An annual gathering of family court support workers across Ontario. This event helps professionals working with women going through the court system (often because of domestic violence or abuse) to discuss relevant updates, receive professional development, and engage with each other to create a network of helping professionals.
Neolé has played a role in this annual event for the past four years delivering workshops and presentations. This year we helped the client bring the event online in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our client was relying on us to help them make this virtual event as friendly, accessible, effective, and smooth as possible.
One of the biggest challenges faced with this event was a matter of accessibility. Some of the participants had bandwidth issues, or lacked the tools to go online. Working with an underfunded sector, we ran into issues of creating an event that was accessible for those without high-quality technology. There was also a lot of trepidation around using new virtual platforms that the participants did not have experience with.
Another challenge that was run into was keeping the confidentiality of those with whom our client worked. As is the case with issues of domestic violence and abuse, there was a potential for uninvited abusers to try and get into the meeting. This could have caused disruptions to the meeting, and more than that put some of the participants at risk. Our team had to work to make sure that the security of the event was up to par to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Our solution to making the virtual transition was to hold “office hours” leading up to the event where participants could log in, meet, test their equipment, learn about the platforms we were using, and leave feeling confident and excited about the event. We knew that having a smooth transition to a virtual meeting was important to our client, so we took the extra time to make sure all the participants and presenters were comfortable and even excited to take part in this 4-day event.
For the meeting itself, we used a combination of Zoom and Stormz to create an accessible workspace for the facilitators and participants. Stormz is a bright, colourful collaboration space that proved to be just what the client needed. We also helped to co-facilitate by leading daily virtual engagement activities and breakout discussions.
Our solution for the issue surrounding the security of the event was to have a two-level admission process. When participants were first let into the meeting, our team would work with the client to cross-reference the registration list and ensure that they were, in fact, supposed to be there. Anyone who was not recognized was sent to a “Support” breakout room where a member of our team, with a staff member from the client organization, would show them how to rename themselves properly on Zoom, then cross-reference again to see if they were on the list after all. This ensured everyone who was supposed to be there was, and those who were not did not get in, allowing an extra level of safety and security for our client.
As a result of our collaboration with the client, we hosted approximately 80 participants through four half-day sessions running 9:00am to 1:00pm. Participant engagement remained high throughout the four days By starting every morning with a grounding exercise, and then facilitating activities in breakout rooms, we helped the client keep participants fully engaged. A surprise package was also mailed out to each participant prior to the event. Each morning, the participants would open the envelope for that day and receive a little gift, which helped keep everyone excited for the coming day.
Despite preemptive anxieties and accessibility issues, our client found the participants to be relaxed and engaged, and the event ran as smoothly as we could have hoped for.
4 half-day sessions 9am-1pm
20+ virtual flip charts filled with 500+ insights captured on virtual post it notes
12 simultaneous breakout rooms run over 7 sessions