During this month’s Member Call, we were so pleased to have the co-founder of Conveners.org and of Opportunity Collaboration, Topher Wilkins, join us to lead the conversation around how we can create spaces for genuine human connections during virtual interactions.
One of the main things we have found to be helpful in getting participants grounded and present during a virtual (or in-person) convening is to create a “threshold” moment at the beginning. This can look like a shared meditation, listening to music, reading a poem, or doing a shared icebreaker activity like journaling together. This helps participants transition from their hectic lives, often back-to-back virtual meetings these days, and come to land in the shared space together. During our Member Calls, we usually share an image from nature, sometimes with a recording of nature sounds, and do a breathing exercise. Threshold moments only need to last a few seconds to be effective.
Creating Shared Trust & Shared Space
Our Guest Spark, Topher Wilkins, detailed how they have tried to build a sense of trust and community throughout the 10+ years he has been leading Opportunity Collaboration. One of the main elements of building trust, he shared, is creating opportunities to connect your participants before, during, and after the event and linking new participants with those who have attended the convening in the past – building bridges between the newcomers and the veterans so to speak.
Another member, Karen Ansara from New England International Donors commented on how you can create a sense of shared space and community by sharing your environment or a shared object. When on a Zoom call, the only thing you can really see is the small square of the person’s face so one thing they do on their calls is to share more about where they are calling in from – whether it has to do with geography, a feeling, or showing more the background of the room they are in. During our Conveners.org Trailblazer Member meeting, all participants received a gift box before the convening and opened the box together while on the call so they could have that shared experience.
Thinking About Virtual Equity & Inclusion
Finally, during the wrap up of our call, Conveners.org Member Cassandra Staff of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship launched us into a discussion around the importance of keeping in mind equity and inclusion when looking at creating trust virtually. While there was no one consensus on the best way or best platform to use to increase inclusion and access in the virtual world, we did discuss a few ways that we as conveners can help open access and create spaces that foster inclusivity. For the virtual convening world, offering a stipend to help your participants gain access to better technology or internet connectivity helps to address a major barrier for many when looking at accessing a virtual event. Another suggestion was to set out mutual agreements for the call at the beginning to set the tone and expectations for the group as a whole.
We hope you enjoyed our recap of the call and if you haven’t signed up to become a member of our Conveners.org community, you can contact our Program Catalyst, Sarah Sterling, to schedule a time to speak – firstname.lastname@example.org.