It’s Time to Come Back Together, In-Person

We call each other ‘family’. So, you can imagine how happy we were to reconnect after three long years of the Covid pandemic! We are staff and partners of Episcopal Relief & Development. On February 7-11, 35 of us gathered in Accra, Ghana from seven countries (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, USA, and Zambia) representing eight partners. It was magical!

We had important work to do. In fact, we recently revised and strengthened materials of our highly successful Moments That Matter© (MTM) program, and we needed to share and learn the new and improved version. We were keen to receive input and ideas for the rollout and future work needed.

We knew we were going to refresh and revitalize our approach to MTM. However, we had not anticipated how much we needed to come together to (re)connect, energize, (re)focus, celebrate, affirm, and rekindle our bond. The members of this family, old and new, missed and needed each other. The impact of our separation was only fully understood when we came together again, in-person.

Covid offered us much learning. It also took from us, and for the MTM family it gave us the opportunity to appreciate other things that our group needed for our nourishment.

Below, we offer ideas that ‘fed’ our group of 35, for which we are grateful. May they inspire.

  • Make time for fun. This should be part of the design of the days; however, the evenings are also important. Plan for some sightseeing, a dinner out of the hotel, and down time. Make it easy to participate by arranging transportation, clarifying pick and drop off times, and offering places to go.

IDEA: We selected the middle of our time together to go sightseeing. It was a wonderful break from our work.

  • Design for many types of engagement. Diversity is the goal. For some, the walk and talks will be extremely meaningful, for others group dialogue will be energizing, and for others sitting together around a table to debate will feel powerful. In a multi-day in-person event, connections will be deepened through diversity of tasks, once safety is in the room.

IDEA: “On your own, consider why it is so important to be a learning-centered organization. Write your notes in the box below… In groups of 4-5, share your notes and write a song to music you all know. You have 10 minutes…. Let’s hear your songs!”

  • Start and end in a circle. The circle is a powerful shape and space to sit in. It equalizes everyone in the room. It communicates that each person is of value and is seen. It invites all voices.

IDEA:  “It is time to finish our day. To help summarize some of our learning, let’s use the technique ‘True for You.’ Please stand if this statement is true for you, and I will ask a few people to share their thoughts.”

  • Invite personal story sharing. There is little that compares to sharing a personal experience with another person when we are sitting or standing face-to-face. We are social creatures and long to connect. Story can do this; sharing in-person can amplify this sharing.

IDEA: “On your own, think of a story of behavior change and transformation as a result of the MTM program. Partner with one other person, greet each other and share your stories.”

  • Celebrate what you have achieved. Cheering, a high five, applause, warm smiles and kind words are received more fully when we are in-person. They can be felt at our core.

IDEA: In a multi-day event, use Day 1 to ‘look back’ and celebrate. “On your own, think back at the history of MTM. What people, dates, milestones and events helped us come to where we are today. Write each on a Post-it note and we will add these to our History Timeline.”

  • Take photos and videos. We had a WhatsApp group for the event which offered a great space to share photos throughout the day and week. There was much laughter as sharing occurred, and it made for easy sharing with those who were not present but could connect in this way.

IDEA: “Take out your phone and snap an image of something in the room, in the hallway or outside that represents the joy you feel today.”

We are deeply grateful to Global Learning Partners and Jeanette Romkema, for guiding us to a strong 5-day Moments That Matter global event and facilitating the process. It was a huge success! Indeed, it was time to be together, in-person.

What do you most value about meeting in-person?

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Geraldine Sicola (gsicola@episcopalrelief.org) is the Director of Early Childhood Development at Episcopal Relief & Development and is responsible for ensuring the early childhood development program portfolio, known as Moments That Matter©. She develops, sustains and scales activities across multiple countries in line with the organization’s strategic plan.

Kellie McDaniel (kmcdaniel@episcopalrelief.org) is the Senior Facilitator, Training & International Development at Episcopal Relief & Development responsible for optimizing learning outcomes for the institution strengthening, relationship building and technical components of global programs. She collaborates, guides and designs resources and moments that promote learning and sharing toward collective growth.

Additional GLP resources you may be interested in include:

  1. Talking Circles: More than a Technique
  2. Start with the Heart: A Warm up to Consider
  3. Stand on a Line and Invite some Truth Telling
  4. Getting some Juice from the Data Chart

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