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How One Small Coffee Meeting Fostered Enormous Community Growth

Last week I shared my thoughts about information silos and this week, in keeping with the general theme, I want to share a few things I’ve learned about building community at work.

When I began my career as a State of Nebraska employee I did so in an agency other than where I am now situated. It didn’t take long after starting my new job for me to see the differences between working in the private sector, which I had for all of my career prior, and working in public service. One thing I noticed rather quickly that the two had in common was (and here’s where it all ties together) information silos — and oh did I ever want to find a way to get beyond those barriers and do some community building.

I spent some time thinking the idea over, wondering, stirring, questioning. Finally, it came to me! Ah-ha! I had recently worked on a couple of project teams where we had morning stand-up meetings. You know the ones; where everyone gets an opportunity to sound off but it’s supposed to be quick enough that you don’t need to bother grabbing a chair or a conference table to get it done. I thought, what if I set a standing weekly appointment for building community within the agency? An informal learning opportunity with an open-door and open-agenda policy where we could just spend a few minutes getting to know about one another, sharing ideas, learning together.

I put the idea into action immediately and created a logo for my new group, and even found a creative acronym. I called it BREW (because, coffee, of course), which stands for Building Relationships and Exchanging Wisdom, and I set the first gathering (I refused to call it a meeting) for Thursday morning.

When Thursday came I was delighted that my gathering included about 30 individuals from across the agency, including several executive officers. This gathering continued every Thursday morning, for just 15 minutes, for nearly a year and a half.

You’d be surprised how many ideas can be generated and how many bonds can be formed over 15 minutes and a cup of coffee. I’m now in a different agency and very recently proposed the same idea for building this community.

I think we have a tendency to overthink or look for large solutions, but sometimes a small solution can have a large impact. If you have an idea that can foster community growth in your organization or agency I encourage you to step up and make that idea known. You never know what good could come from your little idea.

If you’ve been a part of an activity that has fostered community growth in your organization or agency please share in the comments.

Lisa Menke is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a digital media developer who is passionate about the intersection where opportunities for professional growth and participatory culture meet. As a training specialist for the State of Nebraska, Lisa is currently responsible for the creation of digital media in support of agency training & development, and communications. Read her posts here

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Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

Hi Lisa, what a great idea! We have scrum meetings at GovLoop every morning to briefly discuss projects, but what you’re describing is a new take on the standup meeting that I hadn’t thought of. I love it. We recently incorporated coffeetime, where we are paired with someone ( so one-on-one). I have thoroughly enjoyed them and see how much they have benefited my work relationships. Thanks for sharing.