Trusted Sharing Conversations Enhance Learning from Blogs
A Case Study

CONTEXT

Martin Gilbraith is an international Certified Professional Facilitator, trainer, and consultant based in London. He is also a well- known blogger with 45,000 site visitors. His career began with grassroots community development in India, Africa, and the Middle East. It involved various roles with ICA (the Institute of Cultural Affairs), the global community of non-profit organizations ‘advancing human development worldwide’. He is a Certified Professional Facilitator,an experienced lead trainer and licensed provider of ‘ICA’s ‘ToP’ facilitation training. In this capacity, he developed ICA: UK’s social enterprise program of facilitation and facilitation training. In this role, he designed and delivered over 100 public and in-house facilitation courses. He is passionate and committed to making a difference through facilitation and facilitative leadership and thinks that will be the key to achieving a just and sustainable world for all. You can examine more about his background here.

posted a blog He in early 2015about his experiencecreating and facilitating a large scale three week asynchronous online conference using Adobe Connect. The UN Food and Agriculture Program (FAO) anticipated having 100 people register for the online conference on the Economics of Climate Change Mitigation options in the forest sector. The conference exceeded their expectations as itevolved to over 900 registrants from 127 countries with 126 case studies from 47 countries. Since so many of our problems are global these days, wethought his experiences with large online conferences would bevaluable for other facilitators and activistsinterested in addressing issues on a similar scale.

WHATAn interactive conversation about online asynchronous conferences following a blog post on the same subject.

WHEN The conversation lasted for 3 weeks in April, 2015 after a blog post and before an upcoming webinar on the topic.

WHERETwenty-three participants joined the conversation after receiving an invitation through various networks.

WHO Martin Gilbraith, a renowned facilitator and blogger who had just helped design and facilitate a large online conference for 900 people from 127 countries.

CHALLENGE

So in April, 2015, the founders of Trusted Sharing helped Martin design a conversation as a follow up to his blog post. We were intrigued with the idea of creating a conversation about his experiences on Trusted Sharing since this is directly in line with Trusted Sharing’s social mission to help spread deeper and broader conversations that help inform and generate the large scale transformations we need.Often people read blogs and have questions about the details and we thought it would be useful to set up a conversation that allowed Martin to share his knowledge with others in a venue where they could ask questions and share their experiences as well in a more interactive manner.

So we collaborated with Martin to design a Trusted Sharing conversation describingthe objectives and challenges that he faced in both planning and hosting the large online asynchronous event. This conversation provided an opportunity for him to both share insights and address questions people had about how to design and facilitate a similar styleconference.The first host post or conversation starter invitedfacilitators within our network to invite others from their network through social media. The conversation drew in 23 participants who were interested in the topic.

CONVERSATION DESIGN

The opening of the conversation started with a host post or prompt that explained the structure of the conversation. The conversation structure used the ORID method ; it was organized with prompts to draw out people’s reflections and questions (with four different types of questions asked in a sequential manner -objective, reflective, interpretive, and decisional questions). Thesecond prompt invited people to introduce themselves and talk about their experiences and interests. The third host post began the ORID process. Three questions helped frame the discussion: 1) What facts, people, or situations stood out from Martin’s description? 2) What occurrences or challenges came up during the event that were unanticipated? 3) What parts of Martin’s post surprised you, made you think, or raised questions? (We realized that it would have worked better to just have one post for each question and resolved to do that in future conversations.)

These prompts led to a lively interchange which covered the gambit from basic questions about how he had handled the huge increase in registrations to what the outcome looked like. The format allowed individuals to frame their own questions and get them answered, as well as view others’ questions. Martin could reply individually to each person and/or collectively to the group as warranted. He explained that a report came out of the proceedings and the hope is that a community of practice will evolve as well. Other facilitators stressed how valuable it is to have online asynchronous online conferencesbecause that format eliminates the cost barrier and the time limitations of in person conferences, enabling much greater participation.

IMPACT

The fourth host post asked three questions: 1) What new insights has this conversation given you about hosting large online events? 2) What insights from your own experience can you share that are especially relevant to hosting online conversations? 3) How could this conversation be improved? This post led to an interesting discussion about how to do online conversations that didn’t have “frayed ends” where people wandered off into separate tangents rather than holding onto a shared focus.

People expressed appreciation for the chance to hear about forays into large scale asynchronous conversations. They felt emboldened to try more asynchronous online events and discussed the challenges of creating high quality online experiences.The conversation lasted three weeks, attracted mostly facilitators, and included 101 replies (demonstrating a high degree of interaction). The conversation was widely regarded as a success mainly because its design allowed for an interactive exchangeand an enhanced learning experience.

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Expanding a Short Course at NYU through Trusted Sharing
Adding Trusted Sharing Conversations to a Consulting Process
Facilitated Strategic Planning Workshop with TS Conversations Before and After
Trusted Sharing Conversations Enhance Learning from Blogs