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.