Bridging the Research and Practice Gap Through Strategic Convenings – Digital Promise

Bridging the Research and Practice Gap Through Strategic Convenings

In image of people sitting at a round table within a hotel ballroom

March 26, 2024 | By and

At Digital Promise, we prioritize bringing diverse communities together to advance the future of learning. One of the ways we achieve this is by organizing various research hubs that bridge the gap between our research team and broader communities. These hubs support activities that address shared equity goals and amplify the field’s collective work. As artificial intelligence (AI) grows in popularity in the educational community, we view our convening work as essential to ensure humans are in the loop at all points in the conversation.

The community-based research hubs host annual in-person convenings to engage attendees in conversations that prioritize educational goals and values when designing and investigating AI and other emerging technologies. During these conversations, we focus on broadening and empowering learners, practitioners, and learning community partners. Attendees engage in highly interactive, informative, and thought-provoking discussions through panels, roundtables, and networking sessions.

In 2022-23, community-based research hubs EngageAI Institute and CIRCLS hosted both single and multi-day convenings which were attended by more than 400 researchers, practitioners, industry leaders, youth, and policymakers. These in-person events provided critical opportunities for attendees to build relationships across communities at national, state, and local levels. In fact, research shows that attendees at in-person events are more likely to develop research collaborations with each other than with otherwise similar researchers who did not attend the events.

Digital Promise’s commitment to intentionally bringing in diverse voices from the field, selecting relevant and engaging themes, and planning interactive sessions has allowed us to implement successful in-person convenings that democratize the community.

Actionable Strategies for a Successful In-Person Convening

When planning convenings, our team focuses on three key strategies to ensure meaningful and impactful experiences for the attendees and thereby a successful event.

Establish a Relevant Theme and Sessions
  • Determine the theme and event overview at the beginning of the planning session to support the structure of the agenda.
  • Implement various interactive session formats such as panel discussions, roundtables, poster/demo sessions, and networking sessions.
  • Explore relevant emerging topics for the sessions to engage attendees in meaningful discussions.
Broaden Participation
  • Identify attendees and speakers who not only align with the event’s theme, but also broaden the community’s representation, such as researchers from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), practitioners from Title I school districts, and neurodivergent youth panelists.
  • Implement staff training sessions on implicit bias and deficit-thinking to support attendees in an environment centering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
  • Design community agreements to implement equitable practices and a sense of belonging within the community members.
  • Assemble a diverse planning team who is knowledgeable and can collaborate to execute a successful event.
Develop a Communication Strategy
  • Have a diverse group of people—especially from the audience groups you’re trying to reach—review your external outreach materials such as emails, social media posts, etc.
  • Identify the optimal platforms to reach your target audience.
  • Plan ahead for potential materials your event attendees may want before, during, and after the event.

After any event, we always aim to continue engaging the community. We host convenings not just to foster a single day’s conversation, but also to create long-term partnerships and collaborations. By engaging attendees in post-event surveys and other opportunities to provide their feedback, we also seek to improve future events.

To learn more about upcoming Digital Promise events, check out a previous event recap post.

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