CSCCE receives funding from Sloan Foundation to support transition to online collaboration

We’re delighted to announce that CSCCE has received a $125k grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to continue our work supporting the transition to online collaboration that’s been accelerated due to the global pandemic.

In this post, we outline what we plan to deliver thanks to this grant – and we indicate the emerging opportunities to participate or collaborate with CSCCE that will result.

Supporting a rapid shift in norms

The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has forced a sudden transition to online meetings and online work spaces for which many scientific organizations and communities were painfully under-prepared. Although discussions were underway in many organizations to improve access to conferences and events by offering virtual options, few had begun to implement them at scale. As a result, many organizations are now frantically trying to adapt, while lacking the in-house expertise, access to reliable information, and peer support necessary for staff to succeed. 

The transition online has brought opportunities in addition to its challenges – including the potential to open up events to broader audiences that otherwise would be unable to attend, and to raise critical questions about accessibility and inclusion. How can we as convenors not only survive this current storm, but also “build better together” as the norm, and shepherd in a more lasting change in the way that we work together online?

CSCCE, as the convening organization for a community of practice of professionals who manage scientific communities, has found itself a hub for critical conversations in these areas. We have collaborated with members of our community to co-create relevant resources, and we have hosted discussions and clinics to work through technical aspects of online facilitation. 

This new funding will allow us to expand this work, while offering new opportunities for community-members to contribute their expertise. 

Online training courses 

In August, we expanded the CSCCE team by welcoming Camille Santistevan as our Lead Trainer and Curriculum Development Specialist. Thanks to this grant, Camille and Center Director, Lou Woodley will be continuing to develop and deliver CSCCE’s new 6-week training courses – initially focusing on the following topics:

Scientific community engagement fundamentals: This course is for new or existing community managers, equipping them with core frameworks and vocabulary to describe their community, their role within it, and to identify the stage that it’s at and the needs of its members. 

Engaging virtual events: This course is for existing scientific community managers who have been tasked with organizing and/or facilitating online events. These may include a single large event such as a virtual conference, as well as regular meetings such as community calls, working groups, and small group learning opportunities. 

Nurturing successful online communities: This course is for community managers who are managing online communities of practice, e.g., in a shared Slack workspace or on an online platform such as Higher Logic. Many of these communities of practice are especially important right now as conversations have shifted online. This brings opportunities for culture change through making certain work and knowledge more visible and flattening hierarchies of participation – as well as providing immediate opportunities for identifying new shared goals such as COVID-19-related responses. This course is for anyone wanting to think more deeply about how to engage colleagues and community members in online communities – and in a way that will endure beyond the current pandemic.

The courses stay true to our ethos of cohort-based learning environments where participants learn from one another as well as the materials shared.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to translate our materials into the online environment and to develop additional learning resources. This also allows us to explore a new revenue stream for CSCCE as we work to become financially sustainable well into the future. 

Our first cohort of “scientific community engagement fundamentals” is currently underway, and we’ve opened registration for our Winter session of all three courses. For more details and to sign up, please visit our modular trainings page

Programming to support the transition online 

We know that not everyone will be able to take our 6-week courses, so we are also working to create programming for members of our community of practice and others who are working to move trainings, gatherings, conversations and other collaborative activities online.

Building on our recent “community tools trials,” which you can read more about on our blog, we plan on hosting additional virtual gatherings to discuss specific use cases related to convening groups online. This might include designing engaging icebreakers, running productive meetings, or creating safe spaces for difficult and vulnerable conversations surrounding DEI. 

We are a community-driven organization, and as such our November community call will involve scaffolded discussions to determine the current needs and expertise of our members. From that we’ll build the next round of programming.To find out more about the call, including how to join, view our latest blog post.

Continued co-production of resources around online collaboration

CSCCE produces a lot of resources to support community managers and other convenors. Our guide to online events, which contained 12 “recipes” for event formats and was co-authored by members of our community, has been downloaded more than 6,000 times since its release in July 2020. Thanks to this new grant, we plan on adding more new resources to our collection, including:

  • Additional chapters of our virtual events guide
  • Tipsheets and worksheets with a focus on accessibility and inclusion
  • Short videos and write ups from our pop-up programming

As always, we welcome and support a collaborative approach to making progress together so please reach out with questions and suggestions: