Turning a Conference into a Movement with Loomio

• Written by Alanna Irving

The Equally Well Summit brought people from diverse backgrounds together to discuss a critical problem. Loomio enabled engaging participants prior to, during, and after the conference – helping turn talk into action.

In November 2014 the first Equally Well Summit was held in Wellington, New Zealand. The Summit brought more than 100 people together from a range of disciplines in the mental and physical health sectors to tackle a “wicked problem”: the poor physical health experienced by people who experience mental illness or addiction issues.

Equally Well Logo

Equally Well needed to engage collective wisdom to form cross-sector solutions. The challenge was to break down silos and connect diverse participants in creating actionable outcomes. Participants included people with lived experience of mental and physical health challenges, psychiatrists, policy makers, healthcare professionals, NGO chief executives, and researchers.

We see powerful potential in thinking beyond just hosting a conference, and toward sparking a movement and nurturing a community to support this urgent work.

Helen Lockett, Project Leader, Equally Well

Helen Lockett, Project Leader, Equally Well

Working with Loomio, the Equally Well team invited participants to connect online prior to the Summit using a short personal video introduction from Helen. At the Summit, Loomio was used to create an online meeting space complementing the event.

A Loomio group enabled the diverse stakeholders to come together before the Summit, progress their thinking and mutual understanding, discuss what the focus of sessions at the Summit should be, and create a foundation for a community that can continue after the Summit – supporting real ongoing collaboration and change. It was great to see the Loomio conversations emerge and the priorities for action developed.

In response to the personal video invitation, 93 of 120 participants logged into Loomio prior to the Summit. They built shared understanding of the problem: the poor physical health of people experiencing mental illness. Using facilitated peer-to-peer communication, the newly emerging community  developed a sense of urgency to take action together.

Equally Well Loomio GroupHaving diverse voices in the discussion brought out ‘‘elephants in the room” – topics people usually avoid talking about. The group shared perspectives and expertise, collaboratively identified issues, and and generated energy and motivation through shared purpose. Because the community was already in communication online, they arrived at the conference with deeper shared understanding of the issues.

The conversation didn’t end when the conference concluded. The problems this community is tackling will require ongoing collaboration. The conference brought together a purposeful community, and Loomio is helping them continue as a movement and take action together.

Key Learnings

  • Online tools can make offline events more effective, especially for diverse stakeholders and complex issues
  • The invitation is important – setting the context and welcoming participants makes a big difference
  • Co-creating content with conference participants can unlock new levels of collaboration
  • Building an online community allows people to come together before and after an event, helping it be so much more than a one-off experience
  • Moving from talk to action requires ongoing communication and collaboration – this is what can turn a conference into a movement

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