Coming Together with Purpose

You want to make the world a better place, not just make the next meeting on your calendar. Yet sometimes you wonder if attending meetings, conferences, and convenings has become your new job. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.

In 2011, more than 51 million people attended 270,000 conferences in the United States. Organizers spent an eye-popping $263 billion on bringing people together, with 41 percent of those funds going to meeting planning and production. This makes the conference industry one of the top 10 contributors to American GDP, according to a study for the Convention Industry Council. But do you ever wonder if all this talk makes a difference? Or, if you’re involved in designing convenings, have you ever feared that your gathering would fall flat rather than inspire?

There’s little question that convenings can be an important tool in the social sector and in any change-maker’s toolkit. They have long helped people with different knowledge, skills, and points of view to tackle a shared problem, see old things in new ways, or challenge the status quo. Convenings can be a crucial catalyst for a group, an organization, an idea, or even a movement. In fact, travel upstream to the headwaters of any great social change effort, and you’ll probably discover that convenings played a major role.

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If holding convenings is part of your work, you may be interested in Gather, the authors’ new hands-on guidebook to convening design.