Have you ever been asked to participate on a committee or in a community meeting and left wondering why were invited? A situation in which the conversation was swirling around you but you never quite knew how to contribute to it?
Looking back to the occasions in which this was the case for me, I realize the people calling the meeting (conveners) had a broad range of reasons for inviting people (job titles, organizations, to not hurt feelings, to get things done, to access resources, for expertise, to make new connections, because they were told to, and so on). All of which are valid reasons but it was unclear why I had been invited so I contributed little.
As a convener, we need to be deliberate and thoughtful about the people we invite and the environment in which they gather. Remember, to have the idea picked up by the mainstream, means inviting supporters, opponents and others beyond the immediate context. Everyone needs to feel welcome and to be assured that their contributions will be valuable and important.
Four Characteristics of Effective Convening
To avoid the gathering in which a few people speak and nothing is ultimately accomplished, take a minute to run through the questions below.
- “Civility” – Has the group crafted (agreed upon) ground rules of conduct by which they can respectfully, openly, and safely contribute?
- “Personal Agency” – As the convener, have you encouraged the best from all participants? Have you given each participant an opportunity to shine, show their strengths and lead in their own way?
- “Hospitality” – As the convener, are you able to articulate the importance of each participant’s contribution and made them feel like they belong?
- “Curiosity” – As a convener, have you created a group culture in which uncertainty leads to inquiry and eventually new answers?
Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation by Al Etmanski is a guide for social innovators to move their idea from localized success to broader systemic impact.