2020 – Silver linings

| December 15, 2020

Every year has its defining moments, but 2020 has had paradigm-shifting, world-changing milestones which have also radically affected the way we do things at GAP.

This year forced the whole GAP team to rethink how we work. On 17 March 2020, we moved into our beautiful new offices in Waterloo. The next day, we locked the front door indefinitely due to COVID-19 and the GAP team was working from home.

Schools closed, shops shut, and I had three kids at home, including one doing the HSC. Sandwich lunches no longer sufficed, and we began preparing full meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and doing the piles of washing up that accompanied them.

However, I loved having my whole family at home, and it was a welcome novelty for a while. The GAP team enjoyed working from home initially, and the beauty of having no commuting time meant that we had won back some hours to do art and craft and take walks many times a day.

Then the reality set in, and the process of sponsor follow-ups, proposal submissions, event management and team coordination had to be adapted to the new environment if we were going to stay in business. As a team, we took advice from the research we had done in preparation for the 2020 GAP Summit.

The topic of National Resilience was the perfect subject for this year. Being resilient requires us all to adapt to a changing and unpredictable environment, and we needed to prove that, as a company, we could do just that.

Planning GAP’s year ahead, it seemed logical to expect a slower pace, with nationwide lockdowns forcing fewer interactions and a smaller number of projects. It would make sense to scale back our activities due to the restrictions and unpredictability of COVID-19. We knew we would have to work out the best way to survive in this new environment along with everyone else.

As a company which fosters personal connections and group discussions, we had to shift the way we worked in a radical fashion. With 50 meetings already planned for the year by March, we had to move all our collaboration online.

Our close-knit team, accustomed to working in shared office space, were dispersed and working remotely, our face-to-face coffees were replaced with video chats, and that familial vibe that is so evident in every GAP interaction was often disrupted by internet drop-outs and conference call fatigue.

But, with every challenge, comes an opportunity. In March, none of us knew how to facilitate a Zoom call with shared screens and chat functions and waiting rooms. We can now set these up back to back from multiple locations with various hosts. The speed with which the GAP community transitioned to online collaboration was also incredibly impressive.

Now, looking back at the year, we realise we DOUBLED the number of meetings we usually hold and have increased the number of projects we are working on. We increased the number of active members working with us on various projects by 200, and online activity on both our First5000 and Open Forum sites grew as well.

Our Annual Summit, held at NSW Parliament House for the past 11 years, also moved online, giving us the opportunity to feature more international speakers and guests than ever before.

None of these achievements were predictable in March, yet they were all a product of the positive attitude and actions of the people that work at and with GAP.

This year has proved our GAP Community is a committed, proactive, positive force for meaningful collaboration and action by deed as well as word. We are a resilient group of lateral thinkers who rose to the challenge that 2020 presented and made the very best of it.

“National Resilience” was the theme for 2020 and “The New Normal” will be the concept we discuss and promote 2021.

What have we learnt from 2020 and how does it influence our behaviour in 2021? For me, the compassion shown between individuals and groups in our society has been the most heartening part of the whole COVID experience, and I look forward with hope and confidence towards the New Year.