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The science of convening

There’s a science to convening, and it stems from the theory that collective brain power is a powerful tool.

So what’s a convening? According to Monitor Institute by Deliotte, a convening is a gathering of people who participate in a collective effort and share a common purpose.

Despite what many fear, the institute says convenings aren’t becoming obsolete, despite 24-7 access to knowledge, says the report, created with support from The Rockfeller Foundation.

In fact, while technology draws together thousands of people around the world, it’s also had a silo effect, where people can create niche markets of knowledge.

And so, convenings allow face-to-face networking and information exchange among diverse groups of people, with varying opinions.

At the same time, our society finds itself increasingly challenged to deal with social issues that require a group call to action. By partnering and building ambassadors via gatherings, organizations – and individuals – are much more likely to affect change.

“Convenings are gaining momentum as a means of tapping collective intelligence and enabling change,” the report says. “They combine different perspectives, enabling us to clearly perceive trends and identify promising new ideas. They can reshape how we see a problem, deeply influencing our perspectives on what levers are most effective for creating change. They can help us find new ways to join forces, committing to new levels of strategic and operational alignment across our organizations.”

But a convening may not always be the best option to achieve goals. So it’s critical to clearly define the purpose before planning.

In determining whether to convene, Monitor Institute by Deliotte suggests asking the following questions:

  • Can the purpose be clearly articulated?
  • Is there enough energy surrounding an issue to create a call to action?
  • Can the key players easily be assembled?
  • Does the purpose call for collective intelligence?
  • Is an extended timeframe necessary to do the work?
  • Do you have the necessary resources?
  • Do you need to be the primary convener?

The report states there are four objectives to convening: influence, innovate, develop foresight and align and act.

To help define purpose, organizers should think about how participants will build networks and share learning. And then, they should decide which of the above is the primary focus of the convening, concentrating on the “how.”

Choosing whom to invite is also important, as organizations want to create an effective knowledge base, the report advises. Participants should share common ground.

For example, what information will the collective group understand? What can you offer to foster discussion? But the institute also cautions it’s important to bridge any gaps that may exist.

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