Blueprint Logo

Designing effective and inclusive collaboration

May 2, 2022
Written by Michelle Kuly

These days, we are seeing many organizations shift from in-the-moment crisis strategy planning from the pandemic to taking a breath and saying what now? For many of the governments, agencies and mission-driven organizations we work with this means shifting focus to strategic planning

If you facilitate or participate in board meetings, advisory groups, or workshops with different stakeholders it can be difficult to know how to bring people - teams, boards, stakeholders, community - together. This is especially true if you don’t have existing hybrid meeting norms or tech-enabled spaces for internal collaboration.

So, how important is experience? If you are collaborating with a group for the first time to plan for the next few bumpy years ahead, it is easy to argue that it’s incredibly important. You need energized and effective time together that focuses on the equity of everyone's experience. So we've broken it down into 4 steps to help you offer more than just a dial-in option in your next strategic planning session.

How to design effective & inclusive collaboration

  1. If you are planning an in-person retreat or interactive workshop, prioritize the in-person nature of the planned activity. What does this mean? Think about venue, comfort, safety and the feeling of togetherness and communicate that these things will be key to the experience and outcomes. Be upfront and let folks know that digital participation is not being accommodated synchronously.

  2. Then, outline clear alternatives for those who can't attend in person, from the outset that doesn't involve dialing in on Zoom. Good engagement is predicated on the understanding that "one size doesn't fit all." Plan for alternative ways to provide input and contribute to the decisions to be made: surveys, pre or post-session briefings and interviews, designating an alternate to attend in their place.

  3. If it feels critical to have all voices together and it can't be in-person, then plan from the outset for a hybrid or virtual meeting. Hybrid meetings hold the promise of being effective AND inclusive, but it's easy to see them fall short for participants if you don't take the proper time to plan them.

  4. Whichever option ends up being right for your organization - remember that your workshop design for in-person, virtual and hybrid will all look different in order to keep group engagement and deliver results. 

By focusing on your participants' experience, you can strip away the distractions and dig into the good work that happens when you design for effective and inclusive collaboration. If you’re interested in a deeper dive into the tension between meeting effectiveness and inclusiveness, read this great blog post by Dr. Rebecca Sutherns.

Extra resources

Books by Dr. Rebecca Sutherns
Dare to Lead Podcast: Leading with Purpose in the Digital Age
Blueprint: Creating Comfort Zones


How to manage difficult conversations at work

March 22, 2022
You don't have to dread difficult conversations in the workplace. Here are 6 ways to help you manage them.

5 ways to adapt your meetings for different communicators

February 16, 2022
Use these tips in your next meeting to ensure everyone can share their wisdom and ask questions.

How to make your meetings shorter and more productive

January 19, 2022
Cut down on time and give your meetings more purpose with these incredibly useful tips.