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10 things we learnt about facilitating connection

Insights and learnings that came out of our virtual workshop in collaboration with The Jo Cox Foundation's More in Common Network Common Room sessions, with a mix of event organisers and attendees. Thank you all that attended for your generosity and participation.

1. Be intentional: Make the intention for connection known prior to the event by using a verb like ‘connect’. Why a verb? Intentional means action and we all know love love is a verb, love is a doing word (thanks Massive Attack). Include these words in the event description.

2. Take 10: Make the time and space for connection — 10 mins at beginning and end. Try offering a cup of tea or coffee. When someone offers you a cup of tea, they are inviting you, welcoming you. Having something warm in your hands helps you feel that warmth.

3. Check in and check out: Before starting the activity, ask everyone to check in together by describing how they are feeling at that moment, or that day. The check in can be intimate, ‘I’ve got a lot on at the moment, and I feel as if I’m struggling to manage my mental health and stress levels, but now I am here I am excited to connect and share with you all’ or less so ‘I’m anxious that I have a package arriving at any time and I’ll miss it, which will be annoying!’. Same at the end.

4. Reach out: Before and after the event to help build familiarity and 1:1 relationships with the attendees, setting the model for everyone else in the class.

5. Own the awkwardness: Event organisers can raise awareness of the role they play in making the group feel more or less comfortable.

6. Show and tell: Encourage participants to bring along something to share with the group. This gives an excuse to tell a story to the group without being put on the spot.

7. Teamwork: Help participants to feel included and helpful by contributing; clearing up together, taking on a joint task, helping each other out ect.

8. Neighbourhood: Emphasise the local connection by asking for local recommendations.

9. Notice board: Suggest an interesting event you have seen and are going to, allowing others to join if they want.

10. Relax: Allow time to ‘breathe’. This gives an opportunity for people to drift in and out of connection, wander between groups and focus on the activity without talking. Feeling pressured to talk intensively does not make people feel relaxed and want to connect.