One of my current projects involves managing an online community of practice for professionals who help people with disabilities find employment. For the past year we've struggled to get folks engaged. Often it feels like I'm throwing information into a digital abyss.
This is a grant-funded project and I'm in the last year of the grant, so decided that we needed to try something different. Going for broke, as it were. So I proposed to the funders that we begin experimenting with face-to-face conversations, what we're calling "Connecting Coffees." These are one hour networking events at local coffee houses that combine networking with conversation on professional development topics.
Earlier this week I put out an announcement about our plan. Since then, there's been more discussion in the group than we've probably had in the last 6 months combined!
What it made me realize (again) is how hungry we all are for opportunities to connect in the real world. To sit down and have real conversations about topics that matter to us. The digital world and social media can help us find each other and connect when we aren't able to be together face-to-face, but in the end, we are human and we long for that opportunity to sit around a table, break bread together and just talk.
We need to find more time for this, recognize and accept the importance of informal conversations in the larger world of our work. We need to intentionally build more of these into our practice. They are major drivers for learning, development and growth. We want connection and we need to support this where ever we can.