Impact360 staff all live in different places. I am in Oakland, California, Zane is in Portland, Oregon, Norman, Oklahoma, is Daphne’s home, and Scott lives in Houston. As an entirely distributed team, our meetings are held over Zoom. One of our core values is being design-led. A design approach is typically very hands-on and visual, using things like sticky notes and sketching. For remote teams, these types of collaboration sessions have to be virtual collaboration sessions.

For our team, a virtual collaboration session is at least a two-hour block of time scheduled in advance so that the entire team can join. We meet via Zoom, but you can use any video platform that works for you. At the beginning of the session, the facilitator shares the following:

  • The goal(s) of the session
  • The metrics for the session (how you will know you met your goals)
  • The outcome(s) of the session (what will you have at the end)
  • How you will get there (review the agenda)

We often start with an energizer. If your team is new to one another, you might choose one that builds comradery or helps everyone get to know each other. If your team is used to working together, you might choose one that hones in on a particular skill you will use later or one that is simply fun and energizing!

Four Quadrants Energizer: Draw what you bring to the team, what you need from the team, what legacy you want the team to leave, and one thing that changed your life.

After the energizer, we move onto the activities that will help us meet our goals and provide us with the outcomes we need. Most of our activities take place in Miro, which is a virtual whiteboard tool that multiple people can use at the same time. Miro includes a number of features that make it easy for us to do a variety of activities. To your whiteboard, you can add sticky notes, text, arrows, and shapes. Miro gives you a timer, a voting feature, the ability to write comments and respond to one another, templates, and a way to screen-share. It’s also super easy to export and save your work. For all full tour of Miro, visit https://miro.com/features/

If you’re doing a lot of virtual collaboration sessions, we recommend holding a regular retrospective. We reserve about an hour to provide everyone an opportunity to reflect on our recent virtual collaboration sessions. What kudos do you want to share? What went well? What do you wish was different? What should we consider next time? You can have your team answer these questions in the form of: 

  • I like
  • I wish, and  
  • I wonder if we might.

Answering these kinds of questions regularly can help you improve the virtual collaboration experience for everyone. For example, in one of our early retrospectives, I learned that my Miro board was crowded with so many activities, which made it difficult for my teammates to follow along. That comment inspired me to create a “Master Miro Board” that links to other boards that we use during each of the sessions, which prevents each Board from becoming too overwhelming.

The Master Board is also helpful when you’re working in one or two-week bursts that include a lot of different activities. At the top of the page is the Overview, which includes information on logistics (Zoom meeting information), any crucial definitions, goals, and metrics. The Overview is there so that people know what to expect and what is expected of them. Below is each activity that will help us meet our goals and metrics. Each activity includes information about the goals of each exercise, how it will work, and what the result will be. And when we’re finished, the Master Board is an excellent summary of all that fantastic work we accomplished together!

Do you have a workshop that has been recently canceled? For a limited time, we are offering help to those in the natural hazards and disaster fields to assist you with guidance on how to run or design an online workshop. Contact us if you need support. Impact360 Alliance can help.

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Reducing natural hazard impacts and disaster risk requires better communication and collaboration between researchers and practitioners. We want to hear from you: What are the challenges and victories you encounter with integrating research and practice in your work?

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