Our Town retreat moves online
Posted 1 April 2020
The flights and accommodation were booked, the agenda was ready, the coffee was practically poured. However, in the midst of all of this, the world as we knew it was changing. Things were moving rapidly and, it was decided that flying our townspeople from around country South Australia and bringing partner organisations from interstate for several days was not the best plan. And, as this was a mental health initiative, the welfare of everyone was always going to be our number one priority.
As luck would have it, we were working closely with the team from The Australian Centre for Social Innovation who rapidly formulated a Plan B. We would take the entire face-to-face retreat – from workshops to afternoon teas – and plug it into the virtual world. As a result, about 20 of our rural and regional town participants were beamed in from Berri, Ceduna, Cummins, Kangaroo Island, Kimba and the Mid Murray region. They were joined by our support team members in both South Australia and the eastern states, including our evaluation partner Clear Horizon. Over two days everyone was guided through a series of workshop activities and discussions. The technology allowed for real time collaboration on key issues, whole of group conversations and even small group video chatrooms.
Although our rural and regional representatives may have had some initial misgivings and were disappointed they didn’t get the chance to meet in person, they were really surprised at what could be achieved online.
Here are some of the things they said:
The town and regional representatives were even taken through an online video editing session and here is one of the great results from someone who was initially sceptical about her own talents! Even though we couldn’t fly over there in person, Jeanette was able to take us to her beautiful home in Kangaroo Island.
The support team was equally pleased with the outcome and could observe the participants sharing their expertise and learning from each other. Overall, while there were some obvious limits to the online environment, such as the fact that the usual interpersonal cues were missing, the retreat was deemed a resounding success.