"You designed an engaging, stimulating, entertaining and educational conference and then did a marvelous job as conference master of ceremonies.  Bravo!"

Kathy Covert
Forum Project Manager
GeoData Alliance

GeoData Forum

SITUATION

Cooperation and collaboration in geographic data sharing is fraught with division and frustration.  Recognizing this, the GeoData Alliance - a membership association of geologists, geographers, cartographers, other scientists and professionals - engaged Weiss Consulting to create a forum to foster communication and collaboration among their members.

RESULTS

Using innovative methods that were unusual for a conference of scientific professionals, we designed and led the 2001 GeoData Forum. This Forum:

  • Fostered communication between the public and private sectors.
  • Highlighted practical ideas, successes and mutual priorities that became the basis for future action.
  • Put peer-to-peer conversations front and center - the vibrant exchange often confined to coffee breaks was at the heart of this meeting.

These results laid the foundation for improved geographic data sharing among Forum participants.

BACKGROUND

The GeoData Alliance was a voluntary association of professionals in government and corporations.  Its members help organizations use geographic information to improve the health of communities, economies, and the Earth.  Many government agencies and private companies collect geographic data, and many organizations apply this information to conduct business and solve problems.  But the policies, practices, and communication methods required to share this information have not kept up.  The GeoData Alliance focused their 2001 Forum on opportunities for collaboration.  125 people from the United States and other countries actively participated.

WEISS CONSULTING APPROACH

Working closely with the project manager, we designed a forum where people could address the issues of networking and collaboration through direct experience.  To engage this diverse and somewhat discouraged group we drew upon our process design experience and knowledge of Appreciative Inquiry to create a climate for compelling conversations.

We chose methods that challenged expectations.  It was clear from the start that this would not be a conference of talking-head panels.  Everyone there was an expert!  First we used appreciative interviews to get people to tell each other what was already working and could be built upon.  Next we engaged people in small group dialogues known as World Cafe - a series of short, fast-paced conversations - to help them quickly identify issues, determine opportunities and develop solutions.  Our design gave people practice at networking and communication while at the same time raising their awareness of collaboration methods they could use in their daily work.