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Gather: The Art and Science of Effective Convening

Over the last century, The Rockefeller Foundation has seen the incredible power of convening to create shared dialogue, to debate pathways to impact and to catalyze groundbreaking ideas and history making sectors. Learning from this past, the Foundation and our partners at Monitor Institute saw a critical and unmet need to document the skills, training, and competencies that go into a successful convening.  They present the result of two years of work with the 2013 publication of GatherThe Art and Science of Effective Convening – a unique guidebook for convening planners and change agents interested in harnessing the potential of collective intelligence through in-person convening.

This 85-page, beautifully designed publication is designed to help you to:

  • RockefellerFdnLogoDetermine whether or not to host a convening;
  • Clarify a purpose for the convening that shapes all other decisions;
  • Build an effective team;
  • Curate an experience;
  • Ensure follow through for impact.

Why a Guide to Convening?

Convening has been a critical tool for the Rockefeller Foundation’s century of successful philanthropy. The Green Revolution’s improvements to food security, the emergence of impact investing to combine financial, social and environmental benefits from investments; a new global alliance for life-saving vaccinations (GAVI), the recovery of post-Katrina New Orleans; the development of the concept of artificial intelligence; and many more remarkable advances were accelerated through Rockefeller-led convenings. And yet, as of a few years ago, we had not formalized our skills and training in this core competency.

We saw the value of collaboratively developing a convening guide that could be shared widely with colleagues, partners, and grantees, aimed at sharpening convening capacities throughout the sector.

GuideToConvening-imageGiven the increasing complexity of the world, the emergence of diverse and disparate new global players, the pace of unrelenting change, and the general tendency of organizations to specialize, it was clear that convening would continue to play an important role in the Foundation’s work. In 2011, working with the Monitor Institute, key grantees and peer institutions who shared our interest and experience in using convening as a tool to catalyze progress on critical issues, we launched a project to document and then strengthen our shared convening skills. We saw the value of collaboratively developing a convening guide that could be shared widely with colleagues, partners, and grantees, aimed at sharpening convening capacities throughout the sector.

The result is Gather (get the download here), a hands-on guide for convening planners and change agents who want to tap into groups’ shared intelligence and problem solving skills through in-person convenings. This guide focuses the process of convening on critical decision stages:

  • To convene or not convene — are there other more effective tools that can accomplish your goals?
  • Clarifying a purpose for the convening that then shapes all other decisions in planning — do you want to bring people together for a creative, innovative, generative process? Are you trying to tap into group intelligence to create foresight on future trends? Are you trying to exercise influence on others and advocate a point of view? Do you need to align actors for a specific intervention?
  • Building an effective team — what group of people is best suited to carry out the purpose for your convening?
  • Curating an experience — what flow of activities, dialogue, brainstorming and decision making will move you toward your goal?
  • Ensuring follow through for impact — after everyone leaves your convening and returns to hectic everyday life, how do you keep their commitment and contribution to impact?

The guide is now available online and a quick introductory video can help you step into the process for effective convenings. We’ll follow up with more info on the elements of effective convening in coming weeks. We look forward to exploring the art of convening with you.

This guidebook was completed in June 2013 by Noah Rimland Flower and Anna Muoio at Monitor Institute with input from Rob Garris and his colleagues at the Rockefeller Foundation. It expands on an earlier edition created for the Foundation’s internal use by a Monitor Institute team led by Diana Scearce that included Lindsay Bellows, Stuart Burden, and Noah Rimland Flower.

Resource Link: www.rockefellerfoundation.org/bellagio-center/gather-art-science-effective

Copyright © 2013 Deloitte Development LLC. This publication may not be modified or altered in any way.

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