Catalyze SV is a nonprofit organization that engages community members, developers, and city leaders to envision and create sustainable, equitable, and vibrant places for people in Silicon Valley.
Their goal is to ensure that the interests and needs of the community are embedded into development projects. They do this by nurturing dialogue between all stakeholders.
Normally, these dialogues and conversations take place in-person. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Catalyze SV was put in a position where it needed to adapt its format and find ways to keep their community engaged virtually.
“It’s hard to engage the community when there are no in-person meetings,” Alex Shoor, co-founder & executive director of Catalyze SV told All Good Work during a recent call.
“We have been using Zoom to do our educational & social events, as well as our community engagement, and advocacy work. This has enabled us to continue to bring together panelists, speakers, and community members.”
While it was challenging at first, Shoor admitted that one of the big surprises Catalyze SV has had is how good Zoom is for certain parts of the organization’s work.
“In some cases, it actually works better.”
Catalyze SV has learned that hosting virtual events makes events much more accessible for all community members.
“While we will go back to in-person meetings at some point, we will continue to use Zoom and other virtual tools to make the community engagement process more accessible,” Shoor mentioned.
Catalyze SV has found that their events have a bigger reach now because of the virtual format. That reach is increased because the organization is putting up events and recordings on Facebook Live and YouTube, which are resulting in greater community engagement and viewership.
Shoor shared that their in-person event prior to the pandemic would bring together around 80 people. One of their most recent community visioning workshops also had 80 people attend. That’s pretty significant, especially when the core of their work is to bring people together.
How Catalyze SV Engages Its Community in Virtual Events
Shoor mentioned that they had to alter their usual meeting format once they moved to virtual events.
Catalyze SV, like other organizations, is challenged with the question of how to make virtual events engaging for participants.
“Rather than having a Q&A at the end, we designated moderators to monitor the chat and encourage people to ask questions throughout the event.”
Catalyze SV takes advantage of the chat function on Zoom to moderate and encourage participants to ask questions. “The chat is less disruptive and we’ve found that people create a secondary conversation through it. We can track all of that and figure out ways to incorporate questions and comments into the event.”
“We also made sure to always post our agenda for the event prior to it; this gave people a good idea of what to expect and made the event much more engaging for them.”
Catalyze SV’s next event – “Secret Spirits and Secret Spaces” – inspired by the book Secret San Jose, will take place on Friday, October 23.
Cassie Kifer, the author of the book, will attend the event and talk about her book. To make the event more interesting for attendees, Catalyze SV is inviting participants to bring their own beverage of choice. To get the conversation going, Catalyze SV will ask people about their favorite secret places in the local area.
You can register for the event here.
Catalyze SV has been a resident organization of the All Good Work foundation since the fall of 2019 at UpLevel Works in downtown San Jose.