Coro has been a pioneer in experiential-leadership education since 1948. Well-known graduates, such as Senator Diane Feinstein and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, started their careers at Coro. As COVID-19 hit in March and shelter-in-place restrictions began, Coro centers across the country faced a challenge going virtual and asked The Grove for help. Coro needed to transform a high-engagement, face-to-face way of working to a virtual setting. They were also accustomed to working as independent centers in Northern California, Los Angeles, New York and Pittsburgh rather than as a whole.

The Grove introduced new virtual practices and helped facilitate a cross-center learning cohort by leveraging the group wisdom of Coro trainers. A workshop series emerged, following several rich design sessions with Coro leadership using Mural—an online visual collaboration tool—and other online applications.

Twenty-two staff members participated, roughly four-to-five from each center. The benefits emerged quickly.

The Coro-Grove Learning Collaborative created an opportunity for Coro staff to participate in a cohort learning experience similar to what we ask our program participants to do. The Grove’s tools for virtual facilitation, particularly ways to incorporate graphic facilitation in the digital world, helped us think creatively about the kinds of experiences we wanted to create and engage in during our programs.

 

Courtney Young-Law, Ed.D.
Vice President of Programs & Leadership Training | Coro Northern California

 

Following are some of the activities we organized.

Creating Connectivity

Appreciating that Coro staff members are experiential learners, we wanted each activity to teach by doing. We began the sessions with different check-in activities, such as sharing a meaningful object or a personal response to sheltering at home. It was one of the first times that the entire organization had done any kind of connection activity like this. The unexpected benefit of personal sharing was one of the big takeaways.

 

Learning with Online Visual Environments 

Instead of long presentations, we broke up key information on a Mural canvas and had small groups make sense of it using simple graphic templates and sticky notes. The small groups would collectively work in one large canvas on Mural, but would collaboratively work with those in their breakout group. They would then share themes and insights when the full group reconvened by taking a virtual walk-around of the work.

 

Creating Safe Environments 

Coro is dedicated to modeling diversity, equity, and inclusion. We delved into sensitive issues and structured go-around sessions in which everyone had an equal chance to participate. We also shared some of the latest brain science to explore reducing threats in groups. David Rock’s SCARF model details five social factors that affect how individuals feel and behave within a team. We pulled his model into Mural, and small groups shared practices they could use to promote positive, non-threatening group dynamics.

 

 

Using Zoom Creatively

As we learned how valuable it was for staff members to share and talk with each other cross-center, we experimented with Zoom’s functionality for annotating a screen-shared image. We created continuums to assess everyone’s familiarity with visual work, and used the “stamp” function to create displays (see below), followed by very engaging discussions about styles and preferences.

 

 

By the end of the workshop series, everyone was familiar with the basic tools for virtual work. More importantly, they learned that virtual work can be engaging and even intimate. The Coro staff’s willingness to experiment and stretch was inspiring to all of us.

 


 

If you want to learn more about The Grove’s virtual services or workshops, then please contact us at services@thegrove.com.

If you want to know more about Coro, then visit Coro Northern California where David Sibbet got his start.