How to recreate the face-to-face magic every day?

December 18, 2013 | Blog-Admin1 | Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools, SDC Networks |


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Face to face meetings are magic moments in a network’s life, full of life, interaction and social weaving. How can networks hold this vibrancy after the face to face meetings? “By creating a virtual face to face ambience,” says Hynek Bures. “With the Internet and today’s social media your colleague actually sits next door.”

By Hynek Bureš, dubbed perceptions

In 2013 the SDC division learning and networking created a space for SDC’s thematic networks to reflect on their work during the first 4 years of their existence. While collecting these interviews I have learnt how important personal interaction of network members during workshops – the face to face (f2f) events – is. Networks thrive on such personal exchange. But workshops are time bound events as Marylore Crettaz (SDC) explains:


I believe that by using the Internet based communication tools, it is possible to continue the personal exchange throughout the year. Let me explain.

Face-to-face: the magic network moment

The f2f events are magic moments in the activity of the networks. SDC practitioners and partners meet and discuss the nitty-gritty of their thematic focus: good governance, migration, health, etc. These spontaneous exchanges strengthen the network (people get know each other in person) and help individual practitioners to find solutions to their program challenges. It is a place to innovate, as Peter Beez (SDC) explains:


The challenge: keep the dynamic

After the event, everyone goes back to his/her program. The networks witness a drop in networking activity. How to continue this vital exchange during the workshop off-time?

As we heard Marylore Crettaz, regional events that take place between the global, every-two-years f2f meetings, are one possible way forward. They help to create links between experts working in similar contexts.

Though regional events are vital to promote regional specificity and exchange within global networks, they cannot make up for the decreased networking activity the rest of the year. This can be frustrating for a network as Kuno Schläfli (SDC) explains:


How to bridge this gap?

Vibrant virtual exchanges

For networks with members around the world the solution is on the Internet. Here you will not replace the physical knowledge exchange, but you can come close to creating a virtual f2f ambience!

My personal continuous learning pattern is based exactly on such virtual spaces: Blogs, discussion forums, Youtube:

I need a solution/answer to an immediate problem/question. I google my question. I visit relevant discussion forums. I post my question in the forums or I read up on existing answers to similar questions. Sometimes I leave a reply. More and more often I watch a video that can answer my question.

To me this is the true network character of today, where like-minded people might be sitting in other parts of the world.


Imagine a virtual space where program staff of your organization can exchange in a very informal way: a virtual f2f coffee break where network members exchange directly and spontaneously.

Such space needs to be organized and created, like a f2f event. You expand your organizational space into the virtual world, where your colleague sitting on the other side of the globe knocks on your office door to ask you for help. With the Internet and today’s social media your colleague actually sits next door!

What is your experience with virtual exchanges? How do you stay connected with network members and f2f participants? How do you engage virtually?

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Comments to“How to recreate the face-to-face magic every day?”

  1. Riff Fullan says:

    Thanks Hynek, for compiling this interesting mix of perspectives on network dynamics and roles. I think the different network stories show not only the complexity of what an SDC network is and how it ‘lives’ within its institutional environment, but also that there is not one way to nurture a thriving network. Certainly there should be face-to-face interactions, and certainly you need to keep the fires burning between those interactions, but the methods and tools employed need to be explored and implemented in iterative ways, in ways that respond to the network members (Where is their energy sparked? Where is it reduced?). If you manage to find a good fit between the methods and tools and the ‘personality’ of the network, then you will see dynamic and self-sustaining results!

  2. Dear Riff

    Thank you for your reply. I do agree that there is no one solution that would fit all networks. Each Network is unique in its history and set-up. Nevertheless, I understand my blog post as an impulse for networks to explore further the potential of web based communication. All networks do have a presence on the web. They post valuable information on their sharewebs for their members to use. But how about member to member communication?

    Many of us have embraced social media to stay in touch with friends around the globe. Why not explore tools that will help us to share knowledge more directly – person to person?

    Whoever knows of good examples, please share with us!


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