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What happens at a Community Forum should definitely not stay in a Community Forum. I have been privileged to facilitate some awesome community forums over a number of years and I always come away encouraged and often inspired.

This month after a meeting I witnessed what I can only call networking-for-real. I am sure you have also received these invitations to a business type function and the programme promises that after the main event there will be “Networking”. I guess that means I’ll buy you a drink if you buy one for me.

But back to networking-for-real. After the main event – some informative and interactive presentations – the head of one of the municipal agencies went up to a guy who had made a presentation on behalf of another agency saying, “I must come and talk to you. We have this problem…” The presentation had made the head aware that the very person who could potentially help him address his problem was there ready and available. That they worked for the same municipality provided further evidence that forums provide networking opportunities that are a vital function to solutions and policy improvements.

So suddenly the theory of networks became real; a constellation of actors changed shape in response to a perceived problem. A meaningful conversation was initiated and while that problem is being addressed the network leadership has changed. These two people, and the other actors in the network, will now be making decisions in the context of a new perspective.