How Can Convening Help Your Organization?
With over a decade and a half of designing engaging and inclusive processes for groups through my role as a teacher, workshop facilitator and non-profit project lead, I convene with intentionality and groundedness while still keeping things light, engaging and people-centred. My more than 14 years of training in meditation and mindfulness give me the capacity to hold space in a way that invites participants to dive deep into their own collective wisdom and experience. Through this process, I help groups find meaningful, relevant and impactful insights and solutions to their creative challenges.
What's the difference between convening and facilitation?
Traditional approaches to facilitation take the position that the facilitator brings a fully objective, outside perspective that they can orient from. They will often come with an agenda that is designed to take the group through a set of predetermined steps to a predetermined designated outcome.
Convening takes the position that the collective wisdom and creativity of the group has the capacity to address whatever challenges that need to be met. It focuses on creating a container for authentic engagement and conversation that surfaces the collective wisdom of the group.
The convener is aware that being fully objective is impossible and instead focuses their energy on being as aware as possible of their own subjectivity. They bring their whole self to the process and remain conscious to where their subjectivity may potentially enter the process and disrupt, and where it may enter and elevate it.
What types of challenges are best suited for convening?
Convening is best suited for complex challenges. For problems that are simple (i.e. a clear cause and effect relationship) it is most helpful to bring in best practices. But for complex (or ‘chaotic’) problems there is no set formula for solving them; in fact, they may be constantly changing. In this case, we need a process or approach that is equally responsive. Convening allows for this ability to stay ‘on track’ but to the responsiveness to go where needed.
For example, If the beginning of the process surfaces things that are actually prerequisites for achieving the stated goals of the group, convening allows for this adjustment. Traditional facilitation, with its rigid agenda can easily find itself continuing to force itself through to a solution, ignoring the feedback that is undermining the process or pointing to a reality or truth that needs to be acknowledged or explored. (A challenge that needs to be addressed or a creative task that needs to be done.)
What 'system' does convening rely on?
Convening is about creating a container for what needs to happen. It’s not about following a predetermined set of steps to get to a predetermined goal. Convening draws on tools, such as those from the Art of Hosting, but it does not rely on or overly emphasize the process over the people involved. It is the people in a convening process that are the greatest resource and need to be put front and centre. It’s not a system, per se; it’s a collection of tools and processes, employed with an understanding that if we keep contact with ‘the heart of the matter’, as well as what is going on with us moment to moment, then we will ultimately get where we need to go.
How do I know if this is the best ROI for my team/organization/business?
If what your team needs is a sense of cohesion, clarity or shared purpose, all of these can be served through convening. In these cases, you are going to be much better served by spending time, energy and money on holding space for everyone to get on the same page, or to harvest all of the collective wisdom in the group. This will create a much better ROI than allocating resources to applying top-down ‘solutions’, systems or tools that may be sabotaged unconsciously or undermined by unresolved tensions. This approach can also avoid squandering energy that is latent or waiting to be expressed but hasn’t been given a chance to show itself. This wisdom and creativity isn’t necessarily going to be expressed through overly strict agendas or implementing systems that have pre-determined scope or approach.
If what you need is best practices to address non-complex (i.e. simple) problems, then convening is not a good ROI. However, if there is at all any sense of needing people to be connected with the team vision or to find creative solutions to new/unexplored (i.e.novel) problems then convening offers a very good ROI. It can save a lot of energy, time and money over the medium to long-run.
What if other approaches haven't worked? Why would this be any different?
Convening is actually an ideal approach if you’re finding nothing else is working. It allows for getting to the heart of the matter. It doesn’t get lost in details or preconceived ideas about what must be going on. The creation of the convening container allows for what needs to surface to surface. This could be unconscious contradictions in goals or vision (e.g. parts of the organization working at cross-purposes) or it could surface a lack of buy-in or a missing resource, skill or role in the organization. It could also surface some of out-of-the-box thinking that hasn’t had an opportunity to be expressed before because there wasn’t the context to voice it.
Most likely, it isn’t a question of whether or not the challenge is ‘unsolvable/resolvable’ or not; rather it is more likely a question of how deep you are willing to go, how raw you’re willing to be, how vulnerable and authentic you’re able to manifest, how much control you’re willing to let go of, if needed.
Having a container to do all this is going to determine whether this is going to work where other approaches or attempts have failed. The question is: ‘Are you willing to go there or is your need for an immediate or simple solution going to short circuit or undermine your ability to go where you need to go?’
I am a transformational coach and convenor who helps my clients realize the vision they have for their lives and organizations. I am passionate about helping individuals and groups unlock their fullest potential so they can live in alignment with their truest selves and highest values.
I weave together my diverse life experiences and keen questioning skills to hold space for deep transformation for my clients. From inner-city teachers to socially-minded entrepreneurs, and from parent councils seeking more inclusivity to local health agencies looking to activate their creativity, I help get to the heart of the matter to co-create processes that create generative insights and change.
Find Your Purpose.
Set Your Goals.
Forge Your Path.
“When I started working with Chris, I was convinced I was uncoachable. His intuitive listening and questioning helped me see through this view to some simple next steps I could take to move myself forward. “
– Andrew, Calgary
“Christopher was very patient and kind to me during a hard time in my life. He provided me with a lot of support and encouragement when I needed it most.“
– Danny C, Toronto