Leaders in organizations and communities can play a vital role in the collaborative leadership process. The title “leader” is used here to refer to those who are in a position to make choices and recommendations about whether to use a facilitative process; in some cases, their role is as a convener.
A convener is an individual or group responsible for bringing people together to address an issue, problem, or opportunity. In the context of collaborative leadership, it usually involves convening representatives from multiple sectors for a multi-meeting process, typically on complex issues. A convener, or group of conveners working together, might invite public officials, business professionals, or leaders of community or nonprofit organizations to participate. Conveners use their influence and authority to call people together to collaborate. Often, conveners help fund the process.
The convener’s primary responsibility is to serve as the organizer and administrator of the collaboration, carrying out the preliminary and follow-up tasks that ensure the process proceeds smoothly. In creating a “platform” for the collaboration, a convener’s tasks include:
- Clarifying the purpose of the collaborative leadership effort
- Developing a preliminary list of stakeholders and leaders to invite to the table
- Securing high-level stakeholder buy-in as well as intellectual and financial support
Conveners who are instrumental in initiating and administering a collaborative leadership process don’t often serve as the manager, project leader, or facilitator of the process. They may or may not be participants in the working group. It is the convener’s responsibility to secure the services of a skilled facilitator when it seems appropriate to do so.