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A Rockefeller Foundation Guidebook
THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS
Convenings help organizations navigate the opportunities and challenges presented by an evolving external landscape.
Our problems are increasingly interdependent.
People, things, money, information, and ideas are rapidly moving across boundaries of all sorts, resulting in social and environmental problems that are interdependent and dynamic.
People are more connected than they ever have been.
We’re all embedded in complex social webs. With the advent of digital tools for connecting and coordinating, leaders can find one another with increasing ease, see how their efforts fit within a broader framework of social action, and act in concert.
Yet, there’s a growing tendency toward fragmentation.
At the same time as we’re being pulled closer together, people are overwhelmed by the never-ending information flows and are in search of filters that simplify and narrow what they take in. Similarly, in the midst of so many “friends,” it’s natural and easier to gravitate towards those with whom we share similar interests and worldviews. We run the risk of living in fragmented silos with those who are like us. It is well known among social change makers that isolated action will produce impact that is incremental at best. Funders are well-versed in the virtues of collaboration, shared learning, coordination and collective action. Yet the means to effectively bring people together and enable collective efforts often remains elusive.
In this context, the ability to convene—to bring people together and thereby inspire and align action—is a precious asset.
THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS
Rockefeller’s rich convening legacy
As the importance of convenings increases, the Rockefeller Foundation can leverage its long tradition of bringing together visionary thinkers and problem-solvers. This guidebook provides resources to help staff and grantees build on the foundation’s rich legacy to increase the impact of future convenings.
LANDMARK ROCKEFELLER CONVENINGS
March 22-23, 1935: Convening on Social Security that led to funding for organizations supporting the newly-created program
October 1983: Convening on Child Survival that led to raising immunization rates from 20% to 80% by 1990
2007 and 2008: Impact Investing convenings, leading to the Global Impact Investing Network and the Global Impact Investing Ratings System
June 15-16, 1938: Convening on the interpretation of science to the public in Rye, NY
April 23-25, 1969: Creation of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which played a key role in starting the Green Revolution
September 1992: Creation of the Forum for African Women Educationalists March 7-11, 1994: Creation of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative March 15, 1999: Summit at Bellagio that launched the GAVI Alliance, which averted over 5 million future deaths as of 2009
2005-2008: Unified New Orleans Plan convenings following Hurricane Katrina
THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS
July 13-August 8, 2008: “Making the eHealth Connection” convening established partnerships to advance health systems in the Global South
co-creative convening design 52 53 54 55 2 TO CONVENE OR NOT TO CONVENE • What outcomes can benefit from convenings • Is convening the right tool for your work? • Understanding the issue and 25 creating a shared knowledge base • Creating a shared 26 knowledge base: “pull” content from the participants 6 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS • When should I use a virtual convening space instead of meeting in person? • How do I issue a compelling invitation? 40 • Sample production worksheets • Agenda and content 56 57 58 12 13 • Curating the experience • General guidelines • Choosing the setting 41 • Engagement and communications • Logistics 27 28 3 DESIGNING A CONVENING • The five components of convening design 15 4 PRODUCING A CONVENING • Sample production timeline • Assembling a team • Typical project-length roles • How do grantmaker/grantee 42 dynamics affect the convening. in terms of those organizing the event and participants? • What process tools can I use 43 to build the agenda? 8 APPENDIX • About the Effective Convenings Project • Background on the project • Staff and experts consulted 30 31 32 33 35 60 61 62 • Defining the purpose • Why it’s important • How to do it 16 17 18 19 • Typical short-term roles • When and how do I use graphic recording? 46 • Internal study findings • The practice of designing convenings at RF • Mapping stakeholders and engaging participants • Choosing the number of participants • Choosing a facilitator • General guidelines • Ideal skills and competencies 34 • How do I effectively manage 47 breakout groups? • How do I use comms.table of contents 1 OVERVIEW • The guidebook: what’s in it and how to use it • What is a “convening”? • A convening tragedy • A convening triumph • Convening do’s and don’ts 6 7 8 9 10 (Continued…) 5 21 22 23 24 • Shaping the agenda • Six stages • Process tools • Framing questions • Starting points ASSESSING AND LEARNING FROM CONVENINGS • Designing a convening assessment • Common indicators of convening impact 37 38 7 WORKSHEETS • Defining the purpose of a convening • Assigning project roles • Capturing convening design choices • Traditional vs. and other tools to ensure follow-through? • How do I engage people who are not in the room? • How can convenings help create and develop formal networks? 48 • Perceived structural barriers 63 to effective convenings at RF • Tips on logistics • Framing historical Rockefeller convenings 49 50 • Glossary • Resources: an annotated bibliography 64 66 67 • Assessing group dynamics (Continued…) 20 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS .
CONTENTS The guidebook: what’s in it and how to use it What is a “convening”? A convening tragedy A convening triumph Convening do’s and don’ts THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Overview .
meeting production. innovation. we refer you to external resources for taking a deeper dive. much less a guide to the broader body of material on facilitation. Worksheets in Section 7 provide a shortcut to applying these best practices to any convening that you or your grantee may hold. It is also not intended to be a step-by-step manual. The guidebook was created with Rockefeller-led convenings in mind but can also be used for providing guidance to grantees. 6 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS • Take a closer look at the detailed table of contents for quick access to tips. and ultimately customized to fit the situation. . WHAT THE GUIDEBOOK IS NOT This document is not a compendium of all the available material on convenings. tricks and additional resources related to specific convening topics. collaboration.” to determine whether convening makes sense given what you’re trying to achieve and the resources you have to work with. what it takes to produce a convening. as well as starting points to get your effort underway. multi-stakeholder negotiation. TIPS ON NAVIGATING THROUGH THE GUIDEBOOK • Thinking about planning a convening? Look first at Section 2. experimented with.1 Overview The guidebook: what’s in it and how to use it WHAT YOU’LL FIND IN THE GUIDEBOOK This document contains guidance on the craft of designing and delivering effective convenings. since every convening must be a custom design. combined. Instead. and how to assess its impact. • Already in the planning stages? Review Sections 3-5 for detailed considerations on designing a convening. It’s organized into building blocks that are intended to be internalized. and conflict resolution. “To convene or not to convene. we offer questions and considerations to reflect on when designing and producing convenings. Instead.
drive towards decision-making or alignment) and intended outcomes Designed to draw on all participants to generate insight and action beyond what any single actor could achieve on his or her own Regular.” Composed of diverse stakeholders who represent a range of perspectives (and organizations) For accomplishing a clear purpose (e.1 Overview What is a “convening”? The term “convening” is used in reference to meetings.. processrelated topics Solely for delivering information or a single point of view (e. internal meetings Focused on administrative.g.g. and many others. In this guidebook the term refers to in-person gatherings of between 10 and 80 participants. Specifically: CONVENINGS ARE… CONVENINGS ARE NOT… PRACTITIONER VOICES “I think of a convening as a kind of 21st-century community organizing. a media event) 7 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . conferences. that are at least a half-day in duration and usually a full day or longer.. workshops. symposia.
pointing you to a dark hotel ballroom with ugly carpeting.” “It was an academic seminar posing as a convening.” The only voices represented are those of the “experts” and a few squeaky wheels who mostly use the mike to grandstand. Real discussion does start a few times. It was terrible. You’re hungry. talk. PRACTITIONER VOICES “I was sent these incredibly complicated instructions about how to get a train to this village in the middle of bloody nowhere. since you’re mostly reading your BlackBerry—you’re not given an opportunity to voice them. The organizers leave you with no next steps. but there’s no food. just a “Thanks for coming. because the place is hard to find and you’re given poor directions. talk. When you finally arrive. After another day of the same. no action plan. It’s sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. You’re given a mediocre dinner and you go to bed. If you have any reactions to what you’re seeing on the screen—not likely. but no sense of what we were working on together. figuring there must be some money—or prestige—attached to it.1 Overview A convening tragedy IMAGINE THIS… You get an invitation to a convening.” “The speaker would speak. Getting there is a mess. speaker talk. The presentations start and drone on for what seems like hours. which is reasonable given the time of the day. we’ll be in touch.” You think to yourself: “Never again. speaker.” 8 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . the group would talk amongst themselves. It had all of the accoutrement. but the facilitator squelches it in the name of time. he still kept pushing. and you wonder what transpired in the sideroom meetings that were never acknowledged. but it’s not clear what the goal is. you’re pinned with a nametag by someone who looks bored and tells you to find a seat at a table. Speaker. and repeat. And nothing creative happened in those two days!” “The facilitator lost the group early on because he wasn’t demonstrating to them that they were the experts in the room and he wasn’t. Your only way of identifying the other people in the room is by squinting at their 10-point-font name tags. the convening ends having accomplished nothing meaningful for you. And once he lost them. The topic relates peripherally to your work. so you decide to go.
“These people. and you could hear a pin drop.” 9 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS You think to yourself. IMAGINE THIS INSTEAD… You receive an invitation to come to a convening. The latter is often more productive than the former. excellent facilitation. and a minister. She knows when to push and when to step back. an educator. it would not have been as good. It’s an issue you’re passionate about and it looks like you’ll able to make a real contribution. a task that mattered . What they said was amazing. a shared goal. You’re excited by the people you’re about to meet and connect with several of them beforehand. The location made a difference: if it had happened in a hotel ballroom in LA. and how it changed them. With the support of a coordinator the group agrees to stay in touch and keep one another abreast of progress on commitments made. You mingle with the crowd. superb ideas. as if the universe wanted you to be there. from neurotech and behavior change. You’re already thinking about keeping in touch with them. You leave inspired by the group’s momentum and the sense of having begun something important. “There were amazing people. in the remarkable setting of the Peace Palace in the Hague. Travel to the location is a pleasure. PRACTITIONER VOICES You accept the invitation and you’re well oriented in advance towards what will be discussed. as you engage with others directly on the issues or take time to stroll and develop your own ideas. The organizers greet you with genuine warmth and immediately introduce you to someone who shares your interests. The agenda is a spacious mix of structured and unstructured time. It’s as if time stops. excited about the task and ready to dedicate your attention for the next few days.1 Overview A convening triumph NOW. The convening ends having achieved new alignment of perspectives. We asked each to tell a story about when they broke through a logjam. and you even meet other participants during the journey. it has natural beauty that gives it a magical feel. Logistics are smooth. “What would it take to create such a powerful gathering again?” . and the particular value that you bring. The facilitator is conversant in the issues at hand and also skilled at group dynamics and process.” When you arrive at the site.” “We did a fishbowl with the funder. and expertise being tapped well. unknown outcomes. and clear next steps. You feel full of energy. and every person you meet has fascinating stories and information to share. what the convening is trying to achieve. There was real magic from them being together for two days with a good design. There were really interesting people.” “It was pure ‘open space’— entirely conversation. had never met.
and ideas . gathered from expert practitioners. ideally far from work DO help the participants connect before starting the work DO balance structured work with open space and time for connection & reflection DO give the group leeway to explore areas of interest when they arise DON’T send generic invitations DON’T pick a venue just for its convenient price and location DON’T prioritize “productivity” over the need to first establish rapport DON’T over-engineer the agenda DON’T steer conversation with a heavy hand just to keep to the schedule DON’T use expert speakers as the only authoritative voices in the room 10 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS DO draw on the participants for information. are a preview of what’s to come. DO make the invitation personal DO choose a site that has charm and beauty. perspectives.1 Overview Convening do’s and don’ts These quick rules of thumb for creating powerful convenings. The guidebook expands upon these and other best and worst convening practices in detail.
CONTENTS What outcomes can benefit from convenings Is convening the right tool for your work? THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS To convene or not to convene .
Help them connect with one another. Innovate Explore new approaches and enable creative disruption by reframing. to develop foresight. align strategies around it. and points of view in a form that benefits their individual and collective practice. In addition to the primary purpose. by collecting indicators of how the world is evolving today and diverse perspectives about the directions that it could take in the future. and discover shared areas of commonality. FUNDAMENTALS Build networks Engage a diverse group of participants. While any RF project might be designed around more than one of these purposes. Shape the public conversation and the attitudes of key stakeholders by bringing together important actors and thought leaders to discuss. develop consensus around a common vision. Help build a shared understanding of the system and the problem. and support one another in the execution. Align and act Mobilize stakeholders in different parts of a system to act in concert. build trusting relationships. or recombining different elements and perspectives. Share learning Enable participants to exchange information. expertise. Influence PRIMARY PURPOSES Develop foresight Anticipate potential challenges and identify new opportunities for intervention. every powerful convening should help the participants build networks and share learning. it’s important to have a primary purpose driving the convening design. and to align and act. and customize new concepts for their context.2 To convene or not to convene What outcomes can benefit from convenings The diagram below outlines how convenings might contribute to various components of RF work: to influence. reflective of different facets of the problem. Use these inputs to prototype transformational new processes or services and develop ideas for their adoption and scale. to innovate. 12 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . reimagining. improve.
when strategic fit is clear. If not. review your theory of change. If not. Then. wikis. use the following set of considerations to determine if convening— gathering a diverse group of stakeholders for an in-person gathering of at least a half day—is the best tool. interviews. such as short consultations. focus on mapping the system and connecting players with shared interests. As a first step. focus on supporting capacity for individual action or 1-on-1 interactions. Note: Collective intelligence may be especially important for INNOVATION/FORESIGHT. foresight. hold off until you’ve secured ample leadership capacity and design/production team members. conference calls. people): 1) ample time to dedicate to the convening design and production process.. innovation. design and production support? NO 13 Do you need to be the primary convener? ? NO THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . ill-defined and/or lacking critical mass. research/publication. Is the issue ripe for making meaningful progress? Is there sufficient energy around the issue to “tip” to a new level of insight or action? NO Can the critical stakeholders be assembled? NO Does the purpose/opportunity call for collective intelligence? NO Is an extended block of time essential to doing the work? NO Do you have the necessary resources (time. explore partnerships. consider convening virtually and/or adding a short focused meeting to other events where key players are coming together. webinars. 2) convening facilitation. or convening virtually.. and action (e. etc. Note: Shorter events may work for INFLUENCE. Ask whether convening is the best tool for what you're trying to achieve.2 To convene or not to convene Is convening the right tool for your work? Given a variety of options for advancing influence. When the issue is nascent. inidividual capacity building). Note: Serving as primary convener may be especially important for INFLUENCE. If other entities are holding a related convening. surveys. If the work is better suited to shorter blocks of time (less than 2 hours). Be careful not to develop a too-rigid point of view. When the issue you’re working on can just as easily be addressed by individual actors. consider other modes of engagement that make it possible for key stakeholders to take part. Note: Stakeholder engagement is especially important for ALIGN and ACT. focus first on deeper research and framing. Leave space for being informed by diverse perspectives in the future. and consider more time and cost effective alternatives for connecting the group – e. it’s important to make informed decisions about when and how to bring people together.g. media events. and given that convening places significant demands on time and resources.g. CONSIDERATIONS ALTERNATIVES Can the purpose/opportunity be clearly articulated? ? ? ? ? ? ? NO When the purpose is not clear.
CONTENTS The five components of convening design Defining the purpose Why it’s important How to do it Mapping stakeholders and engaging participants Choosing the number of participants Assessing group dynamics Shaping the agenda Six stages Process tools Framing questions Starting points Understanding the issue and creating a shared knowledge base Creating a shared knowledge base: “pull” content from the participants Curating the experience General guidelines Choosing the setting Designing a convening THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS .
Understanding the Issue & Creating a Shared Knowledge Base Help the group collect and share the information.3 Designing a convening The five components of convening design Once you have confirmed that convening is the best way to meet your goal. and content. Every design challenge is unique and must be highly customized to context. Weave together the venue. 15 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Adapted from Designing Strategic Conversations by Chris Ertel and Lisa Solomon (forthcoming). to build an integrated whole. However. most situations will require attention to the following components: Mapping Stakeholders & Engaging Participants Identify the full range of stakeholders whose interests the work needs to address. and history relevant to the topic. and points of division within the group. agenda components. Use communications to extend your audience and engage the broader stakeholder community before and after the gathering. there is no “right” way to design an experience. Assessing Group Dynamics & Shaping the Agenda Anticipate the different engagement styles. . Then use those interests to guide you to an appropriate number of invitees with the right mix of capabilities and perspectives. Curating the Experience Create an experience for participants that leads to the outcomes you care about. Then shape an agenda using process tools that will tap their best creative energy. participants. Defining the Purpose Clarify the issue area and specific goals to achieve. perspectives. Design opportunities to share and respond. Guidance on how to attend to the overall emotional and psychological subtleties of the participants’ experience throughout the process. RESOURCES The Art of Convening. February 2011. both in the moment and after the gathering. including broader constituencies. Craig and Patricia Neal. internal alignments. both ahead of time and in the room.
and build a strong foundation for collaboration by first developing a sense of community. And if the group is geographically dispersed. You might dedicate substantial time in the agenda to exploring their views and constructing stories about the future. Here are some illustrative examples of the difference it can make: Influence AS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE: PRIMARY PURPOSES Develop foresight AS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE: You might engage participants with a broad diversity of perspectives and expertise. You might invest in managing group dynamics so that everyone feels like they have a stake in the work being done. You might engage prestigious leaders as participants. To allow for expansive thinking.” where participants propose their own topics and facilitate the discussion. THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . You might invest heavily in knowledge creation ahead of time. you might choose a setting with historic meaning.3 Designing a convening DEFINING THE PURPOSE Defining the purpose Why it’s important The purpose of a convening is its “north star” that orients all design choices: the participants and setting you choose. the agenda you compose. FUNDAMENTALS Build networks AS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE: You might choose the participants from a group of people who will need to work together seamlessly in the future. Time in the agenda might be put aside for leaders and experts to share their point of view. then sharing knowledge about the nature of the problem. You might design the agenda as an “open space. and how you conduct follow-up and evaluation. and a broad set of stakeholders. with much of the dialogue shaped by the participants and a substantial portion left unstructured for peer-to-peer connection. Share learning AS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE: You might choose participants who are engaged in similar or related practical work and will be interested in learning from others. To add significance. Align and act AS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE: You might choose participants whose actions have a material impact on the system. you might invest in building a shared understanding of the problem and the system that surrounds it. and who are willing to collaborate. you might choose a removed setting such as a retreat surrounded by natural beauty. so new ideas can emerge and take form. To prepare for that work. to make it easier to attend. You might then design the agenda to provide substantial time for co-creation. Innovate AS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE: You might engage a small number of particularly creativeminded participants from a range of disciplines. You might then design the agenda principally around building community and sharing knowledge. you might even hold the convening virtually.
influence. and six months or more later. return frequently to the stated purpose and consider whether your design choices continue to serve it—or whether it should be adjusted based on new information.) • As you work through the other aspects of the convening. and evaluation. 17 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . 2-3 months afterwards.3 Designing a convening DEFINING THE PURPOSE Defining the purpose How to do it Given the importance of a convening’s purpose in all decisions related to its design. innovate. how do you go about defining one? QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION STARTING POINTS WORKSHEET See page 52 for a step-by-step guide to developing and expressing your convening’s purpose. • Consider the outputs (whether tangible or intangible) that will be created by the end of the event. Identify the specific element(s) that this convening should advance. execution. • Why do you want to bring people together? What can you and they achieve as a group that could not be achieved separately? • How will you know it has been a successful convening? What does success look like? How clearly defined is the target output? What do you and the participants want to leave with? • Review the theory of change for the larger initiative(s) that the convening is part of. and any other efforts within the initiative that it could connect with. • Review the six typical convening purposes from Section 2 and consider which could help you advance those element(s): build networks. • Consider the additional indicators that you will be able to use for demonstrating success during and immediately after the event. • Choose a primary purpose this convening should achieve and any secondary purposes. (See Section 5 for a list of common indicators. share learning. and align and act. develop foresight. Consider how each one will be reached over the course of the event.
org. 18 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . They want to contribute. or passion in the topic you’re discussing. or field) and perspectives (e.. give input on the design.g.g. both narrowly and broadly speaking? What interests and perspectives should be reflected at the convening? Who should be invited? Pick the size of the group based on the type of work they need to do. Develop an understanding of tensions in the group (such as areas of disagreement or power differentials) and shape a convening that acknowledges and embraces them rather than acts as if they aren’t present. expertise. help shape or act on next steps coming out of the gathering)? What avenues of communication and styles of engagement will be most effective? Engage diverse constituencies (e. (See the following page for guidelines. curious to learn new information. or worldview) appropriate for the work. profession... and are capable of engaging in dialogue with minimal ego. type. it is critical to deeply understand the interests of key stakeholders. upbringing. are committed to creating new ideas. Seek participants who have something valuable to offer. What mix of characteristics will make for a productive group? What level of participation will be required to reach the goal? What size of group will enable it? How might you engage them (e. Compose a group of people who will be excited to meet each other and who will collaborate well.” Who are your stakeholders.) Choose people because they have an interest. not because of their title or organization.” “The participants must be invested in creating ideas that didn’t exist before the gathering. play a leadership role at the convening.3 Designing a convening MAPPING STAKEHOLDERS & ENGAGING PARTICIPANTS Mapping stakeholders and engaging participants In designing a co-creative event. political stance.g. training. Include some voices that are out of the ordinary. Develop an intentional approach around who to engage and how to engage them before. nationality. during and after the convening: QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER STARTING POINTS PRACTITIONER VOICES “People actually do want to help other people think and achieve things.
The largest size at which there can be meaningful exchange in plenary. Note: this is a good size for many INFLUENCE convenings. the group can contribute to a shared task. 19 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS .3 Designing a convening MAPPING STAKEHOLDERS & ENGAGING PARTICIPANTS Choosing the number of participants While there are no hard and fast rules. and most participants will have a chance to meet one another. here are some rough guidelines for assembling a group that’s a good size for your objective: SMALL TEENS TO LOW TWENTIES MEDIUM LOW THIRTIES TO HIGH FORTIES LARGE SIXTY TO EIGHTY The largest ideal size for intimate dialogue among the participants to build trust and achieve breakthroughs in how they relate. Note: this is a good size for many INNOVATION convenings. The largest ideal size for generative ideation where the participants all have the chance to build on one another’s concepts.
The challenging meetings that I consider to have went well all involved fruitfully handling power differences.3 Designing a convening Assessing group dynamics QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION STARTING POINTS ASSESSING GROUP DYNAMICS & SHAPING THE AGENDA • Is the group a group—i. they all can and will make important contributions if your process is designed well. (See cartoon below. and tension? • How critical is community building to the convening purpose and objectives? • Embrace this diversity. 20 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Illustration © 1996 Global Business Network .) • Provide time for individual reflection. group work. use of visuals. and other learning tools. divergence. do participants know one another and see themselves as working toward shared objectives? PRACTITIONER VOICES • Research the diverse learning styles and personalities of your audience. “Power dynamics are incredibly important. In our experience. These different modes of learning and interaction are all important for group productivity.” • Where are the points of commonality. most groups are made up of the archetypes below..e. and design accordingly.
I’d rather draw the amazingness out of them. and choose a method of staying accountable to those goals. Also. create opportunity to brainstorm expansively about the topic at hand. COMMITMENT Refine and finalize the options. 21 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . give them the opportunity to connect with one another on a personal level. they have to have an amazing speaker to inspire them. You want to make sure you create that campfire at the beginning and return there regularly. Here we’ve identified six common stages.” “There’s a metaphorical campfire at every convening: the source of warmth. plans. CONVERGENCE Prioritize and refine what has been created and note areas of remaining divergence.3 Designing a convening Shaping the agenda Six stages Most well-designed gatherings follow patterns of convergent and divergent thinking and activity. designs. CONNECTION Welcome the participants.” DIVERGENCE Give participants the space to spell out their perspectives. and help them establish a sense of group identity. come to the appropriate degree of alignment and closure on the issue. important facts. Build towards a shared overall understanding of the issue and develop specific options for action. solutions. or principles. and other shared understanding that is foundational to the work. define the next steps for the participants. each of which may have varying degrees of importance depending on the convening’s purpose: ASSESSING GROUP DYNAMICS & SHAPING THE AGENDA PRACTITIONER VOICES “A really great convening makes the participants the heroes. relevant history. A lot of people think that if they get a great group together. work together on one or more new outputs such as options. identify the similarities and differences among them. SHARED LANGUAGE Orient the group to the substance of the conversation: the state of play. prototypes. paths. CO-CREATION Using the shared language and divergent views as raw material.
for the group to keep doing its work.” CONNECTION • • • • • • • • Structured go-around Group timeline Network-mapping Stand up.3 Designing a convening Shaping the agenda Process tools Each of the six stages of the agenda can be accomplished through the artful combination of one or more structured activities (process tools). some of which fit in more than one: ASSESSING GROUP DYNAMICS & SHAPING THE AGENDA PRACTITIONER VOICES DIVERGENCE Human spectogram Appreciative inquiry World Café Facts and opinions Jigsaw Trade-show presentations • Fishbowl • • • • • • • • • • • • • Systems mapping Open space Breakout groups Rapid prototyping Scenario planning Brainstorming Roleplaying CONVERGENCE • • • • • • • World Café Systems mapping Roleplaying Brainstorming Three horizons Breakout groups Rapid prototyping “[A convening] is a dance between joining and differentiation. And. that differentiation can only happen for so long before there needs to be some joining. People can only have a joining experience for so long before they need to differentiate. sit down Human spectogram Asset mapping Appreciative inquiry World Café COMMITMENT • Dynamic planning • Individual writing • The gradients of agreement • Defining goals and milestones • Systems mapping SHARED LANGUAGE Asset mapping Appreciative inquiry World Café Facts and opinions Jigsaw Trade-show presentations • Fishbowl • Systems mapping • • • • • • • • • • • • • CO-CREATION Breakout groups Rapid prototyping Scenario planning Dynamic planning Systems mapping Open space Jigsaw 22 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS See the appendix (pages 43-5) for details on each tool . chosen and customized to fit the purpose of the event. Here is a selection of tools to use in each stage.
) Who are the participants? Do they know each other? How do they best learn and work together? What are their points of commonality and divergence? How much tension will be there be in the room? Who will be natural allies? How familiar are people with the issue? If its deeply familiar. adapt. but also to empower the community to amend. ASSESSING GROUP DYNAMICS & SHAPING THE AGENDA PRACTITIONER VOICES “You want clarity of purpose. what will make this gathering fresh and exciting? What knowledge needs to be shared and developed over the course of the convening? What overall experience do you want participants to have and how can the agenda help deliver that experience? 23 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . If you’re focused on action. I’ve heard it said that convenings should be a time for the soul to catch up to the body. audience and issue. one has to give people time for it. Start by deeply considering the framing questions below and the design principles on the next page..g.” FRAMING QUESTIONS What is the purpose of your convening and how might that impact how you shape the agenda? (E. there will be a focus on cocreation.” “If the purpose is introspection. ample time will need to be devoted to convergence and commitment. and cocreate its own sense of purpose. if your purpose is innovation.3 Designing a convening Shaping the agenda Framing questions There is no easy recipe for how to shape a powerful convening agenda since convenings are custom-designed to address a specific purpose.
collage.” “You need to give people the sense that they can give something of themselves and truly contribute.3 Designing a convening Shaping the agenda Starting points KEEP PARTICIPANTS AT THE CENTER CREATE CONNECTIONS ASSESSING GROUP DYNAMICS & SHAPING THE AGENDA PRACTITIONER VOICES “You have to pay attention to the fact that you’re initiating people into a new belonging. creating and reflecting. It should also include a discussion of any organized method of capturing and harvesting the insights. It’s fundamental to whether or not the magic will happen in the room. • Serve multiple learning styles by mixing up the modes of interaction to include variation between textual and visual. • Balance serious contribution with playfulness. meals and walks). or contemplation. so that there is a safe “container” for the exchange of emotionally charged perspectives.” • Facilitate participant ownership of the convening. 24 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . • When working on sensitive topics. • Remember the importance of beginnings.. That begins with an agreement of how participants will share what is said whether real-time. • Set norms with participants about when and when not to use cellular and internet connections over the course of the convening. • Establish how the conversation will be captured and communicated beyond the room. and design-in chances for them to start contributing early – including by providing input to the agenda. • Engage participants’ whole selves by breaking up work that is mental and analytical with activities that are and creative and intuitive such as storytelling.g. invest extra time in establishing connection and trust among the participants. Without that you’ve missed an opportunity to tap into something fundamental in the human spirit. PAY ATTENTION TO FLOW OF THE AGENDA • Balance structured and unstructured time. Have a strong agenda and expect that it will need to be adjusted in real-time in order to meet the group’s needs. fun and creativity. think carefully about which people to seat together at dinner. • Provide opportunities and information that enable participants to connect in advance of the convening. transitions (from one activity to the next) and closings. For example. or afterwards. Plan for how each participant can make a meaningful contribution. • Create experiences that offer the opportunity for new relationships to be born. and making that feel really good. ESTABLISH GROUND RULES • Discuss principles at the start for how the group wants to interact. Leave plenty of time for one-on-one connection (e. • Plan to improvise. analytical and emotional. via social media.
additional experts. or when there is not time to construct the picture collectively. and to end their presentation with a question about something they don’t yet know.3 Designing a convening UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUE & CREATING A SHARED KNOWLEDGE BASE Understanding the issue and creating a shared knowledge base Productive collaboration requires the group to work from a shared foundation of information. Encourage speakers to connect with the participants by sharing their personal experience. but don’t assume that anything other than the participant bios will be read by everyone. sharing. Engage in collective history-telling and landscape-mapping for the issue to give each participant the chance to have their point of view heard early in the session and surface any potential disagreements. What knowledge of the topic is shared by the group. and for their ability to stimulate conversation and advance understanding as fellow participants. both ahead of time and in the room. and responding to that content. and history relevant to the topic. it is especially helpful to include presentation material with the pre-reading. Research and share background information on unresolved questions when the participants would not know the full picture themselves. Make sure all presentations are easy to follow. . perspectives. or a combination?) Provide ample time to absorb any material you send ahead of time. For non-native English speakers. 25 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Who are the best sources of information and perspectives? (The convener. and what is unknown or not fully clear to anyone? What perspectives are generally accepted and where are the points of controversy? What additional knowledge might help provoke new insight? Choose presenters for what they can contribute. QUESTIONS TO ASK STARTING POINTS How does this discussion build on the history of effort to advance progress on the issue? Interview knowledgeable participants beforehand and share their perspectives as a pre-read to help get the group up to speed. not for their prominence or position. It is often worthwhile to spend time collecting. the participants. what is known only to some.
3 Designing a convening UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUE & CREATING A SHARED KNOWLEDGE BASE Creating a shared knowledge base: “pull” content from the participants GENERAL APPROACH RESOURCES Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment. which creates resistance in participants and dampens their participation. EXAMPLE: THE IMPACT SOURCING CONVENING When the Rockefeller Foundation set out to accelerate the field of impact sourcing in Africa. He gives it that term because it puts the audience in the position of constantly receiving a pre-determined set of information. with the event ordered by the organizer and each session’s ideas ordered by the speaker. Instead. and potential for growth. Shares best practices in using visualization to provide teams with a common language. it also offers very limited opportunities for input and exchange. the leading actors were all invited to a convening where they were encouraged to comment on a draft of the research and provide specific input into the field’s boundaries. publish a whitepaper. While this is often the best format for conveying ideas from one person to many. A typical “push” approach might have been to commission the researchers to collect information. & High Performance. Innovation. He recommends balancing the typical “push” approach with “pulling participation” where the choices of what to discuss and the content of the conversation are drawn out of the participants. direction. David Sibbet. and then release it at an event where the leading actors were invited to hear it and ask questions. page 8. 26 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . This gives the participants a series of clear and focused opportunities to add value to what the group was gathered to accomplish. 2011. Source: Visual Teams by David Sibbet. The event served to weave tighter connections among the players. and the final whitepaper carried far greater weight for including their input. it took the approach of working with Monitor Inclusive Markets to gather points of view from the field’s leading actors and combine those with independent research to produce a whitepaper on the field’s emergent form and direction. The traditional use of content in a conference is described as a “push” model by David Sibbet in Visual Teams.
Select a venue that will enable the type of experience you want to create. Produce materials that reflect the purpose and intended feel of the gathering. agenda components. whatever that brand is. Account for how different participants may experience the event. Design the event to reflect a personality: the group’s. binding. Provide giveaways that will trigger participants’ memory of the convening in the future.” “If I’m developing an event. framing the content. our field. 27 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS What spaces and activities can create such an experience? . and bold color). we’ve gotten to focus on the smaller details. For example. it doesn’t have to be glitzy and glamorous and high production value. or our country. and give them a reason to tell a story about it to others. QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER STARTING POINTS PRACTITIONER VOICES “There should be a sense of excitement that we’re embarking on something that matters—for our sector. use as many visuals as possible. It has to be on-brand. and make any printed content stand out (such as through unusual paper stock. to create an integrated whole. and content. crafting the agenda. or the issue’s. Make it memorable. including how the experience may shift over the duration of the convening. and managing the logistics. but as the years have gone by. Rockefeller’s. Think of yourself as a curator weaving together the participants. both in the moment and after the gathering. Create new and unique experiences. you may want a convening that feels disruptive.” What type of experience do you want to create? Intimate? Groundbreaking? Concrete? What would you like to hear participants saying about the event? What type of experience will be a good fit with your purpose? For example. size.” “At first we were focusing on logistics and plenary speakers. invest in high quality design. if your purpose is innovation. which we’ve discovered can be the most important part of a person’s experience. What might “disruptive” look like across all components of convening design and production? How might the Rockefeller Foundation brand be reflected in the convening experience? Keep your desired experience top of mind at all times during the convening design and production process – when engaging participants.3 Designing a convening CURATE THE EXPERIENCE Curating the experience General guidelines All of the design and production work of a convening ultimately creates an experience for participants that helps them contribute to the outcomes you care about. Anticipate and be ready to meet their needs.
and group outings nearby For promoting connection within the group Substantial open wall space For graphic recording and working with flipcharts. or the topic’s global hotspot Multiple seating options (sofas. Here is a checklist of qualities to consider seeking: FREQUENTLY VALUABLE SOMETIMES VALUABLE ALWAYS VALUABLE PRACTITIONER VOICES “Meetings at convention centers and hotels seem easier to plan and get to and but are literally more difficult to squeeze something good out of.” Natural light and access to outdoors To provide physical and mental energy Uniqueness that the group will appreciate To help the experience stand out. in the moment and in recollection Ease of travel. high chairs.” Good acoustics To promote sound projection so that everyone can be heard Multiple rooms For breakout groups or parallel sessions Movable chairs and tables For easy setting and resetting of the space. whether centrally located or remote So participants have a smooth. where tape can be applied Relevance to the purpose Such as being in the home country of key participants. café tables. It’s that someone put flowers on the table that they brought from their garden. and perhaps even far away To separate participants from everyday concerns and allow for deep conversation The opportunity for leisure. new experiences. such as from a single circle to small groups Off-site. non-stressful arrival and departure “Creating space that is physically and psychologically welcoming is hugely important to creating positive outcomes.3 Designing a convening CURATE THE EXPERIENCE Curating the experience Choosing the setting Location and surroundings of a convening have far more effect on the group’s productivity than is commonly believed.) To promote an informal and open group conversation 28 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Limited or no Internet connectivity To promote particularly deep conversation & reflection .” “Don’t underestimate the value of beauty. etc. It’s not the fancy hotel that we’re at. especially nature.
CONTENTS Sample production timeline Assembling a team Typical project-length roles Typical short-term roles Choosing a facilitator General guidelines Ideal skills and competencies Tips on logistics Producing a convening .
logistical and prep information • Initiate any shared online space where the participants can connect LOGISTICS • Choose the date and location (ideally at 12 mos. bio book) • Finalize outing details • Work with venue on logistics.4 Producing a convening Sample production timeline Producing a convening requires substantial advanced planning. • find partners. and has to happen on a carefully managed timeline. and supporting facilitation guidelines) materials • Refine presentations • Finalize & pre-reads presentations & pre-reads ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS • Map stakeholders • Interview core • Issue second-wave • Issue backup (ideally at 12 mos. If a grantee is the convener.) • Define the objectives (ideally at 12 mos.) • Contract with a local partner (if necessary) • Issue RFP to hotels • Process travel visas • Choose venue (if not a hotel) • Choose a hotel • Research dinner and outing prospects • Contract with a graphic designer • Make dinner reservations • Develop first draft of outing agenda • Contract for A/V services • Finalize outing agenda. handouts. and catering • Print & ship simple paper products (signs.g.) invitees (about their invites (including participant and interests. 12 to 9 months 6 months AGENDA AND CONTENT • Assemble the team.) • Brainstorm design ideas Draft & circulate a high-level design Begin research for presentations & prereads • Gather and respond to design input • Continue research for presentations & pre-reads • Refine the design • Continue research for presentations & pre-reads • Continue to refine the design • Create first draft of presentations & prereads • Iron out “micro • Create templates design” (e. begin arranging details • Purchase air and • Print complex paper ground transport products (e.. setup. and run RFP process (ideally at • 12 mos.g. name tags) • Assemble & ship table supplies 30 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Critical period when additional staffing will be needed . availability presenters) presenter invites (if • Identify core invitees to participate and necessary) (including potential • Identify backup others to engage) presenters if invitees & presenters • Communicate needed) • Issue core invites important info • Request bios & regarding travel • Identify second-wave special needs reservations invitees • Request remaining bios & special needs • Finalize bio-book design (if formal bio book is needed) • Request remaining bios (if necessary) • Produce bio book content • Recruit participants to blog & tweet during or after the event • Communicate important travel. flipcharts. additional lead time will naturally be needed for issuing an RFP and selecting a partner. Here is a rough timeline for a convening of ~80 people: 5 months 4 months 3 months 2 months 1 month EVENT WORKSHEET See page 56-58 for worksheets on each of the three workstreams.
A typical set of project-length roles includes: WORKSHEET See page 53 for a worksheet on assigning these roles DIRECTOR PRODUCER • Conceptualize the intellectual program and agenda. • Collaborate with the Communication Manager on pre. • During the event. 31 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS • If the meeting takes an unexpected turn.and post-meeting content deliverables. . • Ensure that the meeting design fits with the available space and logistical support. • Work with Producer on the editing and proofing of all deliverables. and on-site staff and logistics. • Collaborate with Director to determine the best post-meeting content deliverables. COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER PROCESS FACILITATOR • Advise the Director in developing the meeting design. run the process as defined by the Director. work with the group to improvise a productive new course. • Communicate with participants before and after. but there are many distinct “hats to wear” in the process. • Work directly with Producer to ensure production/logistical support for meeting design and to determine additional content/design staffing needs. • Coordinate all aspects of content and design.4 Producing a convening Assembling a team Typical project-length roles A convening team will often not require more than three or four members. • Design for flawless logistics so that participants can focus their energy on the work at hand and feel well cared for. • Manage the budget. • Manage all other production tasks (see “Tips on logistics” below). project production timeline. • Manage production of post-meeting deliverables. skillfully integrating social media.
• Develop the content and presentation material with the Producer and Communications Manager. pricing. transport. and final deliverables. (Rule of thumb: have one producer or production assistant at the event for every 50 participants. vendors. provide logistical support to the Producer as needed. such as in the initial conceptualization of the event. and arranging appropriate venues. event materials. Advise the Director and Producer on elements of the content and event design. LOCAL PRODUCTION PARTNER PRODUCTION ASSISTANT During the event.4 Producing a convening Assembling a team Typical short-term roles A number of roles in creating a convening only require short-term or more episodic involvement. and other resources in the area where the convening is to be held. (Helpful for planning an event that will be held in another country.) 32 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . support staff. • Identify potential participants and speakers. They are: WORKSHEET See page 53 for a worksheet on assigning these roles RESEARCHER CONTENT & DESIGN CONSULTANTS • Support the Director with research and maintaining meeting design documentation.) Support the Producer by identifying.
FINDING A FACILITATOR PRACTITIONER VOICES “A facilitator is at once the most humble and most confident person in the room. difference.” “As a facilitator. It’s from difference that the new thinking will emerge.) • Values and character—do you share agreement on what impact is desirable and how it should be achieved? • Working style—do you have similar taste in the level of structure you bring to the task? • Relationship “chemistry”—do you have smooth conversations and find it easy to make decisions? • Timing—is the facilitator available at the time and place that is required? Also. HOW TO DETERMINE A GOOD FIT* • Skills and competencies—does the facilitator have the skills and competencies critical for your situation? (See the list on the next page. If you’re just being polite and agreeable with everyone else. If you choose to go this route. Keep in mind that there is no standard credentialing for facilitation: being included in a directory – or not – does not have any bearing on the person’s skill level. • Cost—is the facilitator’s fee a match for your budget and sense of fair value? RESOURCES The International Association of Facilitator’s directory of certified facilitators: http://bit. Tom Devane. . your opportunity for a breakthrough is much reduced.” • Since you’ll need to have a high level of trust in the facilitator. 2006. Page 38. or by having seen the facilitator in action. diversity. and conflict is my friend.4 Producing a convening Choosing a facilitator General guidelines The convening facilitator plays a critical role in ensuring that the group can achieve its full potential. Below are a few guideposts to assist you in finding and choosing a facilitator. give yourself ample time to vet and get to know candidates. you’ll be best served by recommendations from trusted colleagues. 33 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS * List adapted from The Change Handbook by Peggy Holman. ENGAGING A FACILITATOR • Involve the facilitator as early as possible in helping engage participants and shape the agenda. Note: this and any other directory should be used as a last resort or a supplement to trusted recommendations.ly/vAeAob. • There are directories of facilitators (listed on the left). and Steven Cady. be sure to consider the extent to which the facilitator may perform some of the front-end work designing the convening and engaging participants. not my enemy. It’s from clashes that new power will be found.
” “Great facilitation pays attention to the whole being: spirit. A capable user of a wide range of process tools. . experience with futures thinking tools may be important when your purpose is developing foresight. Puts the group first. Attuned to participants’ diverse cultural outlooks and perspectives. groups react in unpredictable ways. without making it seem chaotic and disorganized.” “No matter how much prep you do. Skilled at storytelling and real-time synthesis. Flexible enough to adjust during the convening. draw out underlying beliefs and promote mutual understanding. Page 38. and body. and Steven Cady. Tom Devane. and how much you think you know the group. has real skill. has excellent listening skills and won’t push his/her own agenda. Neutral in engaging diverse perspectives on the topic.” 34 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS * List adapted from The Change Handbook by Peggy Holman.4 Producing a convening Choosing a facilitator Ideal skills & competencies A good facilitator should have many of the following skills and competencies: Process experience and capabilities that specifically fit your convening’s purpose. on clarifying and aligning around the purpose. especially in challenging moments. Credible as a result of being conversant in the language and issues central to the convening topic. and humble. and making that as participative a process as it can be. People have different emphases. Capable of probing gently to encourage full participation. Emotionally centered. For example. confident. mind. Good at preparing the group for the upcoming stages of work so that they know what to expect. both in the advance design and in the moment. to ensure they're accurately measuring and meeting the needs of the group. and therefore able to facilitate focused dialogue and work while giving the group ample space to take the conversation where they want to. A facilitator who can change everything on the fly. PRACTITIONER VOICES “A facilitator should have a ferocious concentration on the quality of the human experience. 2006. Balances control and emergence. soul.
4 Producing a convening Tips on logistics Skillfully producing a convening benefits from the judgment that comes with experience. water. translators. weather. slinkies. “Make it easy for people to be there. For a touch of playfulness. e. at this time. Site-related logistics: Make sure all the participants have the information they need to travel to the location and find their way around. to do this thing. follow up with a request for not only their bio but also any relevant information about their particular needs. and work with the Director to make sure that the design can work within those constraints. or shipping delays. flipcharts. Make backup plans: Anticipate how to handle any potentially disruptive outside forces. Legos. tea.g. stress balls. as with effective convenings in general.. Avoid swings in physical and mental energy by minimizing heavy main dishes. voting dots.” Shop around for the venue and accommodations: To get the best price on a hotel. its invaluable to work with a local event production company that is well connected with local vendors. Discover participants’ needs: When you get a positive response from an invitee. and snacks. paper. and easels. sugary snacks. PRACTITIONER VOICES Provide ample table supplies: Anticipate the participants’ needs and support the agenda’s activities by providing ample table supplies—pens. sharpies. large stickies. Make it feel like the universe is aligned with them coming. Those that are medium-sized (staff size of approximately eight) are typically the best balance of being large enough to handle the work but small enough to treat it with care. Ideally. put out an RFP out to 3-5 venues. food should be available at all times. and any other information that will be helpful for meeting their needs and/or integrating their experience into the agenda. 35 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Provide good food: The basics are essential to productivity—coffee. or anything else that people can manipulate with their hands. and visit in person if possible. and carbohydrates. negotiate with them. and should be chosen to be high-quality and healthy. meal preferences. Check on connectivity: Establish how strong and reliable the Internet and cellular connections are at the site. executing on these tips takes time to do well): Use a local partner: When producing a convening abroad. include “fidget toys” such as silly putty. such as unusually bad traffic. . Here are some guidelines offered from seasoned producers (and note that. A professional meeting producer will often be more successful at securing the best value. breakfast or lunch as appropriate.
Assessing and learning from convenings CONTENTS Designing a convening assessment THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Common indicators of convening impact .
2-3 months after and 6+ months after o Emphasize learning. action. rather than attribution Capture and share what is learned.” “Things that produce deep and lasting change you won’t be able to see quickly. and ask questions that dig into the quality of the experience and participants’ satisfaction with the investment of their time.” “Often people really overestimate what’s possible in a convening! You need to dial back. be realistic. Assessing that work is challenging since causality is hard to assign and the time horizons required for change are long. and get people to recognize that group process is slow. Follow up personally with the participants and any key stakeholders after enough time that they can start to see what value the convening produced for them. in tandem with defining the convening purpose and intended outputs Identify where the convening fits within a broader theory of change and plan for action Assess multiple times—immediately after a convening.5 Assessing and learning from convenings PRACTITIONER VOICES Designing a convening assessment Rockefeller convenings are part of larger efforts to change complex systems. since convenings often plant seeds for the future o Focus on meaningful contribution toward impact. Debrief the process with all the organizers in a way that is open and honest. and lasting change over simply the transfer of information. If the event is part of a series. which is often at 2 to 3 months. 37 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . A phone call is more likely to get a thoughtful response than an email. keep as many questions constant as possible for longitudinal comparison. as well as programmatic learning Survey the participants at or immediately after the event. adding to institutional learning about holding effective convenings. for this specific group or for convening production in general. and capture detailed notes for how to improve the process in the future.” Design the assessment plan at the start of the work. Be as comprehensive as you can without overtaxing their attention span. Here are some guidelines on how to track and reflect on what has worked: STARTING-POINTS: DESIGNING AN ASSESSMENT STARTING-POINTS: SHORT-TERM FOLLOWUP “The one way I judge in the instant is body language. You read people. Assessing the impact of an isolated convening within a broader systems change effort is a similarly difficult proposition.
Prior to the convening. new connections established. listserv activity) • Level of knowledge applied that was developed during the convening • Progress made on next steps articulated at convening • Continued work on the outputs • Extent to which participants initiate new projects or activities inspired by convening Same as 2-3 months after..5 Assessing and learning from convenings Common indicators of convening impact Different aspects of a convening’s impact can be measured at different intervals after the event.. CONVENING PRACTITIONER VOICES “Our scenario work in East Africa seems to be behaving a bit like a wine.’” “Be realistic about the goalposts: not every convening will achieve breakthrough results.g. so there can be no single standard. level of trust) • Extent to which participants energized and motivated to act (e.. are now recognized in the common vocabulary. maturing with time.g. plus… Whether the convening is viewed as making an important contribution to: • Shifts in the public discourse • New tools or services being developed • Stronger performance by organizations and groups working in the system • Progress on desired fieldlevel outcomes 38 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS • Emergence of new collaborations among participants who connected at the convening Note on timeframe: many of these indicators may not be visible until several years after the convening . People will come back occasionally and say: ‘You know. be sure to gather data on participant expectations – what they say want to get out of the gathering – and integrate into your indicators of impact. a new prototype or protocol) and concreteness of next steps • Levels of ongoing communication and other information flow among participants (e.” DURING & IMMEDIATELY AFTER 2-3 MONTHS 6+ MONTHS • Level of participant engagement • Strength of community (e. commitment or demonstrated willingness to take part in follow-on activities) • Level of knowledge extracted from what was developed during the convening • Tangibility and usefulness outputs (e..g. those things you said about 7 or 8 years ago. Every convening serves a different contextual purpose. but the list below is a starting place for what indicators are often relevant.g.
CONTENTS When should I use a virtual convening space instead of meeting in person? How do I issue a compelling invitation? How do grantmaker/grantee dynamics affect the convening. in terms of those organizing the event and participants? What process tools can I use to build the agenda? When and how do I use graphic recording? How do I effectively manage breakout groups? How do I use communications and other tools to ensure followthrough? How do I engage people who are not in the room? How can convenings help create and develop formal networks? THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Frequently asked questions .
training courses. and even designing an object.” “If they’re good. Here are some guidelines for how to use virtual space well: CONDITIONS FOR CONVENING VIRTUALLY: IF VIRTUAL CONVENINGS VS. and live demos during conference calls MeetingWords for making realtime notes captured visible WikiSpaces for co-creation of content in a wiki format WordPress or Blogger for publishing blog posts and getting comments over time Google Groups or Yahoo! Groups for discussion over time using email Ning or the groups feature of Facebook or LinkedIn for discussion over time in the setting of a social network IF IF There are participant availability issues.ly/tQAZC9. whereas a virtual community is an ongoing meetingplace where a group can meet repeatedly and for a variety of purposes. For the complete details on the lessons they learned. Both formats would have served its goal of broadening the dialogue around the second annual Millennial Donor Survey. I don’t know how you get around being there [in person]. it considered both in-person and virtual options for bringing together about 1. or FreeScreenSharing for webinar-style sharing of slides. But if you’re trying to build trust. online communities can meaningfully connect people. with a strong facilitator to lead and structure the conversation. they pose challenges to achieving that sense of community and high interactivity which give convenings their special feel. a site hosted by Skoll Foundation where participants in the thousands converge to read and discuss content connected to a certain broad-based set of current affairs.6 Frequently asked questions PRACTITIONER VOICES “Virtual work is great for planning and transactional exchanges. but Case felt it was especially important to involve individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and industries who might not have been able to participate otherwise. an example of a virtual community is SocialEdge.000 of its target audience of executives across sectors. One example of virtual convening would be for a group of 30 content experts to provide input into scenario planning through a time-bound conversation on a mailing list. or there are some other hard constraints which prevent meeting in person RECENT EXAMPLE: THE CASE FOUNDATION’S MILLENNIAL DONOR SUMMIT When the Case Foundation wanted to highlight the latest trends in giving and engagement by the Millennial generation. . they lack resources. By contrast. But while online gatherings may sound easier. see: 40 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS “Your Virtual Seat Awaits: Key Takeaways from Planning and Executing a Virtual Convening.” TOOLS When should I use a virtual convening space instead of meeting in person? Virtual meeting spaces are very flexible and are naturally suited for speeches. IF Go2Meeting.” available at http://bit. video. VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES: The participants have at least moderate comfort with socializing online The participants all have sufficient connectivity for easy participation There are too many people to gather in person The urgency is high enough that organizing an in-person meeting would take too long IF A virtual convening is a one-time gathering for a specific purpose. Adobe Connect Pro. seminars. or meetings of far-flung teams and already-established networks.
Give the invite an eyecatching design that connects to the topic and is part of the style for the rest of the materials.” Tailor the communication based on the cognitive and emotional impact you want to make on that individual. it is also the beginning of their experience. since a personal appeal will be considerably more effective. direct. Trust that people will want to contribute: emphasize not what the person will gain but what they have to offer to the work. and interests as individuals—not because of their position or because they represent a particular organization. Convey the invitation through existing relationships wherever possible. and conviction. ask people to come because of their background. warm. giving a chance to make a difference. 41 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . to suggest there will be something to develop and explore. for those who accept. generosity.” “The essential and oftenoverlooked quality to make an invitation effective is sincerity… No matter what the form.6 Frequently asked questions How do I issue a compelling invitation? The first function of the invitation is to attract participants to come. whether existing or new. Word the topic as one or more questions rather than general issues. email and hard-copy invitations.. topics. Use language that is personal. One type can be used to follow up on the other. Make the convening’s objective clear and position it as part of the larger objectives that it serves.g. giving them hope for the outcome. the better. or problems. People show up for people. To lay the groundwork for a collaborative atmosphere. e. Use a combination of inperson.” “One has to compellingly inspire participants to invest their time. Here are some general guidelines for making it effective: GENERAL APPROACH: COMPOSITION: DELIVERY: PRACTITIONER VOICES “The more personal the invitation. and speaks to the person as an important relationship. or giving them exposure to an elite group. an effective invitation is extended with genuine hospitality. capabilities. phone.
while participating as a peer may be well suited for convenings focused on stakeholder alignment and action. and perspectives. Make time for them. in terms of those organizing the event and participants? QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER STARTING POINTS PRACTITIONER VOICES “[As a funder] you need to have a good balance of listening and contributing. Participants need a view into your opinions. emcee may be a good fit if your purpose is to influence. goals.. Be fully transparent about your and Rockefeller’s motivations. Be open about any grantmaking conversations that need to happen at the event by making a public announcement of when and how they will occur. Do not observe without participating.” How can you contribute to creating the environment for an authentic conversation? What role(s) will you play at the convening? What’s most appropriate role given the purpose of the convening? (E.6 Frequently asked questions How do grantmaker/grantee dynamics affect the convening.” “[Convening is about] creating safe space for people to tell their truth…. At the opening of the convening. and can skillfully help you play a productive role. offering reflections from both the heart and the mind. They gauge what they’re saying to what the foundation thinks they want to hear. You want to let leadership emerge by listening but need to talk enough to let people know where you stand.) How will you address and manage expectations around grantmaking associated with the convening? Stay in touch with the conversation happening in the field and choose the topic of a convening based on listening to what the field needs.g. 42 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . the problem around safety and truth telling becomes harder to deal with because people want something from a foundation. while also working within the chosen role. but keep them separate from the rest of the convening. Speak personally and authentically throughout the event. When a foundation is sponsoring this space. acknowledge your position as a funder and describe the role you intend to play in the convening. Find partners for designing and facilitating the convening who are seen by nonprofits as respected and neutral.
see page 179 of The Change Handbook by Peggy Holman et al. Innovation. Connection. each of which can be used in one or more phases of the event as shown in the diagrams on the right. Peggy Holman et al. For the original theory.” The Knowledge Sharing Toolkit. see The World Café by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs in 2005.org/network-mapping/. 73. October 2011. “How Networked Nonprofits Visualize Their Networks. 2007. http://www.. shared language. (2006). sit down: have the group stand or sit to show a series of answers to questions about background.bethkanter.6 Frequently asked questions What process tools can I use to build the agenda? (1 of 3) A wide range of process tools can be used to compose the agenda.ly/rFkmYM. and divergence The World Café: participants rotate Stand up. pp. Connection Appreciative inquiry: participants interview each other about the strengths of the community or field. building on the previous conversation and sharing the results in plenary. 101. Pp. “Human Spectogram.” Teampedia. among small groups to discuss the topic. or popcorn-style). and ask participants to line up along it to show where they stand. Here is a selected list. http://bit. http://bit. David Sibbet. 146-7. Pp.ly/rHkUQf. by John Kretzmann and John McKnight. Peggy Holman et al. Connection Asset mapping: participants from an existing community build mutual understanding of one another’s capabilities and needs. Connection 43 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS “Stand Up Sit Down. Connection. pp. For the original book.” Beth’s Blog. 101-102. January 25th 2011. divergence. “Community Summits. shared language. and convergence . For a summary. see Building Communities from the Inside Out. Sam Kaner et al. and High Performance. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. 365. to find ways to support one another. Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment. Connection Human spectogram: describe two opposing perspectives that form a spectrum. tossing a beanbag. (2006). in 2006. Connection and shared language Network-mapping: visually map the relationship connections among the participants. Connection and divergence Group timeline: participants place themselves on a visual timeline of the group’s previous work. The Change Handbook. with more detail available in the sources listed on the following line: NAME PHASE(S) NAME PHASE(S) RELATED POINTS Description of the six stages of the agenda: page 21 Structured go-around: participants take turns sharing introductions (clockwise around a circle.” The Change Handbook.
Sam Kaner et al. Katherine Fulton. then reform groups that contain at least one person from each interest group to report & reflect on their group’s ideas. Pp. Systems mapping: gather insights on the workings of a large social system. divergence. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. cocreation. 95. 2007. Harrison Owen. 178. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. and flesh them out into plans for a testable prototype. see page 135 of The Change Handbook by Peggy Holman et al.. 104-5. and then join the sessions they find most interesting. the group defines the agenda collaboratively at the start. 174. 95. and the Global Business Network Community. by Innate Strategies: http://bit. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory DecisionMaking. Sam Kaner et al.ly/sO25EF. diagram them visually. Divergence and cocreation Jigsaw: participants self-segregate into groups to discuss key themes. in 2006. and convergence Shared language and divergence Scenario planning: participants contribute a range of perspectives about how the issue could evolve in the future in unexpected ways and construct narratives of the divergent possibilities.ly/w4Guww. What If? The Art of Scenario Thinking for Nonprofits. Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide. Shared language and divergence Rapid prototyping: identify pain points. Video introduction to systems mapping. For a summary. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory DecisionMaking. 210. By Diana Scearce. Divergence. Available for download at: http://bit.ly/rDRiGz. and convergence 44 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS From shared language to commitment . 149.6 Frequently asked questions What process tools can I use to build the agenda? (2 of 3) NAME PHASE(S) NAME PHASE(S) Facts and opinions: create a separate list of facts and opinions about the issue in order to get information on the table quickly. 113. 2007. Shared language and divergence Open Space: participants volunteer to lead a discussion on a topic. Pp. Divergence. Sam Kaner et al. cocreation.. 111.. 95. Pp. The Monitor Institute innovation toolkit for philanthropy: http://bit. 2004. 109. 115. and cocreation groups either to work on parts of a large task or to work in parallel on the same task. and convergence Trade-show presentations: the participants split into several groups and rotate through multiple speakers.. 2007. 2007. 2007. Breakout groups: divide into small Shared language. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory DecisionMaking. 164. Pp. Sam Kaner et al. Pp.. generate potential solutions. Divergence. and identify the key levers for creating change. cocreation. Fishbowl: a small group sits in a circle and converses about the topic while the rest of the participants listen – and join by sitting in an empty chair in the circle. 149. 2008. Sam Kaner et al.
Sam Kaner et al. Commitment 45 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. 257. (2006).ly/tMDmcT. 219. Commitment Three Horizons: generate or evaluate proposals under the headings of basic hygiene. Defining goals and milestones: place the goal and 3-5 milestones on a long sheet of butcher paper. Sam Kaner et al..g.. 300. 2007. 278. Divergence and convergence Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. and High Performance. then break into groups to list the steps for each one. 214. Convergence Dynamic Planning: participants from multiple stakeholder groups provide input into a collaborative “charrette” that develops a variety of options and refines them into to one that is mutually agreeable.. 209.6 Frequently asked questions What process tools can I use to build the agenda? (3 of 3) NAME PHASE(S) NAME PHASE(S) Brainstorming: generate ideas by speaking off the cuff and treating all ideas as valid. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. 106. 228. Commitment Clarifying evaluation criteria: participants rephrase the goals as criteria. 2007. using flipcharts and post-its in various combinations. Payoffs and risks: list these for each proposal. Pp. Divergence and convergence Roleplaying: some participants take on the role of key outside stakeholders and either brainstorm or provide reactions in that role. convergence. http://bit. Sam Kaner et al. Pp. 110.. and novel experiments. 95. new ideas for focused exploration. 258. Innovation. and commitment Individual reflection on next steps: participants work independently to list ideas. Convergence Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment. Pp. “Enduring Ideas: The three horizons of growth. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. . Peggy Holman et al. 154. 95. Pp. Co-creation.” McKinsey Quarterly. 120-2. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. 215. turning “Get two factions to work together” into “It appeals to both factions. 178. pp. Pages 101-102. 229. Convergence The gradients of agreement: give participants a numerical scale for indicating their level of agreement and use it to measure support for each idea. 2007. 98. Sam Kaner et al. Sam Kaner et al. December 2009. Pp. then ask for new ideas that keep the payoffs while reducing risks.. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. or reflect on their personal next steps. Sam Kaner et al. create a first draft of the output. Pp. David Sibbet. October 2011.” then dot-vote on which to use.. 2007. 2007. 2007. e. The Change Handbook..
Ask the process facilitator to slow down any important conversations that are moving too fast to be recorded. Instructions on the use of visual facilitation for teamwork. either on a wall of the room or a portable wall (e. The International Forum of Visual Practitioners: http://ifvp. October 2011.g. rather than leaving the recorder to work independently without any opportunities for input and feedback.org/. • Helping non-native English speakers to track what is being said • Helping participants convey the experience and content of the event to others 46 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Image from http://bit. Dan Roam. to read back how it was captured. Give strong lighting to the recorder’s area (ideally natural light). from the field’s pioneer. and for critical points. Innovation.” typically at the front of the room on either side of the speaker/facilitator.ly/sBMOk2 . Choose a venue with space to hang the recordings afterwards. Provide a 4’x8’ area of smooth wall space for the recorder to work. including a directory for finding one nearby. The Back of the Napkin. Make sure the facilitator will engage with the graphic recorder in real-time to create value for the group. in view of both the speaker/facilitator and the participants. March 2008.6 Frequently asked questions When and how do I use graphic recording? WHAT GRAPHIC RECORDING PROVIDES: WHAT GRAPHIC RECORDING REQUIRES: The following are necessities in order for graphic recording to provide high value: RESOURCES Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment. and High Performance. Graphic recording fuels and amplifies the participants’ engagement by: • Showing participants that their input was heard in real time • Helping participants recall what was said • Helping participants see patterns across the conversation • Clarifying a set of options or any other conceptual content in real time Place the recorder “in the center of the action. a pair of easels and a 4’x8’ sheet of foamcore board). David Sibbet. especially if the room is dimmed to show slides. Ask the recorder to take high-resolution photos of the recordings afterwards and send you a cleaned-up set for you to share with the group as part of the follow-up. How to think and problemsolve using simple sketches. A global community of graphic recorders and other types of visual practitioners. ideally where people can congregate around them at breaks.
6 Frequently asked questions How do I effectively manage breakout groups? When working in breakout groups during a convening. as in the case below. A common way to do this is with a large-format “template” – a big piece of paper that groups can use as a shared worksheet for guiding the conversation. consider two template sizes: a flipchart template (approximately 25x30” placed on a flipchart that is mounted on an easel) or a tabletop template (placed on the table and sized to fit). since the facilitator cannot work with every group at once. and leave space for large handwriting. 47 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . • Size the font to be legible from the distance at which the template will be viewed. • For work in small groups. • Break down the process into simple steps that the group can understand. discuss. or created in PowerPoint and printed at a copy shop. held up with a pair of easels. • High-resolution photos are an easy way to capture the content of a filled-out flipchart. and complete with minimal help. • Be realistic about the amount of time it will require the group to complete each step. or taped to the wall if one is available. it is important to give the groups clear instructions that they can use to self-facilitate. STARTING POINTS EXAMPLE FLIPCHART TEMPLATE Note: flipcharts can be hand-drawn. These can be mounted on 4x8’ foamcore boards. • Larger templates on butcher paper can be useful for extended work or to capture a substantial output.
If the purpose is action-oriented. 48 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . or Facebook/LinkedIn group. such as in a blog post. bulletin board. make sure the infrastructure is in place to enable next steps. Maintain a database of these individuals that is shared across the enterprise. schedule a check-in after an appropriate period of time. Potential activities include: ENABLING ACTION MAINTAINING ENGAGEMENT BROADENING THE CONVERSATION RELATED POINTS Worksheet on communicating with participants: page 57 How to broaden the conversation by engaging groups who are not in the room: page 49 How to build on a convening to create and develop formal networks: page 50 Further ideas on using virtual convening spaces and online communities: page 40 How to assess a convening: pages 37 and 38 • Make small seed grants quickly available for developing ideas that emerged. • Put dedicated resources in place for post-convening communication and coordination. For example.6 Frequently asked questions How do I use communications and other tools to ensure follow-through? Follow-through can take a number of different forms depending on the convening’s purpose. to provide accountability and continued support. • Hold briefings for stakeholders who weren’t able to attend. if the purpose is influence there will be more focus on spreading ideas from the gathering and broadening the conversation. • If there is a specific conversation that at least a portion of the group would like to continue. such as part-time staff to steward an action plan and check up on participants’ progress against their commitments. • Engage convening participants in follow-on discussions of implementation and planning. • Identify already-scheduled gatherings related to the convening topic and introduce relevant ideas and actions from the convening into those conversations. • Share ideas from the convening online and invite public comments. • If the convening concludes with a set of action-oriented goals. such as through a webinar that communicates the event’s key ideas. • Follow up individually with particularly valuable participants to thank them and discuss whether they would be interested in other opportunities to engage with Rockefeller that fit their capabilities. a strong moderator can sustain it on an email list.
OUTSIDE AUDIENCES POST-EVENT KNOWLEDGE SHARING & CONVERSATION: Invite participants to post photos using tag on Flickr or a page on Facebook. • • • • 49 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . Twitter. or other product of the group’s effort. Share cleaned-up photos of any graphic recordings. Recruit a team of volunteer bloggers among the participants to share their reflections in writing.6 Frequently asked questions How do I engage people who are not in the room? The harvest of material from the convening should tie closely to its purpose. Share minutes of key discussions. the participants. What material being created is important for you. and other thoughts from participants. encourage the group to use a shared hashtag in their tweets. policy goals. • Live-blog the event narrative as it occurs. new directions for a field. CoVision. • Record audio or video of key sessions to provide for download. RELATED POINTS How to engage participants: page 18 How to create and develop formal networks: page 50 Worksheet for communications with participants: page 57 REAL-TIME INPUT: PARTICIPANTS Take audience questions for speakers through online tools for real-time engagement such as WebEx. • Conduct and post impromptu video interviews (sometimes termed “Flip chats”) to capture reactions. whether that is a set of scenarios. augmented by the accompanying flipchart notes. and any outside stakeholders or audiences? Consider these options: REAL-TIME CAPTURE: • Live-tweet memorable quotes. ideally printed and in color. • Live-stream parts or all of the event as audio or video. learning. innovation proposals. Ask participants to share written reflections afterwards of the experience and what they took away. • Publish any tangible output of the work. or PollEverywhere.
with bursts of network-wide activity leading up to and after the gatherings. How can you use your communication before the convening. in which convenings play an integral part.6 Frequently asked questions How can convenings help create and develop formal networks? All convenings facilitate network building to some extent: they bring people together to do shared work and. Monitor Institute and GEO. Not all convenings need to build a sustainable formal network. Integrate the in-person “shared space” created by the convening with the network’s shared online space. the design of the agenda. strengthen social ties. but if that is the goal. Describes the work that funders are doing to catalyze networks and new opportunities for harnessing network potential.) Convening is especially important during the “knitting. October 2011. Engage network participants in co-designing and coleading the convening.” “organizing” and “growing the network” phases. Convenings are an opportunity to build and distribute network leadership. and your follow-up afterwards to advance the network’s growth? STARTING POINTS Convenings are mobilizing events for networks. What point is the network at in its lifecycle? (See the model at left. and Valdis Krebs RELATED POINTS How to map stakeholders and engage participants: page 18 How to ensure follow-through: page 48 Worksheet on communicating with participants: page 57 50 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . Use the opportunity strategically in the context of the network’s ongoing work together. THE NETWORK LIFECYCLE QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER RESOURCES Catalyzing Networks for Social Change: A Funder's Guide. convening is a critical tool for providing the shared spaces for connection and collaboration that healthy networks need. Diagram adapted from the work of iScale. June Holley. Formal networks—groups with some shared identity working together over a period of time that extends beyond the convening— are especially important if your goal is stakeholder alignment and action. in the process.
Worksheets CONTENTS Defining the purpose of the convening Assigning project roles Capturing convening design choices Traditional vs. co-creative convening design Sample production worksheets Agenda & content Communications Logistics THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS .
7 Worksheets WORKSHEET Defining the purpose of the convening Here is a step-by-step guide for the process of identifying and expressing a statement of purpose for the convening. 1 In the theory of change for the initiative that this convening is part of. which should be refined throughout the design process: The principles for these steps can be found on page 17. what specific element(s) should this convening advance? What other efforts within the initiative should it connect with? 2 What is the primary (and secondary. if applicable) purpose of the convening.) BUILD NETWORKS fill in if applicable fill in if applicable fill in if applicable SHARE LEARNING fill in if applicable fill in if applicable fill in if applicable INFLUENCE fill in if applicable fill in if applicable fill in if applicable DEVELOP FORESIGHT fill in if applicable fill in if applicable fill in if applicable INNOVATE fill in if applicable fill in if applicable fill in if applicable ALIGN AND ACT THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS fill in if applicable fill in if applicable fill in if applicable . and how will it help achieve your overarching goals? Describe: 3 Describe the central outputs (whether tangible or intangible) that will be created by the end of the event: 4 What indicators will allow you to demonstrate success? (See section 5 for a starting list.
Percent capacity reserved by month: Role: DIRECTOR 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 (name) PRODUCER EVENT % % % % % % % % % % % % (name) PROCESS FACILITATOR % % % % % % % % % % % % (name) COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER % % % % % % % % % % % % (name) RESEARCHER % % % % % % % % % % % % (name) CONTENT & DESIGN CONSULTANTS % % % % % % % % % % % % (name) PRODUCTION ASSISTANT % % % % % % % % % % % % (name) LOCAL PRODUCTION PARTNER % % % % % % % % % % % % 53 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS (name) % % % % % % % % % % % % . a convening team will typically require only 3-4 staff but may involve as many as 8 roles.7 Worksheets Assigning project roles As described on pages 31 and 32. Use this worksheet for matching those roles to specific people: WORKSHEET This worksheet is an extension of pages 31 and 32. which describes the typical roles and each of their responsibilities.
Capturing convening design choices
The template below can be used to work with a design team to organize a collaborative design conversation and capture the outputs. As you are brainstorming each phase of the gathering, push yourself to understand implications for design elements listed in the left-hand column.
TIP Draw this grid on the wall during planning sessions, and capture the content in a spreadsheet so that the convening vision can be seen in one place as it evolves.
WORKSHEET This worksheet is an extension of pages 21 to 24, which provide guidance on the principles and approaches to shaping the agenda.
Objective Desired participant experience Roles / responsibilities required Facilitation needs Inputs required Outputs intended Logistical needs Content capture and online interactivity
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Traditional vs. co-creative convening design
Most convenings require an artful blending of traditional/more centrally controlled approaches to convening design and co-creative approaches. While the choice is not “either/or,” but “both/and,” push yourself to let go of some traditional approaches and try out co-creative approaches when it makes sense.
WORKSHEET This worksheet is an extension of pages 21 to 24, which provide guidance on the principles and approaches to shaping the agenda.
APPROACH TO GATHERINGS
In a meeting with the design team, use the output to spark a conversation about the type of experience you want to curate:
APPROACH TO GATHERINGS
Convey insight Designed by a leader Instructional Delivered by a leader
Co-designed by participants Experiential Co-delivered by participants Have an open-ended outcome
Achieve a specific goal
Engage the mind alone Include homogeneous perspectives Use expert knowledge
Engage the mind, body, and heart
Include diverse perspectives
Use collective pattern recognition
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Sample production worksheet: agenda & content
AGENDA & CONTENT AGENDA & CONTENT
12 to 9 months
WORKSHEET This worksheet is an extension of page 30, which contains the complete list of production tasks for all three core workstreams: agenda and content, engagement and communications, and logistics.
• Assemble the team, find partners, and run RFP process (ideally at 12 mos.) • Define the objectives (ideally at 12 mos.) • Brainstorm design ideas
• Refine the design • Continue research for presentations & pre-reads
• Draft & circulate a highlevel design • Begin research for presentations & pre-reads
• Continue to refine the design • Create first draft of presentations & pre-reads
• Gather and respond to design input • Continue research for presentations & pre-reads
• Iron out “micro design” (e.g., facilitation guidelines) • Refine presentations & prereads
• Create templates and supporting materials • Finalize presentations & pre-reads
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) • Identify core invitees (including potential presenters if needed) • Issue backup participant and presenter invites (if necessary) • Communicate important info regarding travel reservations • Request remaining bios & special needs • Finalize bio-book design (if formal bio book is needed) • Request remaining bios (if necessary) • Produce bio book content • Recruit participants to blog & tweet during or after the event • Communicate important travel. which contains the complete list of production tasks for all three core workstreams: agenda and content.7 Worksheets Sample production worksheet: engagement and communications 12 to 9 months 4 months ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS WORKSHEET This worksheet is an extension of page 30. availability to participate 2 months and others to engage) • Issue core invites • Identify second-wave invitees 5 months 1 month • Issue second-wave invites (including presenters) • Identify backup invitees & presenters • Request bios & special needs 57 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS EVENT . logistical and prep information • Initiate any shared online space where the participants can connect 3 months 6 months RELATED POINTS How to choose participants: page 18 How to issue a compelling invitation: page 41 How to engage people who are not in the room: page 49 How to ensure follow-through: page 48 • Interview core invitees (about their interests. • Map stakeholders (ideally at 12 mos. engagement and communications. and logistics.
g. which contains the complete list of production tasks for all three core workstreams: agenda and content. and logistics. begin arranging details • Purchase air and ground transport • Finalize outing details 3 months 6 months WORKSHEET This worksheet is an extension of page 30. flipcharts. setup. handouts. engagement and communications. bio book) • Work with venue on logistics.7 Worksheets Sample production worksheet: logistics 4 months LOGISTICS LOGISTICS 12 to 9 months • Choose the date and location (ideally at 12 months) • Contract with a local partner (if necessary) • Issue RFP to hotels • Process travel visas • Choose venue (if not a hotel) • Choose a hotel • Research dinner and outing prospects • Contract with a graphic designer • Contract for A/V services • Finalize outing agenda. and catering 1 month 5 months • Make dinner reservations • Develop first draft of outing agenda • Print & ship simple paper products (signs. name tags) • Assemble & ship table supplies 58 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS EVENT . 2 months • Print complex paper products (e..
CONTENTS About the Effective Convenings Project Background on the project Staff and experts consulted Internal study findings The practice of designing convenings at RF Perceived structural barriers to effective convenings at RF Framing historical Rockefeller convenings Glossary Resources: an annotated bibliography Appendix .
Monitor Institute was asked to help the Rockefeller Foundation better understand how to effectively engage and connect together leaders working on the issues the Foundation supports. In light of the importance of convening in Foundation life. indicating that the total spent was between $900. the Foundation’s convenings have contributed to important advancements in several areas. Over the past century. 60 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS * The 60 convenings each had a budget in the approximate range of between $15. that documented internal understandings of convening work and identified some external resources for sharpening convening practices. Monitor Institute conducted internal interviews with Foundation staff and an external study with expert convening practitioners. agriculture (the Green Revolution). public policy (social security).8 Appendix About the Effective Convenings Project Background on the project This guidebook is the result of a study on the effective use of convenings conducted for the Rockefeller Foundation by Monitor Institute in the fall of 2011. and when to invest the time and money in meeting face-to-face.000 and $3 million.000 and $50. Building on that work. including health (GAVI). In support of these goals. The number of convenings in 2011 has already surpassed 2010 figures. Highlights of both can be found on the following pages. and disaster relief (New Orleans). resulting in millions of dollars* spent. Convening is a critical tool used by the Rockefeller Foundation to support its goals to achieve systems-wide social change. the Foundation held more than 60 convenings (DCE and grant-related). . Rockefeller embarked on a multi-stage study to better understand what works well in the Foundation and what the needs are to implement effective convenings in the future. The first stage involved work conducted by an RF team in March 2011.000. In 2010.
The Stone House) 61 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Eamonn Kelly (Monitor Group) Mike Kubzansky (Monitor Inclusive Markets) Andy Maas (Teneo Strategy) Nancy Murphy (Global Business Network) Catherine O’Keefe (Chatham House) Parker Palmer (Center for Courage and Renewal) Chris Riley (studioriley) Ritu Shroff (independent facilitator and consultant) David Sibbet (The Grove) Angelique Skoulas (independent facilitator and trainer) Jonathan Star (Global Business Network) Nancy White (author and facilitator) Andrew Zolli(creator of PopTech) Karl Brown Antony Bugg-Levine Hilary Castillo Benjie De La Pena Ashvin Dayal Pam Foster Melvin Galloway Brinda Ganguly Rob Garris Jill Hannon Peter Helm Kippy Joseph Zia Khan Nancy McPherson Evan Michelson Michael Myers James Nyoro Cristina Rumbaitis Del Rio Ellen Taus Gary Toenniessen Eddie Torres .8 Appendix About the Effective Convenings Project Staff and experts consulted EXTERNAL: SEASONED PRACTITIONERS INTERNAL: ROCKEFELLER STAFF Lori Bartczak (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) Sarah Borgman (Skoll Foundation) Courtney Bourns (Kendall Foundation) Juanita Brown (The World Café) Donna Broughan (independent event producer) Carlin Carr (Intellecap) Lynn Carruthers (Global Business Network) Victor D’Allant (Skoll Social Edge) Chris Ertel (Doblin Innovation) Aidan Eyakuze (Serengeti Advisors) Katherine Fulton (Monitor Institute) Claudia Horowitz (facilitator.
those who participated in the exercise felt that the Foundation does fairly well across these measures. and across different aspects of convenings. there is no shared decision-making framework for when to hold convenings. nor is there an explicitly shared understanding of what it means to hold highimpact convenings. SCALE CONVENING PRACTICE Poor Excellent RF CURRENT STATE CONVENING PRACTICE RF CURRENT STATE Building community/ networks Before a convening During a convening After a convening Selecting participants Using communications/media Before a convening During a convening After a convening Engaging stakeholders Choosing the right setting Developing the agenda Creating (+) participant experience Minding cultural differences Paying attention to issue history Executing a convening Conducting follow-up Conducting evaluation 62 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Minding group dynamics Creating content . and attentiveness to culture and issue history. network and stakeholder engagement. They noted a particular need to focus on improving communications. There is also a sense of variance in the quality of convenings on the whole. post-convening activity (follow-up and evaluation).8 Appendix Internal study findings The practice of designing convenings at RF While there’s a great deal of convening experience within the Foundation. no codified practice for how to do so effectively. convening execution. Monitor Institute conducted an assessment exercise with a group of six RF staff (the "Convening Working Group") to elicit opinions about where the Foundation stands across a number of measures related to convening capacity. The outcomes of the exercise are consistent with the perspectives of our 20 RF staff interviewees. Overall.
that there will be money behind RF convenings: – The structure of initiatives – Search. among those outside the Foundation. Development. staff are more sought out for funder convenings. – Program staff don’t want to create false hopes – participants may feel frustrated (and stop coming) if their expectations continue to be unmet over time. to support follow-up activities. rather. Execution – means that there are many instances where RF will hold a convening but will not pursue a grantmaking initiative.8 Appendix Internal study findings Perceived structural barriers to effective convenings at RF A number of barriers to excellent convening practice at the Foundation were surfaced through interviews with staff: Some staff sense an expectation. Program staff in RF are generalists who may not get invited to convenings that prioritize deep issue-area knowledge. – Even if program staff do want to put money behind a convening. Some fear RF may not have a strong enough brand to continue attracting top-tier participants in the face of increasing “noise” of other global convenings such as Davos and CGI. This structure can be mismatched with some participants’ expectations. they feel that they don’t have sufficient discretion to allocate money freely to a topic. 63 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS . VIPs may choose not to attend RF convenings in light of the other options present. This dynamic diminishes staff’s ability to participate in convenings substantively and supports false assumptions when they do participate.
it is clear that the participants were prominent and came from many fields. These served to draw attention to the central considerations in interpreting science for the public. • Approach: The Rockefeller Foundation believed that if foreign aid agencies became cognizant of the progress being made in agricultural science that they could mobilize the resources from governments and other donor institutions to implement these new ideas. NY to address the basic values of science. the purpose of interpreting it to the public. the aid leaders were convinced that agricultural methods informed by recent science 64 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS would be sufficiently productive and profitable for farmers and that these new methods held greater promise for avoiding famine than direct donations. • Results: The group achieved agreement on the topics. the participants established the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. From what was recorded. as well as to poll sectors of the public on how they consumed mass media. 1969 SHARE LEARNING INFLUENCE DEVELOP FORESIGHT INNOVATE ALIGN ACTION • Context: Famine was threatening developing countries. • Approach: Rockefeller organized a two-day conference in Rye. Rockefeller organized a short meeting of 16 aid agency leaders focused on agriculture. USAID. with the traditional farming systems’ expected output predicted to fall far short the needs of their rising populations within six years. (The structure of the discussion is not known. with at least three Foundation staff present as facilitators to help the conversation operate at a high level and arrive at clear next steps.) • Results: By the close. ultimately forging a new chapter in the “Green Revolution.8 Appendix Framing historical Rockefeller convenings The Rockefeller Foundation has a rich legacy of convening that stretches back to its early history. which enabled them to draft an expression of that shared perspective in a follow-up gathering the next year. Here are four examples of pivotal Rockefeller convenings and the goals they achieved: CONFERENCE ON THE INTERPRETATION OF SCIENCE TO THE PUBLIC June 15th to 16th. and had the positive side effects of (a) showing the connectedness of different scientific disciplines to many prominent actors within them and (b) modeling interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving. and the World Bank. the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. and the arrival of radio and film presented new opportunities for shaping public opinion. which founded four centers for spreading the scientifically-informed agricultural practices.” . and the best methods for doing so. along with head officials from the Ford Foundation. Many observers believed the situation was dire and beyond the capacity of governments and existing institutions to remedy through food aid. After two follow-up conferences. 1938 EXAMPLE 1 BUILD COMMUNITY SHARE LEARNING INFLUENCE DEVELOP FORESIGHT INNOVATE ALIGN ACTION • Context: The Rockefeller Foundation saw it as essential that the public understand the value of science to the country’s many needs. EXAMPLE 2 BUILD COMMUNITY CREATION OF THE CONSULTATIVE GROUP ON INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH (CGIAR) April 23rd to 25th.
researchers.5m to the Greater New Orleans Foundation to establish a plan for the region’s land use. consolidation of the OpenMRS Foundation for promoting open source electronic health records. Convening was used throughout the process to engage an often-contentious group of stakeholders. donors. 2008 • Context: The Rockefeller Foundation had identified weak health systems as a core area for investment. and a new national health network in Rwanda. including two town-hall-style meetings that used technology to capture input from a representative group of residents in sixteen nearby cities. To do this. Their efforts to find consensus reached an impasse.8 Appendix Framing historical Rockefeller convenings Continued… DEVELOPING THE UNIFIED NEW ORLEANS PLAN (UNOP) 2005 – 2008 EXAMPLE 3 BUILD COMMUNITY SHARE LEARNING INFLUENCE DEVELOP FORESIGHT INNOVATE ALIGN ACTION • Context: After Hurricane Katrina. INFLUENCE DEVELOP FORESIGHT INNOVATE ALIGN ACTION • Approach: Rockefeller decided to hold convenings to forge new partnerships. • Approach: Rockefeller gave $3. and the they reached out to the Rockefeller Foundation for help. identify key areas of work. In a 2007 convening. . a set of city. EXAMPLE 4 BUILD COMMUNITY SHARE LEARNING MAKING THE eHEALTH CONNECTION: GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS. the process generated substantial public support where there was little before. GLOBAL SOLUTIONS July 13th to August 8th. and federal agencies were tasked with creating a redevelopment plan that fit a stringent set of governmental requirements as well as building public engagement. it heard from health leaders that the use of information and communications technology in health (eHealth) was a promising frontier. with the uptake of those technologies at a tipping point in key countries. and civil society. • Results: By taking the time to listen to and reconcile the needs of the many stakeholders involved. and raise the global profile of eHealth. governments. The gatherings were held on two parallel tracks over four weeks. as 65 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS witnessed by the establishment of the mHealth Alliance. • Results: The outcome was noticeably greater momentum for the growth of eHealth in the Global South. state. with Rockefeller providing grants to support information-sharing and help with public messaging. it worked with leading eHealth organizations to host eight weeklong gatherings of 25-30 participants from across industry. and led to a plan that was both effective and mutually agreeable.
a person. stakeholder In the context of a choice being made. template A big piece of paper (often the size of a table top) that serves as a worksheet for guiding conversation in small breakout groups and capturing the output. hashtag 66 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS A short word inserted into a tweet that starts with a pound sign. or institution that could be affected and whose interests should therefore be considered. possibilities. or event. network mindset Exercising leadership in a way that prioritizes openness. facilitator The person who guides the participants through a set of interactions that will help them achieve their shared goals. organization.” used to identify that tweet as being related to a certain topic. convening A gathering that brings together a diverse group of participants for a clear purpose and generates insights or action beyond what any single participant could achieve on his/her own. live-tweet Covering an event in real time using tweets that capture key quotes. graphic recording Capturing the critical concepts and remarks from a dialogue in real time using an artful combination of images and words.8 Appendix Glossary co-creation Creating something collaboratively as a group. divergence Putting multiple ideas. group. ideas. convergence Moving from many ideas towards greater alignment of perspectives on the issues being discussed. such as “#rockfound. . live-stream Broadcasting live audio and/or video of an event over the web to either the public or a selected audience. and reflections from the dialogue. and questions on the table as input to the participants’ dialogue and co-creative work. transparency. often the central work of a convening. live-blog Covering an event in real time using short blog posts that describe what happened and offer play-by-play commentary. making connections and sharing control.
Website: http://ifvp. International Association of Facilitators The IAF offers a public Methods Database at http://www. January 2010. which contains over 500 user-contributed group process methods. 2006. in which convenings play an integral part. open space. However.. They also offer a limited directory of facilitators who hold IAF certification at http://bit. Change Handbook.com. March 2008. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory DecisionMaking Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change Book by Adam Kahane. 2007.org/. The Book by Barbara Bunker and Benedict Alban. and after the event. Explains the theory of asset-based community development: that convening and other forms of network-weaving can help communities support themselves through mutual aid. Back of the Napkin.. Over 60 tools for facilitating group process for a wide range of goals.iafmethods. community summits. June 2006. The Book by Dan Roam. The Book by Craig and Patricia Neal. arguing that achieving change requires harnessing and balancing the positive sides of two drives: the drive for power (progress) and the drive for love (unity). many of which span a full convening. who offer both public seminars and private training sessions. . Methods for facilitating interactive conversation in groups of hundreds or thousands. Includes the key methods of appreciative inquiry. Kantor Institute Trainers and consultants in a unique and powerful method for overcoming the most challenging group dynamics.com. 1993.ly/vAeAob. during. February 2011.kantorinstitute. International Forum of Visual Practitioners A global community of graphic recorders and other types of visual practitioners. The Book by Peggy Holman et al. Describes the overall process stages from divergence to convergence. Website: www. illustrated with in-depth case studies. 67 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Book by Sam Kaner et al. and world café. Interaction Associates The leading instructors in facilitation tradecraft. including a directory for finding one nearby. Handbook of Large Group Methods. Building Communities from the Inside Out John Kretzmann and John McKnight. note that this and any other directory should be used as a supplement to trusted recommendations. How to think and problem-solve using simple sketches.org/methods. Provides in-depth guidance to the convener on how to attend to the overall emotional and psychological subtleties of the participants’ experience—before. dynamic planning.8 Appendix Resources: an annotated bibliography GENERAL RESOURCES Art of Convening. Website: www. with specific process tools and facilitation tips for guiding each stage. scenario planning. October 2011. Reflections from a veteran practitioner of multi-stakeholder dialogue. Catalyzing Networks for Social Change: A Funder's Guide Monitor Institute and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.interactionassociates. Describes the work that funders are doing to catalyze networks and new opportunities for harnessing network potential. along with additional guidance on the craft of facilitation.
Details on how to use the World Café as a facilitation tool for a wide range of purposes in a convening. 2004. A brief step-bystep overview of what systems mapping is. and whitespace experiments. A philosophy and methodology for (re)connecting any shared project to its deeper underlying role in social progress. 2008. 2004. How Networked Nonprofits Visualize Their Networks World Café. Introduction to Systems Mapping Video by Innate Strategies. Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide. Available for download at: http://bit. PROCESS TOOLS Rapid Prototyping in Philanthropy Part of the Monitor Institute innovation toolkit for creating new solutions in a foundation context: http://bit. the process it requires. http://bit.8 Appendix Resources: an annotated bibliography GENERAL RESOURCES PROCESS TOOLS Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future Book by Peter Senge. and Betty Sue Flowers. January 2011. Book by Harrison Owen. A complete guide to how open space can be used as a process tool in convening. and examples for stimulating conversation. What If? The Art of Scenario Thinking for Nonprofits Book by Diana Scearce. both inside and outside of a convening. Instructions on how to use this opening exercise. 2005.ly/rFkmYM. June 2009. Provides a basic introduction to the tools and process of network mapping. written by the field’s pioneer. http://bit. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life Book by Parker Palmer. and for mapping the areas where progress is most needed. 25th . Enduring Ideas: The Three Horizons of Growth Article in McKinsey Quarterly. Otto Scharmer. October 2011. emerging possibilities. Contains process instructions. http://bit.ly/rDRiGz. Instructions on the use of graphic recording and visual facilitation for high-productivity teamwork. Katherine Fulton. Instructions on how to use this opening exercise . and the ways it can be used.ly/w4Guww. Innovation. templates. Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment. Describes the concept of separating a group’s proposals between current work. http://bit.ly/u3oM0i. C.ly/tMDmcT. Describes the use of “circles of trust” where open sharing in an uncritical setting is used to lay the foundation for finding the way forward in difficult situations. Human Spectogram Page from The Knowledge Sharing Toolkit. A guide to the use of scenario planning for creating strategy in social-sector organizations. Stand Up Sit Down Article in Teampedia: http://bit.ly/sO25EF. and the Global Business Network Community. 68 THE ART AND SCIENCE OF EFFECTIVE CONVENINGS Blog post on Beth’s Blog. December 2009. and High Performance Book by David Sibbet.ly/rHkUQf. Joseph Jaworski. so that each can be handled accordingly. The Book by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs.
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