"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Ways to Ensure Off-site Participation During In-Person Meetings

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Increasingly many Boards, committee, working groups, and organizations need to meet in a way that is mixed or hybrid. Often, we have a meeting and want or need to bring in participants from other branch offices, cities or countries. When we do this the people in the room hosting the call have an “advantage” and those not lucky enough, may feel disadvantaged, lacking, or even invisible.

Here are some ideas for maximizing everyone feeling seen, heard and of value.

  1. Confirm that all off-site participants have the documents needed. Especially when these individuals cannot see the visuals being presented or referenced in the room, sending all the visuals and documents in advance is critical. Off-site participants need all the documents that everyone else received in advance of the meetings, as well as those used during the meeting to present content.
  2. Name each document as they are titled before using them. Off-site participants don’t have as many cues as others in the room, and document titles will help ensure speedy and easy engagement for all.
  3. Check equipment in advance. There is nothing worse than failing technology for those who are joining from a distance. For those meeting in-person it can also be frustrating. Check your technology well in advance and with those using it i.e. ask off-site participants to join the meeting at least 15 minutes early. It can also be helpful to check the quality of sound and visuals from time-to-time during long meetings.
  4. Find a way for off-site participants to be engaged with others and with the content. From time-to-time, small group dialogue or work can be especially helpful in a meeting to achieve the pre-set objectives/achievements. If there are individuals participating from a distance, they also want and need to be included in this. Some ways to do this are: move to smaller Skype conversations or another chat room for a period of time. Solo work with a plan to share back with the group can also be helpful, especially for introverts.
  5. Call off-site people by name throughout the meeting. It is always easier for people to participate when they are in a room together. When the technology is challenged or there is power imbalance (age, seniority, cultural, gender, language or other), participants joining virtually can find it even more challenging to participate. Calling people by name to participate will ensure they have a voice, are heard and feel valued.
  6. Involve off-site participants in one aspect of the meeting in a unique way. This will help these participants to feel valued and respected for what they bring to the meeting. It may be helpful to let these individuals know in advance if the contribution you are hoping for is substantial. However, if it is small it should be fine to call them by name when the time is right. Be authentic and make it meaningful for all.
  7. Start with a check-in. This will reduce the distance that is felt when participants are not in the same room and can build a feeling of connectedness despite distance. This is especially helpful when there are many people in one room and just a few participants elsewhere. Solo participants can feel especially isolated. A check-in should vary from meeting-to-meeting and be in response to what you know about these individuals, their situation, or the purpose of the meeting. It does not have to be long but it should be authentic. Here are a few examples:  

    a.       “In a few minutes we are going to be entering our annual budget meeting. This is an important meeting and can sometimes be challenging and long. Before we start, let’s share one lesson you have learned in your own personal finances that may also service us well here today?

    b.       “We haven’t see each other for a few months now, and I’m sure much has happened over the past weeks. Before we start let’s share something we are feeling especially challenged by and one thing we are especially grateful for since we were last together.”

  8. Save time to check-out. It is sometimes helpful to check the pulse of participants at the end of a meeting. Especially if there was tough conversation or participants entered with resistance or if the content want challenging, taking five minutes at the end to share some final thoughts can offer closure or helpful information for future planning. Here are a few examples:  

    a.       “Thank you so much for your openness to consider this new way of working and planning – I know it felt different and maybe sometimes challenging. What one word comes to mind for you at this time after trying this process out?

    b.       “That concludes our meeting on our budget and financial goals for the year. Thank you for your input, focus, questions, and ideas – this has been so valuable. To end our time together, I would like to invite you to consider one thing you are especially grateful for in this meeting today and one thing that surprised you. Turn to someone close to you and share these two things.”

How do you ensure all members in mixed meetings feel included and valued?

​*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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How to Ensure Effective and Efficient Meetings

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At the end of our graduate class “Community Development: The Art of Facilitation and Design” with Jeanette Romkema we reflected on how principles and practices of Dialogue Education could also help ensure more effective and efficient meetings. It was eye-opening!

Most of us are involved in or will be involved in way too many meetings. Here are tips to help minimize the number of meetings we go to, maximize the use of time we have in them, and work to make these gatherings important, meaningful, and helpful.

  • Be clear about start and end times, and stick to them
  • Invite people to tend to their personal needs i.e. move around, get a coffee, etc.
  • Plan for solo thinking time
  • Practice active listening
  • Invite questions throughout
  • Name objectives and work to achieve them
  • Develop a realistic agenda and clear goals
  • Determine when it would be helpful to engage everyone to better achieve your goal(s)
  • Ensure all voices are invited in and heard
  • Ensure all content is relevant and important
  • Practice the core principles of respect, safety, inclusion, engagement, and relevance
  • Set guidelines, if necessary and helpful
  • Name who will do what, and by when, for each action item. Make sure this information is recorded in the minutes to ensure accountability
  • Start meeting by checking action items from past meeting(s)
  • Keep numbers to a minimum; ask “Who really needs to be at this meeting?”
  • Allow for “space” in the agenda for items that may take more time than expected
  • Be aware of different learning preferences and multiple intelligences, and make room for them
  • Welcome people as they enter (even if they are late)
  • Select or arrange the venue to enhance the meeting and dialogue (not distract)
  • Share the agenda in advance of the meeting and invite input
  • Ask “Do we really need to have this meeting?” If not, don’t.

What can you add to this list?

​*****

Steve MacDouell, Raymond Lo, Demola Orekoya, Zoe Zhao, Liesl Thomas, Ruth Bartlett, Jelle Koersen, and Mary Gorombey are graduate students at Wycliffe College, of the University of Toronto.

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One Funeral, Two Learning Tasks

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On February 1, 2018 my colleague and friend Karen Ridout died suddenly and unexpectedly. When I heard there would be a prayer service a few days later to honour and celebrate her life, my husband and I jumped on a plane to join family and friends to pay our respects and celebrate her life. Karen was a beautiful person and deserved this honour.

What I was not expecting was to see and feel her Dialogue Education influence on her own church service and the church she helped to establish, Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, North Carolina.

During this prayer service, everyone present was invited to participate in two learning tasks – yup, you heard me: two learning tasks at a funeral! With a smile, the rector Stephanie Allen shared, “We can’t possibly have a prayer service for Karen without learning tasks!” Indeed.

Here’s how it went:

Learning Task #1 (in the middle of the service)

Sometimes those we love are ill for many months or years before they are taken from us. In this time, we are able to have final conversations and share things on our heart that we were not able to share until we knew our time together was short. When leaving this earth is a slow process, our loved ones (and we!) have time to close loose ends and finish the uncompleted; closure can be experienced.

However, this is not always how it works. Sometimes those we love are taken from us quickly and without warning. This was true with our dear friend, colleague, mother, sister Karen.

So in our time together today, I would like to invite you to have that final conversation you were not able to have, say the things you didn’t have time to say, or share with Karen what you didn’t have a chance to share. Indeed, she was taken far to soon.

Your invitation is:

Take a small sheet of paper and pen from those being passed around. On your own, take 5 minutes to have that final conversation with Karen. What do you still want to say to her?

If you are wondering what we will be doing with these completed sheets of paper, let me explain how this will work: If you are an EXTROVERT you will have an opportunity to share all you wish after we finish this prayer service; if you are an INTROVERT, you don’t have to worry; be assured that these papers will not be shared with everyone here but are for you to keep and do with as you wish. [These instructions were met with loud laughter – yes, Karen taught them well.]

Learning Task #2 (at the end of the service)

As we finish this service and you leave this space, I offer you one final learning task (in a way that Karen taught us so beautifully): take a small piece of paper from the table in the hall and write one thing that you are most thankful for about Karen and who she was to you. Write this down and place it in the glass bowl you will find there. These papers will be read by her children and then placed with Karen as she is cremated.

The family is deeply grateful for all that you share and all the ways you have been blessed.

I have never experienced learning tasks that were more important and more meaningful. I was moved to tears in that final conversation with Karen and so were many others, and joyous to have the opportunity to share with her all the ways she had impacted my life.

Thank you, Karen, for teaching your church and church leadership so well, and challenging my thinking about what a funeral should be.

How has this challenged your thinking of where we can use (or should use) learning tasks?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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An Approach that Invites Connections

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One thing that a learning-centered approach helps learners do, is connect. It is with this connecting that learners can more fully and easily learn. It is with this type of connecting that we maximize the possibility of real change.

Below are three types of common connections when using a learning-centered approach and for ensuring learning.

Connect with self. Learners need to connect new content to existing knowledge or experience. They need to compare it to what they already know and do, and decide how it lines up and if they like it. They need to weigh it again what they believe is right and true, and see how it feels. They need to imagine it in their lives and ask themselves “Do I want to start using/doing this?”

Connect with others. Learners need to share their stories, experiences, thoughts and questions with other learners. They need to hear what others think and debate it. It is through this testing and trying with others that learners can discover new meaning and understanding for themselves. It is by seeing ourselves in others that clarity is sometimes found. 

Connect with the content. Learners need time to examine the new content they are learning. They need to decide how they feel about it and how it compares to what they already know. If they are learning a skill, they need try it out. Learning is in the doing and deciding, and this need time.

Which of these types of connections have you found especially helpful in learning?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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A Conference to Remember

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Recently, NeighbourLink North York hosted “Bridging Generations,” the third intergenerational conference in the series “Let’s Get Connected.” Their goal was to invite 50 youth and 50 seniors to come for a day of learning and fun. At the start of the day everyone was partnered with someone of a different age, and then invited to experience the entire day with that partner. At the end of the conference they reflected on this intergenerational experience – it was powerful!

NeighbourLink is a charity located in the suburbs of Toronto and works with seniors. Increasingly, they want to share the importance of volunteerism and the value of doing this intergenerationally. At this conference, they did this in two ways: an intergenerational panel and interactive workshops.

The question was: How do we ensure people learn while they are having fun?

With the help of Global Learning Partners, they offered two tip sheets as well as guidance on maximizing learning.

  1. Tips for Speaking on Our Panel – (click here)
  2. Tips for Workshop Facilitators – (click here)

Wow, did this ever make a difference! The steps for success included:

  1. Emailing the tip sheets to panelists and workshop facilitators a week in advance
  2. Calling each panelist and workshop facilitator a few days before the event to answer their questions, checking in and offering support
  3. Meeting with each group before the start of the conference
  4. Introducing the individuals in each group to each other before the event and ensuring time to connect.

NeighbourLink North York is confident they will host this sort of event again and is grateful they now have more tools to support their volunteer presenters and maximize learning for participants.

How do you ensure learning at conferences?

*****

Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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