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Ten Steps Toward Meaningful Convenings

Naomi Korb Weiss, Associate Director, Nonprofit Effectiveness

Susan Wolfson, Senior Director, Integrated Initiatives

Convenings have long served as an essential strategy for advancing social change. Their potential for meaningful shared exchange and powerful outcomes is significant, yet without thoughtful design, may be uneven.  At TCC Group, our approach to convenings begins by posing critical questions: How do we identify the most meaningful outcomes and how do we know whether we’ve achieved them? Who should be in the room? What role should different participants play? What happens after the convening? How can the outcomes inform, inspire, and animate the field?

As we collaborate with clients to plan, conduct, and evaluate convenings that are responsive to our changed world, we draw on our extensive experience and continue to refine and strengthen a rigorous, evolving approach.  We explore a client partner’s readiness, considering their purpose, positioning and power to convene; draw on our skilled facilitation approach; and use our expertise in evaluation to guide follow-up to convenings. Here we share 10 deliberate steps to ensure your next convening is powerful, equitable, and has the impact you intend.

Before: Determine Your Goals and Identify Your Audience

An essential first step is to identify a clear view of intended outcomes. By setting goals and creating an evaluation process, you can gain actionable insights. Additionally, convenings must be equitable representations of all stakeholders in the issue. Be clear on the target audience for the convening and craft a modality to make space for the full range of voices.

Ten Starter Suggestions:

      1. Form a small planning committee and engage this core group in reviewing and reflecting on convening goals.
      2. Conduct a before-action review or pre-mortem on your convening. Imagine why the convening might not succeed and identify ways to mitigate or address those factors in advance.
      3. Reach out to a core group of intended participants and ask them who should be included in the convening to make progress on stated goals. Be sure to include representation from those with lived experience and perspectives most relevant to the convening issues.

During: Consideration and Communication

Social and emotional elements require as much considered curation as content elements. When logistics and content are carefully planned and communicated, participants can feel more relaxed and focused on important work. Consciously consider cultural norms, physical and emotional needs and expectations, and be prepared to address individual issues that may arise.

      1. Build in a mechanism for real-time feedback (particularly in a multi-day convening). Try a real-time poll or a designated time for group sharing and reflection, and establish a process for clear, transparent, and helpful communication with participants throughout the process.
      2. Create a mix of break types, and be a stickler on starting after breaks when you said you were going to start.
      3. Keep language access in mind. Hire trained language contractors, translate all documents, website, social media channels, and offer live interpretation when possible.

After: Reflect, Share, and Apply Learnings

A successful convening may inspire and inform a new conversation.  Evaluating lessons learned and creating targeted programming and messaging for follow-up will help maximize impact and keep attendees engaged in the issues.

      1. Form a working group to review learnings before the next event.
      2. Create procedures for collecting ideas for future actions inspired and informed by convening conversations.
      3. Publish all talks and notes afterwards.
      4. Create programming and messaging for follow-up to maintain momentum.

To learn more about our collaborative approach and how we can help you design your next convening to achieve maximum power, contact us here.

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