Members with a problem, that they will like resolve, could put it to the group for answers and solutions, and they would receive some workable responses from their peers. The overall membership was invited to participate. The administrator hoped that by creating a “viral chat room” will help to inspire and motivate the membership. She also hoped that members, whose entrepreneurial drive was very low, will have it ignited in the forum. She also designed and created this space as a non-threatening space where members could speak freely, free from judgement. Over all, the administrator of Women in Business promised to make this “get together” an empowering session.
There were some specific rules to ensure that the process flowed smoothly. All of the participants were asked to introduce themselves and their businesses. And they were reminded that it was our goal to create a social space to foster dialogue, forge friendship, and foster meaningful networking.
The “hangout” was implemented every two weeks to meet the needs of the membership. In order to meet the needs of the members, the activity was advertised to all our membership and they were given time to RSVP. Twenty-five members were the limited number of people expected to form part of the group at any time in order to be effective. It was decided by management that a small group of 25 will be more manageable to ensure one-one-one interaction and feedback. Members were therefore asked to respond to the message in a timely way to reserve their placement. The “hangout” was held every two weeks on a Tuesday. The general start time will be at 11:00 am EST and it ended at 11:00 pm EST.
General Mission and Vision:
The general mission and vision of “hangout” was to use it as a strategy to bring the membership of Women in Businesses closer. It was the intention of the administrator to use it to facilitate social-interaction among the members. The administrator felt that as a large group, not all of the members were visible. She also felt that not all of the members were gaining the knowledge that they needed to grow their business. The administrator felt that while the group had some very verbal and active members, many members were silent — very quiet — some claim that they were held back by limiting-beliefs. We therefore had two groups of women or members —, those who spoke out and those who retreated. To break this divide, the administrator of the group thought that if she created a space that was based on interest, collaborative problem-solving, sharing, and the creation of knowledge. She felt that these foci would create a setting in which there was no status — where everyone every one has a problem and every one was an expert. It was her intent that the “hangout” would encourage and accelerate greater participation and involvement among members. She believed that by creating the “hangout” — was like creating an egalitarian space to foster a more harmonious group.
The Purpose and Objective:
The purpose of hosting a “Hangout” is to foster greater social interaction and more meaningful networking amongst the members. Some members had voiced their viewpoint that while the group connected them with like minded women; it did not lend itself to one-on-one interaction. The administrator therefore thought that one–on-one interaction would only occur if there was more opportunity for discourse. "While we have people meeting at the discussion space, or at the Reading Corner, or while sharing and reading another quotation, they weren’t generating the type of interaction needed to form a bond," the administrator pointed out. She also believes that “a bond is only formed when there is trust, openness, sharing of point-of-views, and dialoguing, and only then would a real connection takes place.” She felt that if I can create a space that was friendly, open, non-threatening, members will open up and share their fears, successes, failures — and will not be diminished in the eyes of their peers.
The administrator also felt that peer-to-peer reviews and feedback will give the members an opportunity to feel confident about themselves and their businesses and to thinks “ this is what we all want, a place where we can share and talk and come away with a great piece of information to help me to grow my business.”
Who is it intended for?
The “hangout” was intended for all of the membership of Women in Business. The administrator hoped that each and everyone would feel comfortable to join. “It is creating an opportunity where we can all increase our knowledge-base about our businesses,” she says. “While some of us are expert business women because we have been at entrepreneurship longer, do have a lot of advice to share, she shared. At the same time, those of us who are novices, also have a lot to give. You also have experiences and insights that are just as invaluable. I hope that if we pool the knowledge resources within the group, we will have an accumulated wealth of knowledge that can be of benefit to all. So let’s share. Let’s talk to each other. Let’s assist so that we can all grow.”
- To create a more socially-interactive space
- To foster more meaningful networking
- To create a space where asking and responding are engendered
- Where the sharing of information will foster the creation of knowledge
- To create a democratize social group 6. Create a participatory space
Some logistics for Participation:
- “Hangout” was created in Women in Business to encourage its members to share what is happening in their lives. The issues shared can be business, personal, and family related.
- If you have a problem to resolve, you can put it to the group and you will surely receive some workable solutions from the members.
- You were welcome to the event. For example the admin often wrote "come and join us and be inspired and motivated. We promise to make this “Get Together” an empowering session."
- To participate, members were asked to introduced themselves and their business? They were reminded that it was a social space that we want to create to foster dialogue.
- Members were expected to acknowledge their attendance before the event because of limited placement.
- The intent was to share a situation or a problem that you were experiencing in your business with the group and someone will help you to resolve it. You are also expected to share your views and thoughts on another person's question.
- We hoped that through collaboration we would be able to solve each others problems, and gain valuable insights into our challenges.
- We hoped that by simply listening we would also learn a great deal — valuable knowledge that we can integrate into our lives and business.
- Participants are welcomed by the administrator on entering the forum.
- Participants are also expected to introduce themselves and their business followed by posting their question or questions.
- Participants were expected to be each others expert and share your thoughts about the questions that each has posted.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of each “hangout” a short questionnaire was administered. The “hangout” was implemented as a pilot project and it was important to know if it was effective. Was it meeting the members’ needs? Was it meeting the administrator’s objectives? Was it bringing members closer together? Was it facilitating greater networking opportunities?
Three questions were generally asked for participants' feedback, and they included:
- What do you think about the event?
- Was it user friendly and easy to participate?
- How often do you think it should be hosted?
- What have you gained so far?
- How will you rate the feedback that you have received in a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest.
- Were you able to form connection with other women?
- Do you think it has helped you to gain more visibility in the group?
- Will you continue to participate?
- Will you recommend it to another business woman?
- Do you think that a mini-training will help to familiarize members on the terminology used?
In concluding, I will like to say that the implementation of the “hangout” in the group — Women in Business was a great initiative. It however required a higher level of participation to prove a ROI for the administrator of the group and as a result it was stopped. It has been reevaluated and consideration is being made to having it reinstated to the group in the new year. It is very easy to use with a very low learning curve regarding technology. It is conducted on the group on Facebook platform, as an event. You can write your question or questions on the wall, and a participant responding to your inquiry will do so in the comment section, following the same thread. If a mini training is required to familiarize the participants with some terms, that can always be conducted. I want to say implementing a “hangout” as an event in a social media group is a great place to gain some knowledge about your business, and to get to know other business women in your area, as well as to make connection to grow your business.
Members are expected to join the forum, at the time designated and participate in the comment section within the forum — it is just so easy. It is not a format that requires you to be there or present during the duration of the event. You can drop in and participate any time that you are free to access it. It simply requires you to allocate some time to be actively involved.