Convening and the Coronavirus FAQ

Answering your questions around navigating risk and strategies for mitigation

During our last Rapid Response Community Call, we gathered all of the questions that participants wanted answers to, and have compiled them with answers from our guest presenters, Heather Mason from Capsian Agency and Dr. Esther Johnston from Seed Global health, as well as Conveners.org staff. If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please contact our Program Catalyst at sarah@conveners.org. We hope these help answer some of the multitudes of questions we all have right now during this time of uncertainty. 
 
COMMUNITY
Q: If it comes to shutting down schools, especially in larger cities, what sorts of safety nets will need to be put in place for children who have no home to go to and who rely on meal plans to get food?
A: This is subject to local guidance. Schools in many communities are closing and providing meals is a topic of discussion: Maryland And Ohio To Close Schools Statewide Due To Coronavirus
Source: NPR
Q: Curious about much smaller events, 12 person dinner parties. Is there guidance for when these should be considered high risk (among non-high risk populations.) 
A: The general guidance for high-risk populations is to minimize contact with others outside of those they share their home with. Beyond that, even gatherings of greater than 10 people are being discouraged in areas such as Seattle where there is a high degree of community transmission. See this nice article for guidance: It’s Time To Get Serious About Social Distancing. Here’s How
Source: NPR 
 
COMMUNICATION
Q: Also, I’d be interested in a LinkedIn or Facebook group for conveners to continue this sort of conversation
A: This is something we’re looking into and considering how best to implement at Conveners.org. Stay tuned for further details. 
 
CONVENING
Q: Advice on Meetup-style events? We run monthly events with 100-200 people, but they are free and we don’t have a budget for things like setting up hand washing stations, etc.
At this point, and in most places, essentially all in-person conveying would run contrary to the public good. We’d recommend turning to Zoom or other online platforms and utilizing breakout rooms. Smaller events might even feel more intimate and be a good change of pace. 
Q: Any best practices re: collecting feedback from training participants and/or potential training participants?
It’s important to be able to gauge interest in the subject of the convening separate from the concern of attending because of Covid-19. So first establish how interested and/or excited they are about the topic and event, then turn to questions about concern over the outbreak, and then provide options, virtual / postponement / smaller or local get-together. It also offers a place where they can weigh in on the most popular topics so that you could narrow the field of what to offer if you proceed with virtual. In terms of how to collect feedback, Google Forms and Survey Monkey are both free and easy to use. You can also use built-in polling with many online video platforms (like Zoom) to get feedback on your content in the moment. Check out Acing the Feedback Survey for ideas on how to structure the survey itself. 
Q: We have a global fellowship for students in the summer, and a lot of them have been claiming they are in the “low risk” group and are upset about the potential of canceling their fellowship over the outbreak. My take is sharing the #Flattenthecurve idea to them – do you have any other articles that we can point them to in order to help these low-risk groups understand where we are coming from in keeping everyone safe?
Article: Cancel Everything 
Some people may need a visual to better understand that they are from a high-risk area, and could potentially be the source of transmission of the infection to a new locality/country. Consider directing them to this excellent and up-to-date map which shows where in the world the current case counts are the highest to help them understand how we fit into the larger global picture. Or point them to this excellent article from CNN that highlights the very real danger of low risk, asymptomatic carriers of the infection who are likely contributing to the spread of the disease.
Source; Johns Hopkins University, CNN
Q: Why is theatre seating preferred to cabaret-style? Would spaced seating at cabaret or theatre be better?
A: The idea is not to have folks face each other as that’s the easiest way to direct transmission of droplets (sneezing, coughing). However, spacing is also important, and theatre can provide some control over seating distance, especially when mentioned from the stage not to re-position chairs.
Q: Would you suggest temperature screenings at Registration?
A: As public health bodies begin to approve the convening of social gatherings again (potentially this summer) there will likely be additional national and local guidance available about appropriate screening measures for gatherings, so stay tuned. 
Screening should be done by a medical professional.  This should also be communicated out in advance of arrival so as not to shock people upon registering. Some may find it comforting and some may not. There also needs to be an established protocol of what to do if someone is on the threshold – are they prohibited from the conference, issued a refund, taken to a hospital, what’s next?
Q: We run unconferences where people can go to whatever room they want (in person). Looking to replicate that virtually. 
A: Excellent question, and to our current knowledge, difficult to replicate virtually. Currently, our best approach would be multiple zoom rooms linked from a single, well-designed landing page (maybe laid out like a floor plan 😉 but we’re actively investigating multiple platforms and will have more information at our upcoming Virtual Convening Tools and Platforms Skills Lab
 
FINANCIAL 
Q: Is anyone experiencing issues with licenses for virtual platforms?  For some organizations, the cost will be prohibitive – another question of equity
A:  Certainly an equity question. And a difficult one. We’re actively investigating platforms and have been preliminarily quite impressed with Mozilla Hubs, which also happens to be FREE 🙂 
Q: Curious how others are modeling the financial impacts of this crisis. We’ve been considering using 2008 as a benchmark, but are others using other baselines? 
A: The only baselines I’ve been seeing are the 2008 crisis and I would also think of the immediate effect after 9/11 on the travel industry, but if 9/11 lasted over several months) 
 
LEGAL
Q: Would it be appropriate given a force majeure clause in place where we would get deposits/payments back, to sell tickets to an event later this year with a “COVID-19 Guarantee” that guarantees a refund if CA dep. of health or CDC dictates that the event cannot take place?
A: (see sample Force Majeure language below) We think that’s a great idea. We’re in unknown territory here, and saying to a hotel we need to have an ability to get our money back if there is a resurgence, but we’re willing to hold hands with you through this in partnership is a great solution. 
Q: Would force majeure apply for an entire event cancellation if 30% of our attendees are from Europe? 
A: No, not unless you linked a percentage in your force majeure clause, which you can negotiate to have included.  A force majeure would only occur if you were unable to host the event, and even without attendees, you could technically host an event. Sounds silly but legally true. 
Q: If that language to an updated force majeure clause could be shared, that would be greatly appreciated 
A: Provided below – but please check with your legal representative. We are not guaranteeing the provisions below, and are not acting in any way as your legal counsel. 
Force Majeure. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained herein, neither party shall be liable for any delays or failures in performance caused, directly or indirectly, resulting from acts beyond its reasonable control including, without limitation, acts of God; earthquakes; fires; floods; wars; civil or military disturbances; acts of terrorism; sabotage; strikes; epidemics; health emergencies; riots; accidents; labor disputes; acts of civil or military authority; governmental actions or any event that results in the cancellation of at least thirty percent of event attendees. Either party shall provide the other party with prompt written notice of any delay or failure to perform that occurs by reason of force majeure. The parties shall mutually seek a resolution of the delay or the failure to perform as noted above.
 
PERSONAL HEALTH
Q: Are younger people less at risk to get the disease or to die from the disease?  My understanding is that they can be sick as much as others, but the risks of complications are not as bad as for older folks. 
A: Thus far the epidemiologic curve seems to suggest that younger people are at far lower risk of developing serious symptoms and also of dying from COVID19. You can keep track of the updated data regarding these rates using Worldometer.
Q: If you’re self-quarantining at home do you still have to avoid touching your face so much since you’re not in touch with many externals/other people? 
A: The best way to make a habit stick is to do it consistently. Try to avoid touching your face at all times, if possible!
 
SCHEDULING
Q: We have a fundraising event in June that we’re planning on postponing for now. We were about to engage in booking an event in late October, but curious if other folks are holding on scheduling new convenings in late fall of this year. 
A: In terms of what we’re hearing, it’s a pretty mixed bag of folks holding off, scheduling postponed events in the fall/winter, and planning to move forward with fall events. Look for an upcoming community communications channel for these conversations. 
Q: I’m dealing with May events. Wondering if these need to be postponed or if we can hold out for better news 
A: Our advice is to give your community an ETA on a decision now. Keeping them informed will help keep them calm, and connected. 
Q: Is anyone worried about the possible oversaturation of events and convenings in the fall?
A: This could definitely turn into an issue. We recommend the Conveners.org Global Events Calendar as a resource to reference in scheduling your events to avoid unwanted conflicts. 
 
TECHNOLOGY
Q: Any suggestions for event platforms that help facilitate virtual sessions? 
A: Yes! We love Zoom (and its break-out room functionality) and Icebreaker (for its ability to facilitate serendipitous 1:1 connection). Any of the video conferencing platforms can be easily adapted for information sharing (and those sessions may even end up more interactive than your standard panel 🙂 We’re also really intrigued by Mozilla Hubs. For those who’d like to go a little deeper on this question, we’re offering a Virtual Conveing Tools & Platforms Skills Lab. 
Q: Can you point to a great resource to quickly learn the best tips and methods for virtual gatherings 
A: We’re actually developing one (because we looked for one to point people to and didn’t find much) The first cohort of the Virtual Convening Skills Lab is sold out, but your can sign up for the next one here. We’re developing an open-source toolkit based on this course as quickly as we can as well. 
Q: About Virtual Events: the team I’m supporting who wants to host a webinar are concerned about the trust-building aspect of in-person events that are hard to replicate for virtual. Curious if you have ideas or suggestions?
A: A lot of this comes down to changing expectations around the way we show up in virtual space. We have been conditioned to regard virtual space as “efficient” rather than “spacious” so time taken to connect as humans in those spaces is often regarded as “wasted.” Naming that dynamic goes a long way to changing it. Taking time in introductions to get beyond the standard name, organization, job to who people are, what they value, etc. Encouraging people to use their video rather than just audio connections. Even taking time to help people “land” in the space with a short guided meditation. We’ll have many more tips in our upcoming Virtual Facilitation Skills Lab.    
Q: Can you let people self-select their breakout room? Or do you have to assign them?
A: At this time, only the meeting host can choose to split the participants of the meeting into these separate sessions automatically or manually. Participants cannot self-select breakout rooms, but you can organize them ahead of time. We will cover breakout room functionality in the upcoming Virtual Conveing Tools & Platforms Skills Lab.