Rapid Prototyping in Digital Innovation: The Path from Problem to Idea to Solution

When it comes to going from ideas to action in digital innovation, rapid prototyping is king. In this free webinar, learn the basics of rapid prototyping to innovate better, faster, and stronger within your organization.

Webinar Recap: Designing Community-Focused Gatherings


On October 19, Conveners.org partnered with the New Mexico Health Equity Partnership (HEP) to co-host a webinar on how to effectively plan and design strengths-based, community-focused gatherings.

HEP believes that every New Mexican should have the opportunity to lead a healthy life, live in neighborhoods where children and families thrive, and have a say in the decisions that impact their lives. We break down silos by working to create critical connections among groups working towards social change -- and one way we do this is through convening!

HEP’s approach to convening is reflective of its core values. During the Conveners.org webinar, we explored challenges that sometimes arise when organizing a convening, such as inaccessible meeting locations, deficit focused framing, and creating space to have difficult conversations. We followed this with a discussion of promising approaches to convening that foster community engagement and trust building, authentic dialogue around critical issues, learning, inspiration, collaboration, and strengthened leadership. The following are a set of best practices that we at HEP embrace when organizing community gatherings.

Planning and Content Design: Lifting Up Community Assets

For us at HEP, it is essential to acknowledge and leverage community knowledge when planning and designing content for our convenings. We do this through the following best practices, which were explored during the webinar:

  • Engaging community expertise: For HEP, community members are the experts. With this in mind it is essential that community representatives serve on planning committees as they know their communities best. This is important when planning for statewide and regional gatherings, particularly when we are not familiar with a particular geographical, historical or cultural context. During our dialogue, Webinar participants also suggested inviting an elder to offer an intention at the beginning of a gathering.
  • Cultivating peer learning in supportive environments: When we plan gatherings, we focus on how we can best support processes for peer learning and sharing our lived experiences. We work to create opportunities and safe spaces for first-time presenters. We recognize that serving on planning committees and presenting are great ways to build leadership, and we want to make sure participants feel prepared and comfortable. During our discussion, webinar participants suggested acknowledging uneven power dynamics upfront and utilizing shared community work agreements to ensure shared understanding of expectations and how to work together.
  • Creative agenda development: We work to be creative, flexible and adaptable with the agenda to ensure that exciting unanticipated dialogue around critical topics can emerge. We also recognize that everyone has diverse learning and communication styles, so we work to provide a variety of activities to support this.
  • Providing diverse interactive activities: We have done this by partnering with different organizations to incorporate movement into our gatherings by centering the arts. This provides different modes for learning, expression, and communication. Through movement, participants can get out of their heads, connect more fully with our mind, body and spirit to be fully present with their full selves. Along these same lines, we have found it important to center the arts in our gatherings by having paint, markers, clay, and pipe cleaners on tables for use. More recently, we had a graphic illustrator capture a critical dialogue around policy recommendations that were connected to our lived experiences. The graphic illustration at the heading of this blog is from a HEP gathering and was done by Erica Bota. We have also visited cool community artist spaces, and learned about community histories via murals and by incorporating poetry into gatherings.
  • Community site visits: In addition to incorporating interactive exercises into our gatherings, it is important for us to get outdoors and be in the community walking. We have done this by incorporating site visits into our gatherings, as well as opportunities for walks or fun runs.
  • Meeting in person: For HEP it is really important to meet in person to make connections, build relationships, develop trust and have a better understanding of geographical and cultural context.
  • Diversify gathering locations: It is critical to have meetings in different places that are not typically considered for regional and statewide convenings. This is a great way for community members to visit new places that they don’t have an understanding or context for, see the strengths of other places across regions, as well realize there common issues and innovative solutions across regions. This helps people to build connections and a sense of working together moving forward.
  • Accessibility: It is important to ensure the venue for each gathering is community-based and accessible.Local/Fair vendors: It is key to provide food from community-based organizations and work with local vendors who pay fair wages and treat their workers well.
  • Value culture traditions: It is important to value and honor cultural traditions, the arts, sharing of histories and narratives, and visits to community sites and incorporate these into our gatherings.

We would like to thank Yolanda Cruz and Ron Hale for sharing their experiences planning and designing gatherings in partnership with HEP for the health councils, as well as our partners at the Notah Begay Foundation III and Tewa Women United for participating in the dialogue and sharing effective strategies for making gatherings more community-focused.

Image Source: Graphic Illustration by Erica Bota


Webinar Recap: Making Complex Collaborations Work

The diagrams above show how connections between organizations can evolve when complex collaborations work. During a webinar on January 18, Zach Anderson, Partner at Converge for Impact, shared why complex collaborations are needed to create sustainable positive impactand what is required to make those collaborations succeed.

No one organization or even sector can solve the complex problems our world faces. That’s why, according to Converge, collaboration among organizations is critical for real systems change. But collaboration, particularly across organizations, is hard, and it typically requires that people engage in ways they may not be used to.

Most organizations are accustomed to operating with a singular focus on their mission and activities. However, it’s possible to increase the scale of their impact by viewing the problem with a systems-lens and seeing the organization as just one part of an interconnected constellation of other partners, who all intersect with the same central issue -- whether it be alleviating poverty, providing access to quality health care, or improving education outcomes. With this reframed perspective, organizations can more effectively partner together in ways that support their existing work and serve their self-interests, while also working collaboratively and strategically to achieve more together than they ever could alone.

Any successful collaboration must actively manage what Converge calls the “Five C’s”: Clarify purpose, Convene the right people, Cultivate trust, Coordinate existing actions, and Collaborate at the systems level. To illustrate the Five C’s in action, Anderson shared the work of the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network, a cross-sector collaboration of 19 organizations focused on improving land stewardship over 500k acres of one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.

Anderson emphasized the importance of building trust-based relationships among participants. “In our experience, which is supported by research, trust is the single most important ingredient in any successful collaboration. Trust is a verbit’s not something you feel, it’s something you do,” Anderson said. “To realize the potential of collaboration, any process must explicitly invest time and attention in connecting people.”

The second half of the webinar involved a lively Q&A discussion, during which participants asked questions such as “Where are the trip wires to building collaborations that work?” “How do you make the leap from a learning network to an impact network?” And “what’s the secret to having the right person facilitate during hard conversations?”

To view a recording of the webinar, click here. And to learn more about this topic, check out the following resources recommended by Converge:

Read more about how to make complex collaborations work in this blog post.

CONVENERS.ORG: The Power of Convening in Changing Times


What is our role & responsibility as impact conveners in a rapidly shifting socio-political landscape?

From travel visas to new areas of rapidly developing content, let's have a dialogue around how fellow impact conveners are responding to micro and macro implications of the new U.S. administration and growing populist movement across the globe.

We'll also explore what type of collective response we may want to orchestrate in the years ahead. As network builders, system thinkers, and professionals dedicated to positive social change—how do we understand the function of our work at this moment in history? What types of local, national, and global contexts might we (reactively) integrate and (proactively) shape through our convenings? In the most ambitious and hopeful scenarios, what sort of strategic alliances might we build as a field to rise to the challenge of these changing times?

Join us on March 15 as Liz Maxwell, SOCAP 365 Product Manager, co-hosts a Conveners.org webinar on "The Power of Convening in Changing Times". Please note that this webinar is only open to Conveners.org Members.


Webinar Recap: The Power of Convening in Changing Times

What is our role and responsibility as impact conveners in a rapidly shifting socio-political landscape? From travel visas to new areas of rapidly developing content, impact conveners are faced with the growing task of responding to the micro and macro implications of the new U.S. administration and growing populist movement across the globe.

Creating a space for dialogue, Conveners.org co-hosted a webinar on March 15 with Liz Maxwell, SOCAP 365 Product Manager, during which fellow impact conveners shared how they are addressing issues that are arising during these changing times.

Webinar participants explored the following questions: how do we understand the function of our work at this moment in history? What types of local, national, and global contexts might we (reactively) integrate and (proactively) shape through our convenings? In the most ambitious and hopeful scenarios, what sort of strategic alliances might we build as a field to rise to the challenge of these changing times?

As fellow network builders, system thinkers, and professionals dedicated to positive social change, participants shared the following strategies during the webinar:

  • Ensure diversity of thought: One webinar participant shared the importance of recognizing the value of diverse thinking at convenings, and that everyone should have a seat at the table. 
  • Set norms for communication: Another participant mentioned that to case a wider net, conveners must learn to moderate language to bring others into the fold. One participant also mentioned the need to have patience with other point of views and refrain from categorization, recognizing that everyone has their own unique experience, and being mindful of words we use to describe groups or ideas.
  • Inviting people into the fold: One webinar participant shared that it's important to make sure that we’re bringing people together that would normally not be together, and that we’re pulling in people who would not normally go to impact conferences. For example, NGOs may have never thought about attending an impact investing meeting, though could learn much and add much value to such meeting. 
  • Take risks: Another participant shared the importance of not being afraid to take risks in terms of audiences reached and formats that are tried.

In addition, participants shared the following resources that may enable leaders to be better equipped with dealing with current events:

  • The New Grand Strategy, great new book on vast road ahead with or without Washington, particularly all that can be led by private sector investment and businesses
  • Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right—and gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions. Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream—and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives.

If you have additional resources you'd like to share with the community, email us at info@conveners.org.

Image Source: meedanphotos

Webinar Recap: Strategies to Increase Participant Diversity

A core function of our work as conveners is to bring together communities and spur dialogue, peer-learning, and collaboration. Inherent to our success is the ability to convene truly diverse voices. In 2016, a cohort of conveners gathered to reflect on the issue of participant diversity—and more specifically:

  • Why is participant diversity important to our work?
  • How do we best achieve it?; and
  • When within our planning processes do we address diversity issues?

Individuals representing diverse organizations joined a Conveners.org webinar hosted on February 23rd to build upon that conversation. The webinar was moderated by Sujatha Sebastian, Director of Membership & Advisory Services, who shared learnings collected from last year's conversation, and charted strategies for how to continue this important work in 2017.

Some of the roadblocks to designing diverse convenings that were discussed include 1) competing organizational priorities, 2) lack of focused leadership, 3) ineffective strategies to build participant pipelines, and 4) event design that fails to consider diversity.

After sharing how their organization addresses diversity, webinar participants shared the following ideas to increase participant diversity at impact convenings:

  • As a conference organizer, take the 50/50 Pledge (a pledge originated in the technology conference space) and commit to have 50 percent of speakers be women
  • Train staff on emotional resiliency in order to create spaces for multiple voices to be heard without having to have feelings of threats internally
  • Find money to cover cost of diverse speakers; these cost should not be passed on to conference organizers
  • Include a virtual convening aspect to your conference, which is also a way to engage people who cannot travel or attend due to various barriers
  • Designate an ombusdman for your organization to ensure that diverse voices are represented
  • Make a personal pledge to not participate in convenings that don’t reflect an intention to diversify

These were the tactics shared by the group during the webinar. Do you have your own ideas? We encourage you to tweet your ideas to us @theconveners.

CONVENERS.ORG: Impact Investing Conveners Roundtable


The role of the impact investor is evolving. Investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention of generating measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return are on the rise globally, and so is interest in impact investing convenings and the educational and networking opportunities they provide. With the growing momentum of this sector, what is the role of impact investing conveners? Join Conveners.org as we host a roundtable conversation about the state of impact investing convening with experts in the field. Come with questions and your own investment convening challenges to explore.

Please note that this webinar is by invitation only; if you would like to request an invitation, please email us at info@conveners.org.

CONVENERS.ORG: Creative Approaches to Convening Cross-Sector Leaders


Too often leaders within different sectors are stymied by silos, and lack the proper networks or systemic strategies to confront complex challenges and achieve positive impact. The Presidio Institute is addressing just that: the Institute fosters collaboration among leaders in the corporate, non-profit, government, and other sectors to make meaningful impact in the world, all while inspiring leaders to work across boundaries. Their latest initiative, Leaderosity, a new online leadership development learning platform for social impact leaders, allows participants to challenge themselves – and their online colleagues – to become more adaptable and collaborative leaders.

Join Conveners.org on July 26 as we co-host a webinar with David Styers of the Presidio Institute to lead a conversation about creative approaches to convening cross-sector leaders for impact. Come with questions and your own ideas to share with the group. Please note that this webinar is only open to Conveners.org Members.

CONVENERS.ORG: Building A Whole Person Economy


According to A Whole Person Economy founder Evan Steiner, systemic approaches require extensive collaboration and the ability to work across a range of disciplines, from mission-driven entrepreneurship, economic development, and philosophy, to academia, public policy, philanthropy, and civic engagement. A Whole Person Economy provides an infrastructure to support these collaborations, build new initiatives, and work together more effectively as a community of peers.

Join Conveners.org and Evan Steiner as we host a conversation on how to bridge silos across disciplines and industries to build a whole person economy. Come with questions and your own investment convening challenges to explore. Please note that this webinar is only open to Conveners.org Members.

CONVENERS.ORG: Building Lasting Communities


As the number of impact communities around the world grows, it is increasingly important for Convening organizations to build communities that last. Tendrel, a global organization for leading social entrepreneurs, is building sustained peer communities through the launch of 20 global forums in 30 countries forums with 155 members as Presidents, Founders, and CEOs. In convening ongoing, confidential, and local peer groups where social entrepreneurs can reflect, share, listen, and support each other through personal and professional growth, Tendrel is building a community of systems thinking entrepreneurs who are dedicated to not only increasing their organizations' impact, but also to transforming systems that perpetuate the very problems we are trying to solve.

Join Conveners.org as we co-host a webinar with Devon Davey of Tendrel as we discuss what it takes to build lasting communities and the best practices of peer groups. Come with questions and your own ideas to share with the group. Please note that this webinar is only open to Conveners.org Members.