On October 7th, GMSEN hosted an online 'Re-Convention' event to provide a space for discussion, networking and connection for local social enterprise leaders and those interested in the wider social economy in Greater Manchester.
The event was hosted and expertly facilitated by Jez Hall from Shared Future CIC, with hosting support from Nickala Torkington from Flourish Together CIC and Zoom co-ordination from Owen Hewson from GMCVO.
Just under 25 attendes joined the call, mostly Social Enterprise leaders from Manchester, Wigan, Salford, Rochdale, Stockport and Bolton.
The event was run in the 'Open Space' format, as a way to enable participant-led discussions. After a few quick-fire rounds of 'speed-dating' style-networking in breakout rooms, attendees were asked to switch off their camera and mic for 2 minutes and have a good think about what they felt was the topic or burning issue they wanted to bring to the group for discussion. Suggestions included:
- How to create effective peer support so we don't have to wait for support
- How to make our businesses sustainable and access available funding
- Storytelling and presenting impact to commissioners
- How to make collaboration work
- Climate change and the social enterprise sector
Broadly, three overarching themes emerged:
- Sustainable funding
This presented 3 themes for 3 breakout room discussions. Attendees then chose which discussion theme they wanted to join for the first round of discussions. We had two rounds of discussions in breakout rooms in this format so attendees could take part in a range of discussions.
After the breakout room discussions, the group congregated back to share some initial thoughts and reflections from the session before the wrap-up and close.
Feedback during the event and in the feedback survey indicated that attendees liked the 'Open Space' format on Zoom; being able to input on discussion topics and choose for themselves which discussion groups to join.
Discussion themes coming through in the breakout room discussions:
- The value of networking opportunities outside of your usual circles
- The challenge of developing sustainable income streams
- Need for start-ups to know what support is out there and where to find it
- Appetite for collaboration, particularly outside of your specific sector
- Recruitment is hard at the moment
There was a mix of views around in-person vs online meetings. Some prefer the efficiency and convenience of meeting online and not having to worry about travel. Others are keen to get out and do more meetings face to face after the lockdowns and time at home over the last 18 months.
Following the positive feedback from this event we are planning another 'Open Space' online event in early 2022.
In the meanwhile, we have been testing out demand for face-to-face 'Social Economy Socials' to provide a space for connection and networking for social enterprise leaders and people interested in the social economy in Greater Manchester.
These events are being held at local social enterprise food and drink venues.