It’s Good to Talk!
We like holding community conversations. They are always well attended, full of conversations and energy. We also facilitate community conversations for other businesses and community organisations, which are usually good fun and very enlightening.
Learning from Conversations: planning and facilitating community conversations continue to illustrate, for us, that many of us work from a point of unspoken assumptions and expectations. Underpinned by the everyday nature of relationships with and between stakeholders: including customers; service users; families; trustees; peers; colleagues and staff. Our experience is that these relationships often need to be challenged and developed before all involved parties are 1) clear about their role in relation to the social impact and value process and 2) comfortable with the giving and receiving of honest and transparent information and feedback.
A Working Example: working with the core team, from a local social enterprise, to enable them to explore their social impact and value, we all identified an early need for a community conversation. The team saw this as an opportunity to explore their local community connections, and impacts, with their current and future stakeholders, including service users.
The Purpose: it was agreed that the purpose of the community conversation was to provide a safe space for a diverse group of stakeholders to:
- Get to know one another, and develop relationships based on know, like, trust and common respect.
- Become more comfortable with the giving of feedback about the intended and unintended consequences of the local work undertaken by the organisation.
The Plan: we used the following principles to enable meaningful conversations to take place:
- Setting: was informal and welcoming with lots of coffee and cake.
- Welcome and introductions: the facilitator welcomed the attendees, provided some context and an introduction to the Conversations Rounds.
- Questions: each Conversation Round began with a pre-planned question that provided the attendees with a focus for their conversations.
- Conversation Rounds: each round lasted about twenty minutes and all attendees were encouraged to meet other people and have as many meaningful conversations as they could. The facilitator managed introductions and everyone was directed to post thoughts and ideas up on an ideas board.
- Feedback: the attendees were brought together at various times, during the event, to share their thoughts with the whole group.
What we Discovered: The workshop ran for three hours and everyone had a great time getting to know more about each other and testing out how it felt to give honest feedback, about the impact of the organisation on the local community. As a result, we made some very interesting and thought-provoking discoveries, including the importance of creating space for conversations of possibility; the rediscovery of face to face connecting and talking; the impact of what is not said; the importance of creating energy in the local community; recognising the value of reputation and recognising the range of community assets, including the buildings and spaces that are important to the local community.
What Happens Next? our discoveries are helping to shape the social impact and value process for this social enterprise. The process going forward will include more community conversations. Everyone is clear that articulating social impact and value is everyone’s business, and making space for face to face connections and conversations is one way that stakeholders can get involved and contribute.
Why not join our journey of endless possibilities by becoming a member of the Give2Gain Community at www.give2gain.org