In 2005, Criterion launched the first of 14 Convergences, bring leaders from across sectors and regions together in conversation to think through new ideas to change the world. Although we no longer host these engagements, we have taken the key lessons from this work and applied them to how we design our invitations and engagements. In order to share what we have learned, we are providing background on the event, the design of the sessions and links to materials used. We hope our reflection on our approach to Convergence can be a resource in your work.
The model for Convergence is not like that of most other conferences. We design each Convergence to reflect the interests, passions, and current work of the participants. It brings together leaders in social change from many disciplines, sectors, and walks of life with a shared dedication to changing the world.
For many, coming to Convergence requires a leap of faith. The event promises conversations; not defined content, speakers or proscribed outcomes. Those who take this leap trust Criterion to bring together people to create something worthwhile, something extraordinary.
Before the gathering, Criterion listens to the participants and designs conversations and questions that reflect the passions and commitments of the participants. When they arrive, each participant receives a personalized schedule which allows them to explore their interests and advance their agendas. The schedule allows for both structured conversation and informal exchanges over drinks or during a walk. You can view the basic agenda here and are welcome to look at this conversation from a past Convergence as an example of how the conference is structured.
Interests, passions, and current activities shape the conversations. Conversations move from the abstract to the concrete. In two days, topics are explored in a variety of directions – practical and conceptual. Visions, ideas, and practical suggestions are swapped and possibilities begin to emerge. At Convergence,
- Perspective and thinking evolves.
- People make connections – both expected and unexpected.
- Relationships develop.
- New ideas emerge.
- Projects move forward.
The leap of faith is rewarded with new relationships, ideas, and partners. Each participant get the energy that results from being in authentic dialog with others. Each one meets individuals who would have never crossed our paths – but who pushed thinking beyond everyday boxes. They form relationships with others who will share their visions into the future. They change.
Design of Convergence
Prior to the event, we gather information from all participants and create a personalized schedule that enables everyone to connect around your questions, ideas, and initiatives. This personalized schedule of conversations and working sessions sits within a simple overall structure.
Convergence opens on the first day with an optional grounding session from 12pm to 4pm. We then transition into a casual evening of snacks, dinner and drinks, interspersed with three minute introductions of participants to the whole group. The unique set up of introductions the first evening is specifically designed to let people ‘trickle in’ and latecomers will have no problem integrating. The introductions go beyond the typical bio, which we distribute beforehand. Instead we get a sense of the multiple identities of the people in the room and how we are all connected. The members of the group gathered learn about one another through a carefully configured process, punctuated by appetizers, dinner, and dessert.
The second day begins with a whole group conversation that explores the theme of the conference, investing with a gender lens. The balance of the day is focused on your personalized schedule of conversations and working sessions – and another large group conversation in the afternoon. Then, the third day continues with your personal schedules and a a whole group conversation, which weaves in emerging ideas and initiatives. Convergence ends the third day at 4pm.
Selected Materials from Convergences Over the Years
Convergence I: Questions That Matter
Convergence II: A Time to Dance
Convergence III: A Time to Dance
Convergence IV: The Ecology of Change
Convergence V: Structures of Change
Convergence VI: Language of Transformation
Convergence VII: Systems of Change
Convergence VIII: The Power of Invitation
Convergence IX: Church as an Economic Being
Convergence X: Investing with a Gender Lens
Convergence XI: Church as an Economic Being
Convergence XII: Investing with a Gender Lens
Convergence XIII: Church as an Economic Being
Convergence XIV: Investing with a Gender Lens