Convening

Gatherings of stakeholders for a shared purpose who represent different perspectives on a topic.
Art of Convening by Claire Buré
A convening is a gathering of a range of stakeholders who represent different – often opposing – perspectives on a topic for a shared purpose. And they depend on the diversity of these people and perspectives to accomplish a clear purpose; including moving towards achieving specific outcomes. In a convening, what is collectively achieved is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Before convening stakeholders, identify the outcomes and following actions you expect to establish after the convening. The outcomes and outputs of convening need to clearly show alignment to the specific outcomes and actions you expect to achieve after the convening. The agenda and activities for the convening should also align with the intended outcomes and outputs

What Does Success Look Like?

What does success look like for your convening? To help define this, with your lab team, you can ask yourselves:
  • What outcomes are needed for this convening to lead to action? (e.g. do you hope for: agreement on a convening question; participants are mobilized for next steps to occur)
  • What are the essential outputs? (e.g. the creation of a Terms of Reference, 100 ideas are generated, desired impact as defined by targets, etc.)
  • What conditions do you need to put in place during the convening to ensure full participation? (e.g. to what extent do you hope participants will share their personal perspectives with one another? How deeply or intently are they listening to one another with empathy?)
What needs to happen before and after your convening, in order to ensure success? Next, you’ll need to identify with your lab team: what do you need to put in place, before and after the convening to ensure action?
  • What pre-conditions do you need to put in place before the convening to ensure full participation, and for your stakeholders to feel like it will be a good use of their time? (eg. participants have a clear understanding why they are joining, location is appropriate, the event is timely, etc.).
  • What post-conditions do you need to put in place after the convening to ensure action? To ensure full participation, and for your stakeholders to feel like it was a good use of their time? (eg. participants are motivated about next steps and their roles are clear, support is in place for teams moving forward, etc.).
What does success look like.pdf
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Template - What does success look like?

Engagement Principles

It is often helpful if not critical to set ‘ground rules for engagement’ together with the participants you are convening. Because these individuals are often holding varying perspectives (eg. different levels of government, citizens, corporate sector, academic/ theoretical etc.) it’s important to create a respectful and conducive environment for everyone’s full participation.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
  • Engage with intent & purpose
  • Aim for maximum transparency & clear communication
  • Work to establish trust & mutual respect between participants
  • Two heads are better than one, but limit numbers (or it will reduce creativity)
  • Embrace diverse perspectives in your convening
  • Balance representation with people who can help bring about change

Key Resources

Nesta. DIY Toolkit: Creative Workshops. http://diytoolkit.org/tools/creative-workshop-2
Flower, N. R. & Muoio, A. (2013). Gather: The Art & Science of Effective Convening. Monitor Institute. http://assets.rockefellerfoundation.org/app/uploads/20150530132303/GATHER-Core-Concepts.pdf