This blog originally appeared on the Collective Impact Forum.
As any collective impact practitioner knows, our work involves meetings. A lot of meetings. We gather colleagues, allies, and networks to learn from one another, map our journey, dream, and celebrate. We know meetings matter, but how intentional are we, really, about why we meet, how we meet, and the role gatherings play in shifting the culture of our work?
These juicy questions were explored with verve and grace by Priya Parker, acclaimed author of The Art of Gathering, and Melody Barnes, the Aspen Forum for Community for Solutions’ Chair, during the 2022 Collective Impact Action Summit. In particular, Parker and Barnes delved into what it means to gather in our post-pandemic world. Their advice is good grist for our work moving forward.
I first discovered Parker’s work when a good friend gifted me a copy of The Art of Gathering a few years ago. I was immediately entranced by Parker’s ability to bring clarity and joy to our lives, whether it’s an annual conference or a social get-together with neighbors. Parker defines a gathering as any time three or more people come together, and wisely views that gatherings are the most accessible tool we have to shift culture. Here are some insights from their talk.
Start with WHY
The biggest mistake we make is to assume the purpose of a gathering is obvious and shared. When we assume purpose, we skip to form. We focus on where we should meet, who should attend, and what we’ll have for lunch. Instead, we should be asking ourselves: What is the need at this moment, and how can we design and facilitate a gathering to meet that need? A clear purpose informs who is invited, how the invitation is structured, what the expectations are and what needs to be discussed.
Hosting is power
Parker views a gathering as an act of love and an act of power. A good host realizes their power and chooses how to distribute it during a gathering. In this context, power is decision-making. Who is invited? Who determines the agenda? How are decisions going to be made?Continue reading “On the Art of (Re)Gathering”