Retrospective on IOA’s Summer of 2020 Community Connections Series

By IOA's Community Connections Task Force

2020 continues to be the year that just won’t stop. However, this past spring/summer IOA found a way to pivot from our canceled 15th Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon to a series of well-received and well-attended mini-events. This included discussions on how members were managing personally and professionally during COVID, important networking opportunities, interesting topical presentations, moving Petcha Kutcha presentations, and an opportunity to recognize the 2020 Distinguished Alumni, Janet Hill.

"As we have all learned over the past six months, everything is new and a work-in-progress."

As we have all learned over the past six months, everything is new and a work-in-progress. Our team has reflected on the Community Connections experience, and what follows documents the remarkable effort and reflects on lessons learned, in hopes that others might benefit from our work.

It all began in April with a first-ever IOA Virtual Annual Meeting (IOA members can review the recap online). The meeting was followed by breakout sessions for the first-ever IOA Community Dialogue, where more than 200 IOA members reconnected on a massive Zoom call, during which they discussed how they were managing the COVID health crisis individually and as organizational ombuds. The response to this event was so positive that what followed was the formation of the Community Connections Task Force, composed of members from the Conference Committee, Finance, Professional Development Committee (PDC),  IOA Executive Director, Chuck Howard, and our stellar colleagues from SBI Association Management who undertook the mission to extend these network and programming efforts throughout the summer.

In hindsight, it was a remarkable effort to launch the Community Connections series with no playbook and a strategy to simply learn as we went. We planned and delivered 19 separate events, and the entire team—along with the presenters and session facilitators—adapted and worked quickly. These events covered a diverse mix of topics focused on building connections. They provided IOA members who were not able to attend the conference a new way to connect with other ombuds. In an effort to make these opportunities available to IOA members in the global ombuds community we also focused on scheduling and providing recordings of the series.

Additionally, the work of our Task Force resulted in natural connections, communication, and learning between members, IOA sector groups, and IOA committees. We worked carefully to shape the programming – being clear that the intention of the Community Connections was not to duplicate the conference or overstep the work of the PDC.

"Challenges presented themselves throughout the summer...  Our management team was pressed into action very quickly and asked to move from traditional in-person event planning to a brand new, fully virtual event format..."

Challenges presented themselves throughout the summer. Topics that were relevant for the in-person conference were not always suitable for a virtual format. In addition, as the summer unfolded, some planned offerings proved to be difficult to organize in a sensitive and meaningful way. The team also became acutely aware of the accessibility needs of our members. It took some time to build new features for our various virtual modes. Furthermore, our management team was pressed into action very quickly and asked to move from traditional in-person event planning to a brand new, fully virtual event format, organizing online platforms, monitoring Zoom sessions, and promoting new events. This entire team is to be congratulated for this massive undertaking! 

Looking back, one adjustment that could have been made would have been including a representative from the Communications Committee as we pressed pretty hard and fast on their communications structures and timelines. There were times when the Task Force felt a bit like we were on an island planning and broadcasting without a playlist. 

Lastly, much appreciation is extended to everyone who was involved in the planning, delivery, and execution of the Community Connections series. Thank you one and all.

Community Connections Task Force Members: 

Crystal Brakke
Kristine Paranica
Mark Patterson
Chuck Howard
Megan Miller
Lee Twyman

Community Connections Event Data

  • Dates: 6 May 2020 — 1 September 2020
  • Event Total: 19
  • Participants: More than 400
  • Countries: More than 20 (Including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Romania, UK, and more)
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