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Collaboration and conversation at Convene the convenors

Our recent first ever ‘Convene the convenors’ event brought together 30 volunteer committee convenors for a session of sharing, networking and discussion.

Some of our online and in person convenors

Convene the convenors was an opportunity to bring together those leading their sectors’ and New Zealand’s feedback on international standards development with convenors attending from across the motu.

Diverse representation

It’s at times a busy role as the main go-to between committee members, either International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and Standards New Zealand, and most of our convenors do this on top of busy day jobs. It’s also a rewarding role, where you get to direct and take ownership of a committee of subject matter experts steering New Zealand’s contribution to standards that have a direct impact on industry and the lives of New Zealanders.

This first ever session brought together an eclectic array of specialisms. We had representatives across health, quality management and record keeping, environmental management and climate change, cyber security, cards and security devices, geographic information, bee products, dairy, agriculture and agritech, lighting and energy, earth moving and construction, and electrical systems.

With the event run as a hybrid this allowed national participation with a good split between online and in person attendees, a format many are now familiar with through their own international and national committee meetings.

Different specialisms, same challenges

Over the two hours many commonalities were discussed, and many differences identified and true to the collaborative model that committees work to, many of the attendees suggested ideas to improve or vary the way they ran their committees. Some topics of discussion included:

How do you run a committee when your participants might be spread across the country on different islands? Some committees had an annual in person get together, others relied on modern tech working only online.

How do you go about replacing participants who can no longer contribute? Some utilise their own professional networks, others look towards Standards New Zealand for help. Succession planning, particularly for those convenors who had been contributing decades of work to their committees was a priority topic (and that’s where we hope this article encourages you to give thought to participation!).

How do you manage workload so that contribution is shared equally, and nobody is left with the lion’s share of responsibility. There was discussion around training and how convenors can be supported, particularly if they are new to being a convenor or committee member. While all convenors are professionals within their field, the needs around coordinating and getting the best out of teams of volunteers are different to for example managing employees.

Next steps – repeat, improve

From here we’ll take participant’s feedback and look to expand into a consistent event, aiming to address some key issues, and provide clarity and learning around processes and protocols. Convenors generally felt the event could have been longer, showing a real hunger for improved collaboration. The hybrid format also allowed greater participation by those who would otherwise have been unable to make it – clearly reflecting the modern nature of broader remote committee participation.

If you are keen to learn more about participating on a standards development committee – and gaining benefits like building networks, learning new skills and helping shape standards used in your sector – please visit this section of Standards New Zealand's website:

Help make standards(external link)