Adults learn as much from one another as they do from the experts that give presentations during a conference. As a part of the goals for its 2016 Annual Conference, the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) wanted to drive more peer-to-peer learning and infuse purposeful engagement opportunities into traditional networking breaks.
Peer-to-peer discussions and interactive learning components were integrated into many components of the program, enhancing the conference experience. Leveraging the time between sessions was critically important, so NASPO introduced “Meet Ups,” informal discussion groups in the networking area related to common issues for state procurement professionals. With limited facilitation, these informal gatherings provided participants the chance to drive the discussion toward the aspects of the industry most relevant and valuable to them. In addition, participants connected with fellow members who shared their challenges and could help collaborate on solutions.
Although it was only anticipated that 10-15 participants might have interest in any one topic, the Meet Up on eProcurement saw almost a quarter of all conference attendees participate. Clearly this issue struck a chord and NASPO saw an opportunity to build ongoing support and engagement among members to meet this need.
In conjunction with the conference, and to support ongoing dialogue on this critical issue for its members, NASPO introduced online User Groups for the most common eProcurement providers. The User Groups met in-person at the 2017 NASPO Exchange as well, documenting their collective experience with specific eProcurement systems and vendors. The Meet Up sparked a need for additional research on usage and implementation across states, resulting in an “eProcurement Systems” resource members can now use to connect with the primary eProcurement contact in each state. The topic is also incorporated in NASPO’s Regional and Annual Conference agendas for 2017; each event will feature states with innovative approaches offering solutions and tips to their peers. One informal discussion has triggered myriad opportunities for NASPO to support the needs of members and – more importantly – for members to work together toward more effective eProcurement for state government!