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To Convene or Not Convene? Why COVID May Be Among the Least Important of Your Deciding Factors

The realities of COVID-19 mitigation make it abundantly clear that traditional convenings and gatherings of most forms are not possible right now. Many organizations whose convenings coincided with the immediate phase of lockdowns and quarantine had little time to pivot, resorting to canceling their convenings. Others, when able, elected to move their convenings to a virtual format.

As the realities of COVID-19 extend into this year’s fall conference season and beyond, many convening planners are thinking through their options. Our colleagues at Conveners.org have put together some great resources on thinking about adapting convenings in the era of COVID-19. But before thinking through online—or in-person—adaptation, there is a fundamental question that needs to be answered: Should you be convening to begin with?

This is a question that pre-dates the hard decisions necessitated by COVID-19, but is perhaps more relevant than ever. We recently released a white paper on evaluating convenings that explored in detail several convening readiness criteria. Below are the eight dimensions of convening readiness that we presented:

One way to start planning your next convening would be to complete a diagnostic. As we have previously described, a diagnostic is a tool used to provide concrete information that can inform a future course of action. A convening diagnostic would help those thinking about hosting a convening—be it online or in-person—reflect on and better prepare for a given convening concept. After an exhaustive vetting, piloting, and revision process with the support of many convening experts, we are providing the Convening Pre-Conditions Diagnostic Tool[1] pro bono along with a custom report. We are also providing complimentary virtual office hours to the first 20 organizations who request additional support in interpreting their results and making meaning from what they learn.

The Convening Pre-Conditions Diagnostic is relevant both for those that are just starting to think about a convening as well as for those further down the planning path. It is optimal for potential conveners that have done some preliminary planning. The tool is administered as a survey through an online platform and while it is possible for this tool to be completed by just one person, we recommend that several of the people involved in the decision-making and/or planning for the convening complete this tool. After everyone has completed the survey, a custom report will be generated that can inform strategic conversations related to preparing for a convening. The diagnostic report will help conveners home in on a clear and powerful reason to convene and prepare the convener to more effectively execute their role.

COVID-19 has reminded us of our interconnectedness—how barriers to connection take away from our collective power. As organizations consider how to harness the value of convening in this new environment, we look forward to learning together and being mutually supportive.

[1] The Convening Pre-Conditions Diagnostic Tool is based on TCC Group’s earlier work on a framework for evaluating convenings. For more about the framework, see A Framework for the Effective Evaluation of Convenings.

Re-Envisioning Readiness for a Transformed World

As part of a commitment to help the social sector emerge stronger from the devastating effects of COVID-19, TCC Group is now offering a limited number of five diagnostic tools and technical assistance—including Convening pre-conditions—free of charge. For more information about this offer click here or email info@tccgrp.com.

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