Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Overview of the 12 Convening Objectives

Once you are clear on the purpose of your convening the next step is to identify your primary objective.


When convening in person it is possible to achieve multiple objectives through a variety of sessions and formats. However, when convening virtually it is important to look at each session as functionally its own event – and thus any given session has only one convening objective.


The 12 objectives build off of one another and can be used with a community over time to take them on a journey. For most communities, it is important to slowly build trust between participants so that they have the foundational relationship necessary to partner for investment.

Practical Tip

If your ultimate purpose, for example, is to catalyse investment for social entrepreneurs who are working to alleviate poverty, we would not recommend jumping straight to “Resource Transfer” objectives.

Building Awareness

Dive into the first four objectives that help to build awareness between your participants.

Building Awareness

Welcome to Build Back Better - Virtual Convening Objectives. This is the first video in a three-part series focused on how to build awareness. 

For this section, we'll be focused on the awareness-building objectives like information sharing, knowledge development, idea evaluation and resource identification. 

When we look at the stage of building awareness, information sharing is one of the most popular. It is also the objective that most online convening is really designed to optimise. 

Most convening platforms are designed such that doing webinars or presentations or panels are really easy and this means that the difficulty for this is very low. 

When you're focused on information sharing, your goal is the dissemination of ideas, information and knowledge to others. And really this can be done for any group size. 

One of the key considerations here is that you don't want to overly rely on this type of one-to-many passive interactions when you're thinking about the broader structure of your virtual convening. 

Some of the interactions that you can do to liven up an information sharing session is to incorporate question and answer. You can do this either asynchronously before of after the session. You can do this through the chat feature. Or you can use a supplementary tool like to gather that.

Many of these sessions actually benefit from doing a pre-recorded video, not unlike this one. Where the lecture portion of your convening is being shared and people can observe it at a time and at a speed that works best for them. So that when you have everyone in the online room together, you're really focused on that interaction, say between the speaker and the participants for example.

Another objective of awareness-building is knowledge development. So this is a little different from just lecturing and sharing information. This is where you're actually building a shared understanding, a mental model or framework together. 

So this does make it a little bit more difficult. It also means that it really only works best for less than fifty people. 

Key consideration here is that it's important to really optimise the real-time interactions and lay that foundation for ongoing interaction and work. As with any kind of experimental process you're not going to be able to really control the outcome here so you have to be open to that when you're thinking about your convening purpose. 

This is a model that works really well for debates. It also tends to work best when you leverage other virtual tools such as whiteboards so Mural or Miro or Google Drawing for example. 

This kind of objective also lends itself really well to both pre and post work. Because there's a lot of processing and a lot of preparation that's required of your participants for them to be able to use their time together effectively.

This is where you can do problem-based learning, or key studies or design labs where folks are given a scenario and they actually have to apply what they've learned previously to come up with the answer or to design the experience or just solve the problem.

The third model is focused on idea evaluation. So this is where you already have an existing idea and you're trying to gain multiple perspectives about that idea. This is where you might have critical discussion, other versions of debates. This is where voting or polls can come in handy. This is much more difficult to do online, mostly because online platforms really aren't designed for this objective. 

We say it can be done with groups of up to fifty in size but that's with the caveat that you're actually breaking that larger group of fifty into much smaller groups. Anything of really more than ten people in a breakout group is going to be difficult to facilitate. 

Some of the key considerations here is that you may want to incorporate idea evaluation into your agenda. Especially if your ultimate objecting is to drive people towards taking action together. 

Some of the session types that work really well for this are Think-Pair-Square, which is where you have the chance to dive into giving people space to really think about the problem that you've presented, to pair off with one another to digest what they thought and then go into groups of four, or squares, where they can share with one another what they learned, and talk about next steps. 

World Cafe and De Bono Six Hats also work very well. I would say De Bono Six Hats is probably one of the best facilitation frameworks you can have for idea evaluation in this model. 

To give you a little example of what the De Bono Six Hats framework involves is you give people a set amount of time where they essentially wear different coloured hats. While they're wearing these different hats - which could be literal if you want to add an element of fun to it - they are, everyone is in the same mode of evaluation. 

So when we're in blue they're focused on the process. White is the facts at hand. Red is the feelings. Green hat is where you can brainstorm, think creatively, be in a 'yes, and...' position. Yellow is where you look at all the benefits. And the black hat, of course, is where you look at the cautions or drawbacks.

One of the benefits of this model is that you're never putting all the onus on one participant to wear the black hat and think about the risk and think about what could go wrong. There is a time and place where everyone gets to participate in that risk evaluation, which means everyone also gets to participate in the benefits and every other stage of the process. 

The final awareness objective is resource identification. So a lot of times people think you can jump right ahead to resource transfer where you're helping people to broker deals. What we've found is that there are a few baby steps you've got to take before that's successful. And the first one is resource identification. 

So this is enabling people in the room to identify the financial, human, social or physical resources that exist within a group. It's relatively easy to do. Once again you can do it for a larger group size, but by doing so you're actually breaking the group up into smaller components using breakout room features. 

One of the focuses here is that pre-work. So there is an opportunity throguh surveys or polls to give people a chance to name what resources that they have that they can deploy for this community. You could also use virtual whiteboards to still activate post-it notes or other methods for folks to name what resources they are bringing to the table. or to be able to browse what resources others are contributing. 

Ask-Offer boards also work well here and peer sharing is beneficial. A Spectrum Map can also be done virtually. Normally a Spectrum Map would be done in person where people stand in a line or stand in different corners of a room. You can do something similar using a virtual whiteboard where people just put an x in a quadrant, for example, to indicate where they stand or along a spectrum to indicate where they stand on a question.

So that brings us to the end of our first video focused on awareness and please stay tuned for the next video focused on the four objectives relating to alignment.


The building awareness objectives are focused on sharing information and supporting your participants to have a shared understanding of the topic for conversation.

There are a wide variety of facilitation techniques that can support these four objectives – but these frameworks all share the aim to support people in understanding what is available within the group.

Practical Tip

Lectures, panels, and debates can all be helpful models. When done virtually we recommend making these elements a “pre-watch” video so that when you have the valuable time of everyone on a call together, they can ask questions and get into discussions.

Information Sharing, Knowledge Development, Idea Evaluation, and Resource Identification are the four core objectives for building awareness. For each of these, when working virtually it is vital to talk to your participants in advance, understand how they are arriving to the program, and customise the design of your session to meet their needs.

Finding Alignment

Understand the second four objectives that help participants align their interests.

Finding Alignment

Welcome to Build Back Better - Virtual Convening Objectives. This is the second video in a three-part series focused on how to build alignment.

Within the twelve convening objectives, those objectives focused on alignment help to bring participants into greater collaboration with one another. This is the next stage before you are able to catalyse people to take action with each other.

The fours objectives for this section are focused on consensus building, affinity grouping, community connection, and resource matching.

When we look at consensus building this is probably the most difficult thing to achieve in a virtual convening setting. And as a result we only recommend working on consensus building with very small groups of between 8-12 participants.

The objective here is to be able to bring a group into agreement around a specific issue or action. One of the biggest considerations for this objective is to make sure that everyone has a shared understanding, both of the issue that's under consideration as well as the specific objectives for that gathering. You'll want to respect people's time and find ways in the virtual environment to ensure that every voice is heard and considered.

Now oftentimes this would be a one-to-many interaction, however, we believe that if you leverage the power of small groups, particularly the Think-Pair-Square facilitation technique. Where folks have a chance to think about the idea that's being brought forth for consideration, to pair off to discuss together, and then to break into small groups of four to share their results with each other. That can really help to bring people into alignment more quickly.

Voting, polls, virtual whiteboards are also really valuable tools and resources to help you in this.

We also recommend the use of collaborative documents like Google Documents or Google Sheets, just to make sure that everybody's working from the same page in terms of facilitation techniques.

Here a formal debate can be very helpful as can wise councils, and gallery walks, as well as the De Bono Six Hats facilitation technique that we walked through in the first video.

An example of consensus building would be, say you're bringing your team together and they need to agree on the priorities for the team over the next 90 days. You'll want to lay out and collect from everyone what they see as their individual priorities, how long they think those would take, and where they rank in terms of urgency or importance. And then you would want to use a virtual whiteboard to be able to map those out for folks And then have voting or a poll to enable people to essentially name what they think are the top priorities for the team.

As an end result, the goal would be the team walks away with a very clear six-week plan of what their priorities are, who is responsible for what, and when they will be accomplished. That would be one example.

Another alignment objective is affinity grouping. So this is typically common for very, very large convenings where you have you know a thousand people or more that are part of your community.

One of the dynamics if your goal is to really drive collaboration is that people need to be able to find other people within the community who share their interests, their values, their priorities or other shared identities. And so affinity grouping is relatively easy to do. It applies to a much larger event, however, the actual affinity group meetings themselves - whether that's a happy hour where that's more casual, or an actual structured working session - would likely be for about 20 people or less.

You'll want to choose the identity dimension that's really meaningful to your participants. You could group them around sustainable development goal, for example, their age, or geography where they work. You need to pick what's going to work best for you and for your community.

When in this phase of affinity grouping, in terms of facilitation and interactions, you want to give a lot of space for introductions. In fact, introductions may be the entire point of a call just so that people know who else is in the group with them. You can use happy hours, working sessions, things like that.

Ignite presentations can be really fun if you want to give people a format for five minute presentations to the group of what they're working on, or a challenge that they're being faced with.

You can also do unconferences with these groups where they get a chance to source what the topics of conversation would be for their gatherings over say the next three to six months.

You can also do structured networking where you're bringing people together with facilitated questions to guide their interactions.If you are considering a happy hour or more social, social event please look at our tools and platforms resources.

I'm sure at this point many of us have participated in zoom happy hours which, to be honest, are pretty painful. One of the benefits of happy hours in the real world is that you get a chance to choose who you're going to connect with, for how long, and you get to meet with lots of different people over the course of the evening.

We recommend tools like online town that give you participant agency to choose who you're going to go talk to for how long, and give you a chance to mix it up a little.

A third objective here is community connection and this is one of the easiest things to do online when you're doing it with intention, and you can do it with larger groups of up to 100.

This is where you want to create a shared sense of identity and group coherence for your community. All of your activities when you have this objective should match the types of connections you're wanting people to build. Do you want them to be really vulnerable and go deep with each other, or are they going to be in community with one another over a long period of time where you need that foundation of trust? Or is this more superficial and you just want to do something like speed networking that give people a chance to connect with a broad range of people but at a more surface level?

You can do a lot of different games here. This is where apps like house party can come to play or online scavenger hunts can be a lot of fun.

This is also an objective that really lends itself to story sharing. People really identify with one another when they're given the space to share stories about their life experiences. This can also lead to Ask-Offers as well. Different session types here could include story circles where you have three people in a group and each one has three minutes to share a story. And you go round robin style so that everybody has a chance to contribute and everybody has a chance to listen.

You can do structured networking once again where people are guided by specific facilitated questions. Apps like icebreaker can be really helpful for that, where you are broken into pairs with one another.

You can also do things like Mad Love, this is where it's kind of a combination of speed networking and the 36 questions to fall in love that you can find on the new york times. With mad love you're giving people a question that really invites them to share. For example to tell what your perfect day is or to share what your biggest aspiration is, and what's holding you back from achieving that. Folks get randomly assigned to another new person in the group and they have a chance to share meaningful connection in a very short amount of time and with a large number of people.

Finally, the last objective for alignment is resource matching. This is a little bit more difficult and, as such, is best suited to smaller groups between 20 to 50 people. This is where you want to start aligning people around the types of resources they have and what kinds of resources they need.

We do recommend to think well beyond just financial capital. Looking at physical, human social, and intellectual capital as well can really help people to all feel like they're able to contribute to others in the group. Some of the interactions here could include showcases where you have projects or companies that are giving presentations about their products or their businesses.

You can do peer sharing where, once again, folks are just sharing “this is what i'm looking for and how” and others are leading with “how can I help?”

It also can help to provide a profile document in advance for these interactions where folks have a chance to read ahead and see who else is going to be in the room, what do they have to offer and, what might they be looking for?

You might also use an actual custom built or, sorry not custom built, but a platform that is really designed for the Ask-Offer experience like Hylo, h-y-l-o.

Some of the session types here can include a resource garden where people use a whiteboarding software like Mural to be able to put up their resources in different categories using virtual post-it notes.

You can also do the mock board room as a replacement to the traditional entrepreneur pitch session that you might see. Where entrepreneurs are matched with three to four mentors or experts who remain anonymous but who hear the entrepreneurs challenges, suggestions and their best thinking to support them. And then only at the end of the session do they reveal their identities.

That brings us to the end of the alignment objectives section. Please stay tuned for our third video focused on the four objectives relating to action.

The finding alignment objectives are the next step in supporting your participants to take action with one another. Once they are aware of who is in the group, what resources they have, and what opportunities can be explored, you as the experience designer and facilitator have the chance to support them in finding alignment with one another.

Consensus Building, Affinity Grouping, Community Connection, and Resource Mapping are objectives that lend themselves to storytelling, using virtual whiteboards, collaborative documents, surveys, and other tools that can help participants filter and align around different opportunities.

  • Consensus Building

    Consensus building is very difficult virtually and is best done with very small groups of 10-15 participants. In advance of any session, it is important to ensure that everyone agrees on what is being considered, what success will look like from this session, and how a decision will be reached. Convening and facilitation is often important for internal team meetings and consensus building is often helpful for internal strategic planning.

  • Affinity Grouping

    Affinity grouping is most helpful when you have a very large group of up to 1000 participants. The goal for this objective is to help people find the smaller group within the larger community who have a shared identity. Short, five minute ignite or lightning talks can be very helpful if you want everyone to be aware of the entrepreneur’s companies in your programs.

  • Community Connection

    Oftentimes introductions can be the entire point for a community connection convening to help people get to know who is in the room. We recommend innovative online platforms like and for more happy hour and community connection building events. Icebreaker is another tool that can be helpful for networking.

  • Resource Mapping

    Resource mapping is the final objective. Here it can be very important for an accelerator program who has the ultimate goal of directing capital to their cohort companies.

Taking Action

Learn about the final four objectives that support participants to take action.

Taking Action

Welcome to build back better virtual convening objectives this is the third video in our three-part series focused on how to take action.

This video is focused on the four objectives that are relating to action. This includes ideation and problem solving, personal growth, collective action and resource transfer.

As we look at ideation and problem solving as the next of the convening objectives, we want to recognise this is relatively difficult when it comes to virtual convening. And thus is really only best for groups that are less than 20 people in size.

This is a session where people are generating ideas, strategies and solutions around a specific issue or challenge. These tend to require a lot of diverse perspectives to be able to be successful.

You could do larger groups - so long as they're being divided into smaller breakout rooms - and focus on kind of sub-challenges relating to that. And that way each of the small groups can address one of those sub challenges separately, and then report back.

Within these interactions we definitely recommend pre-work. In fact, it's likely you've already hosted sessions that were focused on building awareness between this community, and building alignment.

We also recommend leveraging additional supporting tools like whiteboards or virtual collaboration platforms like Google Documents.

Brainstorming can be a lot of fun. It is typically an interaction that brings a lot of energy from a group, and so leveraging a tool like Mural where you can do virtual post-it notes is great because you want to make sure that you're capturing everybody's perspective.

So being able to give space for people to think about their answers so you don't just collect what's given to you by the rapid processes in your group. Giving people space to write down their answers is extremely helpful so that you're really capturing from everyone and not just those who are speaking often or the most vocally.

You'll often also have post-work following these sessions. Because what's the good of brainstorming unless you're actually going to do something in some sense-making with that information?

You may once again use the De Bono's Six Hats, focused on the idea evaluation. You might use World Cafe, where people switch between different groups where there's a consistent host in each group where they have a chance to dig in on specific questions.

You might pose a wicked question. Something that's a bit more potent beyond just a yes or no, that gives people a chance to think about challenges they're facing.

You might also look at doing a Discover and Action Dialogue where folks have a chance to ask clarifying questions and gain the information they need before making a decision. And then brainstorming the variety of actions that folks could take. As well as after looking at those actions, looking at what the potential consequences of those actions could be.

Panarchy is another example, where you can essentially unleash a lot of different perspectives on one idea. So you would have one person quote-unquote "sitting in the middle" of the group. You would have to do this virtually. It's a little more challenging since you can't just put the chair in the middle. But where everybody else is providing that person very specific feedback on the problem that they're facing.

Another objective focused on action is personal growth. Now, this is difficult, but with the caveat it's actually really easy when you have a great facilitator. But it is very difficult if you are tackling this for the first time and are not familiar with building trust and vulnerability and brave spaces among groups.

You can do this with extremely large groups of people. It depends on whether or not you're asking them to go on an individualised journey, or if you're inviting them to go on a journey together as a small group. For large groups of 100 to 500 people, things like guided meditations, breath workshops, guided visualisations can be done with the entire group from one person sharing. However, if you're really looking for people to interact with each other then we recommend that they break into small groups of less than 20 people each.

The ultimate goal here is that you want your participants to experience growth, evolution, or change on an individual level. It's important to note that oftentimes these personal growth exercises can trigger big emotions. And when these emotions are activated, those small groups create a much stronger sense of intimacy, safety and a container that's appropriate for brave spaces.

You may notice I'm saying "brave space" instead of "safe space". There are a variety of reasons why safe spaces are problematic. Depending on your heritage and your background, you may never feel safe in a group of people. However, inviting people into vulnerability and into sharing does take an act of courage or bravery.

Some of the other interactions here are once again coming back into stories sharing as pairs. It can be helpful to give your small group a shared set of hand gestures that they might use. This might include twinkle fingers to show that you are in agreement with somebody without having to interrupt them verbally. It can include raising your hand if you want to speak next. Or using the kind of fingers of one to five to show what level of agreement that you're in with someone.

Pre and post work is appropriate depending on the larger context of this journey. If this is a one-time session and these people are only coming together once, you may want to lean more on activities like free writing, where you give people a writing prompt. They may even leave the area of the computer and they'll go and walk through that prompt and just write for as long as they can based off of the amount of time you shared.

You may also provide music, poetry or art or other performance-like expressions that invite people to think about challenges they're facing or opportunities for development in different ways.

If you want to do group processing, however, this is where once again having a gifted facilitator who is able to both monitor the chat, to be able to do private chat, and to check in with folks - where folks are being invited to all share their videos so there's a sense of shared trust - as well as a container for confidentiality, becomes really important.

The third and arguably fairly difficult objective here is collective action. And it's important to note when you are bringing a group together for collective action to not think of this as a one-off session.

So we have found at that when bringing a group together to build
something together, to develop or execute a project together, it generally works best with between 8 and 16 participants. And that you need at least three sessions with them to do anything meaningful. We oftentimes recommend that each phase of three sessions has an on/off ramp where people can enter or leave depending on if the topic is still relevant to them.

But that overall you're looking at bringing people together for about a year, and that's the good feeding circles framework that we've developed. Within these you may, during the discovery phase, be more focused on introductions. Making sure everybody in the room has that awareness of who is there, and has alignment with one another that they're in agreement about what the action is that they're taking.

Once you move into building your research agenda and the learning phase, you may want to invite in guest experts who can give presentations. You may invite people to do research on their own and bring that research back to the group. Or, depending on your shelter in place orders, people may go on field trips. For example, to go visit specific businesses or to do investigations outside of the specific meeting that you're hosting.

Once you're moving into the piloting phase then you're going to look at pilot design, variable control testing, and getting really clear for the group about things like IP or ownership. So having really clear group agreements becomes critically important to the success of collective action.

And then finally the last objective is resource transfer. So this is where you're building specific connections to transfer money, time or talent between participants. This is relatively difficult because people need to have a fairly high degree of trust if they're going to do those resource transfers.

And once again this can work for a larger community of around 100 people. But you're typically going to want to break people into groups of less than 20 participants per group.

If your goal is really the facilitation of deals. For example, you're an accelerator program and you're trying to drive investment towards the entrepreneurs within your cohort. Or you run a convening that has a group of fellows and you're trying to introduce them effectively to funders or to mentors or advisors

The path of building authentic trust and relationship building is absolutely critical. And that means that ideally you have already run sessions around resource identification and resource alignment or matching before you're doing a session that's specifically about resource transfer.

You'll want to make sure that there are clearly structured roles for people within the group. Being crystal clear and aware of the power dynamics that exist, especially when money is at stake, is critical to the success of building a vulnerable and authentic space.

You also want to invite people into Time-Boxed sharing. This is another mechanism for helping to mitigate some of those power dynamics and ensure that everybody has the space to share and everybody has the same amount of time to share.

Some of the session types. One of our favourites that we've done for many years is the Reciprocity Circle. Typically this is done near the end of a convening when there is some of that shared awareness and alignment already in place. And where you are bringing folks together so that each person has a chance to share a challenge that they're facing and everyone else in the group has the opportunity to share their best thinking.

We say "best thinking" and not just "advice" because oftentimes if you've only heard somebody's problem for about two minutes you don't know enough to give them advice. But you might be able to share a potent question that helps them think about it differently, an introduction to somebody who could be game changing for them, or you may actually have other resources to bring to bear to support their challenge.

Structured networking can be helpful here as well as Ask-Me-Anythings. And this can be an opportunity to bring in an expert, where other participants have the chance to candidly ask them questions, and gain empathy and perspective of that person in their role that they might not otherwise have access to.

Next-Gen Pitch is another potential framework. This is essentially an inverted pitch where the funders are the ones who are pitching what their investment framework or criteria look like, and then entrepreneurs get to sign up for office hours or small group conversations with that investor. Instead of the entrepreneurs being the one doing the pitching and then the investors approaching them.

So that brings us to the end of our three-part series on awareness, alignment and action. Please stay tuned for the next resources in this series to support you on your certified virtual convening training.

When your goal is for people to take action –  to make an investment, to partner with each other, to work together around a common goal – then you may want to focus on these four objectives.  These sessions often come after a series of other convenings or conversations and that have a significant amount of pre-work so that everyone is able to get a lot out of their time together in person.

  • Ideation and Problem Solving

    Ideation and problem solving is the first of the objectives, and one that often brings people a lot of energy. Brainstorming and thinking of new opportunities and possibilities is a high-energy activity. You’ll often need supportive technology like virtual whiteboards, voting and survey systems like, and collaborative documents.

  • Personal Growth

    Personal Growth is another potential objective – especially if you are building a cohort experience for entrepreneurs or wanting to build deep relationships between investors, mentors, and entrepreneurs. While this can be very difficult to do virtually, a good facilitator can support the community to explore their challenges and opportunities for development.


    There are some benefits to doing these sessions online. For instance, using the chat feature is a powerful way to support the facilitator in checking in with participants throughout the session.


    Confidentiality is often one of the most important tools you have to help create a space for vulnerability and trust.

  • Collective Action

    Collective action is often one of the most difficult objectives to achieve online. Collective Action requires multiple convenings before you are able to get people to step up and actually collaborate with one another. Convenings here are designed to support participants to create clarity in what they want to achieve together and how they can pilot or test those collaborations.

  • Resource Transfer

    Resource transfer is the final objective, and one that is often relevant to ESOs. The foundation of resource transfer is focused on building trust and shared values and impact alignment.


    This convening would come after a series of other conversations where participants have completed resource identification and alignment.


    Equity of time and space to talk is very important when you are navigating power imbalances between investors and entrepreneurs.


Possibilities and Limitations of Virtual Convening

Unlock new possibilities and understand the real limitations of virtual convening