How To Utilize The Power Of Convening In Solutions-Based Advocacy

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Patroski Lawson, CEO & founder of KPM Group DC, is committed to addressing longstanding inequities in rare disease and brain health.


The ability to convene stakeholders to help solve business and societal issues is what differentiates solutions-based advocacy from standard advocacy. At its core, solutions-based advocacy is possible only with a focus on relationships, the concept that individuals are more likely to say yes to someone they trust and taking the time to build relationships.

Convening Helps Companies Make A Difference

The Brookings Institution defines convening as “bringing together relevant actors to act collectively to address common challenges.” When solutions-based advocacy creates a seat at the table for all stakeholders, the power to convene becomes an even more effective tool. This is amplified by repeatedly bringing the same stakeholders together to advance and evolve the discussions that lead to change. When done with a clear purpose and goals, convening becomes a business strategy because individuals feel heard and inspired to identify and accelerate solutions with buisnesses that are leading the charge.

The Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is a powerful example of how convenings can create change. The CGI develops committments to action for the world’s largest issues, such as economic growth, health equity and climate resilience. There’s also the World Economic Forum, an organization focused on improving the world through private and public cooperation. Its convenings have accelerated the launch and implementation of hundreds of initiatives, like the Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare, which is designed to speed up the development of global, value-based healthcare.

If you’re interested in using your company’s influence to start convening around important issues, consider these helpful strategies.

Determine The Best Format For Your Convening

Convening can take many forms, whether virtual or in person. No matter how you choose to bring people together, the goal should be to open the door for deeper and more meaningful conversations that move the needle on solutions-based advocacy. Examples of convening formats include:

• Jeffersonian Salon Dinner Parties: With a Jeffersonian-style dinner, an intimate group of participants—generally no larger than 16 people—gather around a single table and discuss a question posed ahead of time. The Jeffersonian-style format is a strategic option for intentionally bringing together business and policy leaders to stimulate thought-provoking conversations on what’s needed to break down barriers on specific topic and issue areas.

• Add-On Events: Add-on events take the form of lunches, dinners or receptions that immediately precede or follow already scheduled business events. The goal of these smaller events is building more intimate relationships with specific stakeholder subsets. This format is ideal for a company or organization that’s involved a larger event and wants to advance conversations with specific members of the audience in a more intimate setting.

• Conferences and Summits: There are conferences and summits that exist to bring together hundreds of individuals around a shared vision. An example is The Business of Rare Policy Summit, hosted by my company KPM Group DC, which is intended to inspire discussions on the challenges and opportunities facing rare disease policy and innovation. Our ultimate goal is advancing healthcare policy reform to account for the unique challenges of developing treatments for these diseases. Other examples include Amazon Web Services’ event series, which brings together the cloud computing company for collaboration, and the American Hospital Association, which hosts an annual Leadership Summit featuring conversations on the future of healthcare.

Attract The Right Stakeholders

To truly impact change, it’s vital for companies to find stakeholders who will buy in to the mission. The right selection will guide their leaders on the importance of going beyond the transactional with colleagues, employees, peers and clients to identify shared visions. They’ll also help connect ideas and solutions that will drive the vision forward.

For example, an event in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week might bring together experts in healthcare, business, nonprofit, policy, behavioral health and substance use disorders. This cross section is the perfect combination of people most likely to commit to identifying, understanding and overcoming challenges that limit advancements in brain and mental health.

Center Empathy And Truth In Conversations

Successful conversations start from a place of empathy and, from there, they drive change and truth about underserved communities. We can increase education and awareness of important issues by creating warm, inviting environments that foster productive conversations.

The best convening discussions should be inclusive and supportive to foster collaborative learning and ideas. To accomplish this, a powerful strategy is to invite stakeholders who are directly impacted by the issues being discussed to share their experiences. In healthcare-focused covenings, for example, it’s incredibly important to hear the patient perspective. Inviting patients to these gatherings allows them to share directly with key stakeholders how the issues at hand have impacted their lives, as well as their families and caregivers. It also ensures the most impacted populations are included in conversations where they can contibute to ideas for change.

As a business leader, it’s imperative to remember that convening over a shared purpose is an incredibly powerful business tool. It’s a great way to bring solutions-based advocacy to life, and it helps us band together with our nation’s underserved communities and achieve more.

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