Chautauqua is full of venues where people can go to be talked at, or to engage in Q-and-A with speakers, Institution staff and trustees. Social gatherings of all sorts are frequent. Nevertheless, conversations often do little more than scratch the surface of polite communication.
“I would very much love to see if we can make the Women’s Club a place for more profound connections in a short span of time so that you can actually get to know humans through deeper, more in-depth conversational topics,” said Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, founder of the Chautauqua and the European Professional Women’s Networks. “That’s what structured networking is about.”
At 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Chautauqua Women’s Club, Wittenberg-Cox will facilitate a structured networking event that she said will go beyond “the usual cocktail party chitchat.”
“There will be something for introverts and extroverts,” she said. “Everybody’s welcome. You don’t need to know anything beforehand, do anything uncomfortable, or share what you don’t want to share.”
Having majored in computer science and comparative literature at the University of Toronto, Wittenberg-Cox earned her M.B.A. at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. In addition to chairing the CPWN, she is a the author of several books — including Why Women Mean Business and How Women Mean Business — and the CEO and managing partner of the global gender and diversity consultancy 20-first. Based initially in Paris and more recently in London, she has been traveling the world for more than 30 years advising blue-chip companies.
Wittenberg-Cox said she gave this structured networking event a theme because it’s not about professional networking.
Tomorrow, she will use the topic of “Change and Transition” as a way of engaging Chautauquans in meaningful conversation about skills needed for navigating life’s challenges. Through a series of simple questions and small-group discussions, the distinction between change (which occurs all around us), and transition (which occurs within us), will be explored.
Wittenberg-Cox has facilitated numerous structured networking events. She is a member of the coaching oversight body, International Coach Federation, which is the world’s largest organization of professional coaches. In 2000 she received her certification from the Coaches Training Institute, and two years ago was trained by CRR Global.
CTI created the highly interactive “Co-Active” coach training pathway and leadership model, including a whole-life coach/client alliance approach that promotes a process of lifelong learning.
CRR Global developed its Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching model based on “Relationship Systems Intelligence,” which targets group, team and system relationships rather than the relationship with oneself (emotional intelligence) and with others (social intelligence). Wittenberg-Cox said this is what she does in companies with her gender balance work — moving teams and organizations to evolve cultures.
“You can also do it in a group,” she said. “The theme around change and transition will be about transitioning through longer lives. So I’m hoping we’ll have people of all ages there, to compare and contrast some of the major transitions people have been through. … They really can manage to have a few in-depth conversations and connections with people; slightly more substantive conversations than ‘What do you do for a living?’ and ‘What brings you to Chautauqua?’ ”