The most ‘international’ International Gathering

2021 Online Gathering Photo

In December 2021 Elia hosted the first ever Online International Signs of Safety Gathering. International participation and the feedback we have received since far exceeded our best hopes from when this all began.

In 2020, when the global pandemic turned all the best laid plans completely upside down, the decision was made to cancel the planned International Gathering in Alberta, Canada. When it became clear COVID-19 wasn’t going away anytime soon, we flipped our thinking and worked out another way to bring together child protection professionals to celebrate what works for practitioners and families. The idea of an online International Signs of Safety Gathering was born and in April 2021, registrations opened — to lots of unknowns.

Taking the the Gathering online turned out to make it accessible to a huge number of practitioners from all around the word who hadn’t previously been able to participate. It was thrilling to have over 1500 registrations representing 18 countries. Previously the largest International Gathering was 430 attendees at the 2018 International Gathering in Dublin, Ireland. 

At the same time that the International Online Gathering was running, the Swedish region was hosting its Swedish Online Gathering. With 224 registrants and 9 presentations from Swedish organisations, it was quite an event. Many attendees went to the Swedish Gathering in the morning, took a quick break, and then hopped online again to attend the International Online Gathering. Amazing commitment from those workers, and it must have been an inspirational week of learning.

A feedback survey was sent out to everyone who registered and we received back some really great responses. In the spirit of Signs of Safety, we asked some scaling questions of the attendees to gain more insight into how they felt the Gathering experience was for them. For one of the questions, we asked:

On a scale of 0–10, how would you rate your overall experience of the Gathering?

0 = Terrible. I learnt nothing from the presentations and I felt it was a waste of my time

10 = Fantastic. I learnt a lot and left feeling inspired

The weighted average rating was 8.3 which is really fabulous.

We also received some open feedback in the survey. A couple of favourites are below:

“Amazing Gathering! Was blown away with the case studies presented, and they were very relevant to the work we do. I love that some presenters had been child welfare recipients as well, and how the Gathering brought in diversity and diverse perspectives.”

“I really appreciate all the hard work and dedication that went into this event! It was really inspiring, emotional, and rejuvenating in a field of work that can feel hopeless. Thank you!”

When we put the call out for submissions to present back in June 2021, we were delighted to receive 60 submissions…to fit 16 spots! The theme for the Gathering was Born to Belong and the chosen presentations had this theme very strongly running through them. We had presenters from Canada, the USA, Ireland, the UK, Belgium and Australia — truly representing Signs of Safety as an approach to child protection anywhere in the world.

All the presentations from the Gathering are on the Signs of Safety Knowledge Bank for users who have subscriptions to watch and be inspired by. If you don’t have a Knowledge Bank subscription, you can still see five selected presentations from the 2021 International Gathering — available to watch right now, for free. You can also watch a very powerful conversation with Isaiah Dawe, founder of ID Know Yourself (the first Aboriginal mentoring organisation for Aboriginal young people in foster care) as he talks about what belonging means to him.

In 2022 right now, there are still a lot of unknowns, particularly around international travel. If Elia can host an International Gathering in person, we will. However, we are certain there is also a place for future online Gatherings in the Signs of Safety events calendar. Whatever happens, we look forward to seeing you at the next International Gathering!