As a Conveners.org member, Tendrel connects the world’s leading social entrepreneurs with their peers for personal and professional support through peer groups called Forums. In the first half of 2017, Tendrel and the Impact Hub Company partnered to launch eight Forums, with five makers or Impact Hub founders each, in peer groups located across twenty-two cities globally. Each Forum met over zoom or skype for about two hours and covered deep challenges and opportunities in a confidential environment using Forum methodology and structure. 

While connecting virtually is not the new face-to-face meeting, virtual connections can be powerful. Here are a few things we learned from our experience launching our virtual Forums:

  • Training is necessary for success. Moderator training provides structure to follow, models activities, and shares best practices allowing for a self-run group where everyone is accountable to each other. Ongoing moderator support after training is also necessary for healthy groups.
  • Peer accountability works. Attendance can be a significant challenge. Here it is not for a few reasons: 1. commitment to attendance was heavily covered upfront; 2. members talk openly and that is attractive; and 3. having met in person prior to the Forum experience, these groups have a high degree of trust and respect.
  • Virtual is a value add. Some impact leaders share that the virtual nature of these forums is perceived as a benefit. “It’s easier to be open with people who don’t know your teams.” Same as in-person meetings, we see mutual inspiration and motivation come out, meaning not only is positive value demonstrated, but inspiration is contagious and supports interest in others joining.
  • Structure needs to be adapted. The suggested length of calls changes from 4 hours in person to 90-120 minutes virtually. 

Given that feedback is more than necessary in anything an organization does, we found it valuable to hear the following from some of the Forum participants:

“Makers are really connecting and being transparent around issues.” “There is a good level of trust in the group, we actually all look forward to the calls.” “It is great to make the time to connect with people who are going through similar things in different places.”

Want to learn more or get connected to this work? Tendrel is piloting a global virtual Forum in September and invites leading social entrepreneurs to join. Reach out with questions or comments to Miranda Barrett.

This post was written by Devon Davey, Senior Program Manager at Tendrel, a network that connects the world’s leading social entrepreneurs with their peers for greater impact. Impact Hub is a community centre headquartered in Vienna Austria that acts as the parent body of the global network of hubs which foster entrepreneurship, idea incubation, business development and offers co-working spaces.