Our Living Waters
In the wake of the pandemic, people have realized that virtual work is here to stay but still long for in-person events and meetings. Our Living Waters needed a new digital facilitation tool to reinvigorate their ongoing collaborations and encourage more meaningful interactions within their network.
After extensive comparative research, Our Living Waters found that Howspace was the only platform specifically designed for facilitation and the only one built on a bedrock of collaborative learning. With Howspace, they got everything they needed to make their two-day conference successful, but also gained a new platform to continue working, learning, and evolving together with their network.
Our Living Waters is a collaborative network of member organizations working together to achieve the ambitious goal of “all waters in Canada in good health by 2030!” It is a non-profit organization of three dedicated staff: Andrew Stegemann, Director; Taylor Wilkes, facilitator; and Rebekah Kipp, communications lead and network weaver.
Within the network, there are three Teams, or collaborative forums of member groups that come together monthly to drive action on a shared water goal. One Team, the Community-Based Water Monitoring Collaborative (CBWMC), has been dreaming for quite some time now about coming together in person for a larger gathering. They wanted to start building the momentum and motivation needed to pull it off together. In April 2022, Our Living Waters planned a two-day digital “pre-conference” where people could get together and discuss what that dream could look like: should it be purely remote, or could there be in-person elements that make the experience more hybrid?
Taylor, who facilitates the CBWMC, knew that in the wake of the pandemic people were yearning for more creative ways to spark energy and motivation in virtual environments. To make the pre-conference a success, she needed new tools to make digital work more engaging and encourage greater collaboration.
As a seasoned facilitator, Taylor started with her network to see what they are using.
“I did a deep dive into the virtual facilitation tools that are out there and did a big scan to see what we could possibly start using to spice things up,” she explained.
Many of her peers who facilitate groups digitally have used Miro or Mural, and she’d heard some positive points and constructive criticism of both. To get a wider picture, she used a comparative website to put Mural up against Miro and other similar tools, such as Google Jamboard. Howspace kept popping up as an alternative.
Taylor came across an article that featured multiple digital facilitation tools and categorized them into different use cases and functions, which she found really helpful. With Howspace now a part of her environmental scan, it became clear to her that it was the only platform specifically designed for facilitation and the only one truly built on a bedrock of collaborative learning. Part of what influenced her decision were Howspace’s five design principles, which govern all platform developments.
A big part of Rebekah’s job is communicating in both English and French and ensuring that French-speaking voices are being heard and understood. This is a challenge without the right supportive tools.
“Without that tool, we required humility in apologizing up front that we didn't have a space that was set up to be bilingual,” Taylor admits. “Rebekah joined for both days so that she could support in translating any sort of written submissions that people have, and that was really helpful and it worked. People really appreciated it, but it's a lot of capacity.”
Fortunately, Howspace will have that covered, too. While the feature wasn’t available for the conference Our Living Waters was preparing, the upcoming Translations feature will neatly address the challenge of having people who speak different languages collaborating in the same space. Once released, it will be a critical tool in boosting diversity and inclusion in any workshop, conference, or change process.
With Translations on the horizon, Our Living Waters saw Howspace as the ideal platform for them. Given the chance to test it out in early stages, Rebekah highlighted, “Francophones can see the whole dialogue in French and anglophones can see whole conversations in English. They can write in their own language, and it will be translated automatically into the other one—that’s a super big bonus for us!”
Translations will be released by the end of 2022. Our Living Waters will be amongst select customers to beta test and improve the feature prior to wide release.
It was important for the Our Living Waters team to build energy and excitement around the event. Additionally, giving participants a chance to connect ahead of time and familiarize themselves with Howspace was critical to a good experience.
“There was this big juicy page open for the whole week beforehand, which had a high-energy video from one of the members of our Collaborative. She got us all jazzed and ready to dream,” Taylor explained.
The video invited participants for “a moment to dream.”
Participants were asked to think about their dream roundtable and contribute their ideas to what this larger gathering needed to look like and why it needed to happen.
Super Chats collecting participants objective ideas for the potential Roundtable.
Howspace made it easy for participants brand new to the platform to start an asynchronous dialogue before the conference itself, allowing people to open up and give their personal insights in advance. That way, everyone could start Day One off with a bang!
For Taylor, “a key takeaway from the experience was that it was a much appreciated energy boost… Howspace basically took 20 people’s brain dump and put it into one central place for me and built a whole bunch of energy and motivation to be involved in the process.”
On Day One, using a combination of different brainstorming tools in Howspace, Our Living Waters was able to distill the participants' hopes and wants for a larger gathering into concrete, co-created objectives and actionable next steps.
The facilitators of the session, Taylor and Andrew, first had participants vote on the objectives to produce a “North star objective” and then split into three working groups: fundraising and budgeting; coordinator job; and, agenda design.
A shared Google Doc embedded in Howspace, outlining co-created next steps.
Day One ended with a reflection on how achievable their dream roundtable was. “We walked away with a couple of action plans that were collaboratively built and 4 new people that wanted to be part of the planning committee moving forward. There was some new energy that was fed by that first day, which was really good!” Taylor highlights.
Overall, feedback from the participants showed how excited they were to work with Howspace and be part of a thoughtfully laid out journey where people could be productive and engaged together. Our Living Waters plans to expand their use of Howspace to other areas of their everyday work with their network.
“The reason we really need Howspace, “ Taylor explains, “is that so much of the work of facilitating is in between the actual meetings. Howspace helps you garner people’s attention in the space in between and have more asynchronous work done with less weight on the individual meetings.”
With more and more people continuing to work remotely or in hybrid settings, it's important to have technology that enables collaboration to create the greatest impact.