How we help one another:
How we show up, how we help one another succeed is the heart of a high impact peer-learning network. Each month I’m blown away by how generous members of our community are in sharing their best thinking to support one another with introductions, resources, and new ways of thinking about their challenges. Over the last couple of months we have shifted our member call format to focus on virtual reciprocity circles. With this facilitation technique, we go through introductions, and each person has a couple of minutes to share a challenge they are facing. Then everyone on the call shares their best thinking to help that member overcome their challenge. Thank you to everyone who joined, and below you can find the highlights in case any of these are challenges you are also facing.
How to build community virtually?
This month we were joined by Pola Firestone of Sourcelink Kansas City, a consulting group out of the University of Missouri working with communities around the country to spark entrepreneurship as an economic development tool. As a membership organization, they face challenges in how to communicate effectively with their community. Personalized and individual calls with members are typically how Pola manages relationships – unfortunately this requires a lot of time and energy and can be challenging when you want to communicate across the entire membership. Pola’s goal is that “our affiliates can build strong entrepreneurial communities. We want to understand their challenges and how we as a community can support those challenges – sharing best practices and exciting news.”
Patricia of Center for Purposeful Leadership shared how important it is to put the principles and culture of the community front and center – when everyone comes to the table with a shared purpose – in this case building strong entrepreneurial ecosystems – it is easier to gather and connect virtually – especially when supplemented with in-person gatherings.
We at Conveners.org recommend using the Zoom.us platform for video calls. Not only do they optimize for audio quality – they also offer dial in numbers (with local options for many countries). In addition the zoom breakout room feature is one of the most powerful virtual convening tools we’ve seen. As the host you are able to move people into small groups and reconvene them on the main line effortlessly. You can also pop into the breakout rooms as the host to check in with folks and see how they are doing. As Patricia shared “we use zoom to talk to folks across town or around the globe – it helps to give people another touchpoint.”
In terms of the facilitation technique – we definitely recommend video calls if at all possible – it helps to build a real sense of people being present for the conversation and strengthen the connection between participants.
Invest in introductions – since the objective is to build relationship between participants, invest time in introductions so that everyone has a chance to learn from one another. Ideally include one personal question like:
- What was your highlight last week?
- What is something you are excited about?
- What was something you learned this month?
- Who is someone you admire and why?
- If you could travel to any country where would you go?
- What is a new skill you are learning?
Balance expertise with questions – it is really easy to fall into webinars as a one way tool to convey information. Unfortunately this just doesn’t match adult learning styles or the objective of building relationship between participants. Take some time to introduce a new concept if you have a guest expert – but make sure at least half of your call time is designed for conversation between participants. This generally works best when you have 30 or fewer participants on a call.
Leverage the chat window – chat can be extremely helpful if you want to manage participation from a large group. It gives people a chance to share their perspective, questions, comments with one another without everyone having to speak at the same time. If you are recording your call, then try to read out the chat comments verbally to capture for the video. This works best for any number of participants.
How to engage with multiple events a year?
Topher Wilkins, CEO of Opportunity Collaboration (OC) shared our next challenge. For the first time in 2018 OC hosted two events, a US focused gathering in Florida in May and a Global gathering coming up this October in Mexico. As Topher shared, “we could proceed with a bi-annual platform in May and October, but we are also have another opportunity or challenge to think about how we combine the two into one larger event.”
Pola shared that it can be difficult in a global gathering context to refocus on the local issues. Global gatherings help people to connect – but it gets challenging to get into intensives or deep dives. Depending on timing adding a day before or after the gathering that is regional or issue area focused could help.
Avary recently attended the OC US gathering and agreed that it is helpful to have a sorting mechanism to find your people at a global gathering. Whether that is the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Country/Regional Interests, or roles in the community can be helpful. That said, there was a real power and special level of conversation that was unlocked at the US gathering that was very valuable. Perhaps an every other year rhythm for hosting two gatherings a year could be an option.
Patricia also provided some grounding that it always helps to ask your community – what do they see as the benefits and the gaps? Being responsive to their feedback and requests is core to effective convening.
How do you validate your leadership processes are effective?
Patricia of the Center for Purposeful Leadership shared that it is always a challenge when working on leadership development to validate that your processes are working. Patricia and her partner Craig recently were accepted to work on the UN 2.0 Global Challenge for new solutions to the greatest challenges facing humanity. They are specifically focused on Equity and processes that can help people understand what is truly needed by their team.
Pola shared that the soft skills of leadership are the real crux of successful leadership. “Helping people know they have the ability to contribute” this reminds them of their personal power and can connect them back to what matters most.
Topher shared the OC model where at the start of each day participants spend two hours in homeroom (what used to be called Colloquium) with a trained facilitator to go deep into the soft skills and space to engage in conversations about equity, power, poverty, and privilege.
Avary shared some specific process examples from other members that have helped them in building an equitable team. The 10/10 framework is used at New Media Ventures as a tool for building feedback and check ins on a weekly basis so that you don’t have things that fester or only get discussed at an annual review. With the 10/10 framework the supervisor and employee each get 10 minutes to share anything that is coming up for them where they would like to share feedback or provide an opportunity for improvement. With a weekly schedule even if you miss an occasional meeting it still provides a good rhythm for ensuring topics get addressed before they become true conflict.
Another process framework that was useful from the GreenMBA program is the four-part check in. Having all employees share how they are showing up Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually before a meeting gives you the opportunity to calibrate discussions in a way that is supportive of all members of the staff. This builds off a company culture where people do not just divorce themselves from the rest of their lives when they show up at work – and helps to keep a culture of health and family first at the heart of the company.
Upcoming Member Conversations
Thank you to everyone who has joined our monthly member calls – it has been great to see folks on a more regular basis. As we move into October we will be focused on our in-person celebration of Conveners.org’s 5 year anniversary on October 26th from 10am-12pm at the Social Capital Markets Conference in San Francisco. We hope you can join us as we reflect on what we’ve accomplished over the last 5 years, share best practices, and brainstorm the collaborations we could create over the next 5 years. For those who are unable to join us in person we will have a recap call on October 31st at 3PM Pacific via Zoom.
Our next expert call in November will be focused on designing your convening for accessibility.