Bellingham Breastfeeding Coalition in Washington State, USA, for their donations that funded the purchase of our chat software).
Today, LLLI offers five online chats using this software at the LLLI Web site, and one AIM chat. These online meetings help over 120 mothers every month. Mothers are offered Support Chats or Round Robin chats, three of each every week. Leading these meetings are accredited LLL Leaders who have been additionally trained to facilitate online meetings. You can read more about LLLI’s online chat meetings at: www.lalecheleague.org/ chat/chat.html
Support Style Meetings
Support style meetings are offered three times a week—twice at the LLLI chat site, and one night a week using AIM. Support style chats work somewhat like a helping phone call. Mothers come to the chat and have their question placed in the queue, or list. When there is an available Leader, the Moderator will ask the Leader to work with the mother whose question is next in the queue. This means that there are often several separate conversations going on in the room at the same time (more than one Leader works with a mother at a time). Many other chat venues work like this. Mothers who are experienced chatters often have no problem keeping up with their particular conversations, and some mothers love the "excitement." Support style chats can often handle a large volume of questions, since each Leader can answer several questions in one hour.
Round Robin Style Meetings
Round robin style meetings are offered three times a week as well, using the LLLI chat site. Round Robin chats feature many Leaders together, working on just one mother’s question at a time. Like the Support style meetings, mothers have their questions placed into the queue, which is kept by the Moderator. Round Robin chats encourage mothers to share their experiences, as they pertain to the question at hand. Round Robin chats also have a "Leader chat" going on at the same time for the chat Leaders. This gives us a place to communicate about the question at hand. It’s a place where we can share our ideas, brainstorm, support each other by finding pertinent links on the LLLI Web site while one Leader is dialoguing with the mother. It also prevents us from bombarding the mother with the same question (which still does occasionally happen!). Round Robin chats are a great place for Leaders, too, to have the opportunity to meet other Leaders from around the world. Many mothers find the Round Robin chats a wonderful place to come for support and encouragement, whether or not they have any immediate questions.
How Can I Help with These Online Meetings?
The LLLI Online Communications Department is always looking for more online Leaders. Please contact the IT Network at ITNetwork at llli dot org (email), and we’ll help you get started.
Connect with La Leche League on the Web!
In addition to our chats, Leaders can: