“To serve the public and civic sector with events, programs and services that inspire innovation for the greater good.”
GTS Educational Events recently adopted this mission statement, along with a bold new strategic plan that focuses its purpose, vision, values and strategic activities squarely around innovation. Little did we know that just a few months later, thanks to a global pandemic, we were going to be challenged almost overnight to put our money where our mission statement is!
So how does a small, nonprofit organization with a long, rich history of convening people in traditional face-to-face settings, continue to serve the organizations and communities we work with in a socially distant world? We innovate, of course, but we also partner and deepen our commitment to service – all hallmarks of our strategic plan and all critical elements needed to not only survive in the midst of an unprecedented economic and social crisis, but transform. I hope the following examples of how we have responded serves to inspire you to innovate for the greater good.
Like many other organizations with upcoming plans for in-person convenings, we were faced with challenging decisions that needed to be made in a very short amount of time. Essentially, we could throw in the towel and cancel mission-critical programs, postpone plans and hope for better days, or we could transform our upcoming summit for K-12 educators into something new and untested for us – a virtual conference.
While virtual or distance learning is not new (I actually launched a successful online learning program in 2004), converting a physical conference with multiple concurrent sessions and a tradeshow into a virtual event in a matter of days was not only a new experience for our team, it required all of us at GTS to dig deep into our innovation toolbox. Like many organizations, we also had to innovate and transform while fully operating at a distance ourselves!
It wasn’t easy. There was a lot of information to sort through in a short amount of time against a backdrop of a great deal of uncertainty. While we used the skills typically associated with innovation (creativity, critical thinking, communication, strategic thinking, and problem solving), we also engaged two other essential ingredients of innovation – a commitment to our mission and a commitment to each other. Without these unwavering commitments, we would not have been able to convert the Transforming Learning Summit into a two-day, engaging virtual event using state of the art technology, as well as a format and content that will ensure human engagement and provide a platform for our partners to shine.
Speaking of human engagement and partners, I am excited to introduce a key partnership with HueLife. HueLife is a human understanding and engagement (Hue) consulting firm working with public, private and government sectors in organization development, strategic planning, public and in-house facilitation training, consulting, executive search, community engagement, and leadership/team development. While GTS has been developing a partnership with HueLife over the past couple of years, we have extended that partnership in a number of ways that will give our organizations the following new opportunities to innovate and to be of greater service to our constituents:
Marketing and Registration Services – GTS will be supporting HueLife’s efforts by guiding and managing its promotional efforts and attendee registration operations.
Content and Expertise for the Transforming Learning Summit – HueLife will be providing its expertise in human understanding and engagement by offering timely pre-conference and conference sessions on how to build and maintain a culture of learning in a virtual environment.
Co-creating and Supporting a New Innovation League – GTS, HueLife and the Alliance of Innovation are joining forces to give birth to and provide the initial infrastructure and support for the Twin Cities Metro Area Innovation League – a “hub” for community innovation that will engage partners and participants from the public, private and civic sector who are committed to enhancing and increasing collaborative efforts that lead to equitable and sustainable communities and positive systems change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unthinkable and tragic crisis for individuals, communities, and our society. But there are also silver linings, including the many examples of organizations and agencies that, like GTS Educational Events, have chosen to deepen their commitment to service, innovate and transform their services, and in the process discover the collective power of partnership and collaboration. Now more than ever, we all need to work together and inspire each other with innovation for the public good.
Let’s connect, let’s innovate and let’s be of greater service!