Membership plays an integral role within the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association (MFOA). Our membership is made up of municipal finance staff members from each of the 444 municipalities in Ontario. Over the years, face to face networking at events and conferences were the primary ways to connect and build professional relationships. However, with COVID-19 and the pandemic, we have had to rely on virtual discussion forums and webinars to continue to connect with our members during these challenging and uncertain times.

I am hoping that my Applied Research Project (ARP) surrounding ideas on building virtual communities through facilitation can become a sustainable approach for the organization to utilize as municipalities are finding less of an urgency to participate in online discussion forums, and to build on the momentum of creating communities and building upon our membership.

I envision disseminating my research using a two-pronged approach to cover both internal staff and external members. Firstly, the framework and toolkit from my research will be used to train internal staff so they are able to apply the resources to their meetings with stakeholders, members and potential members. I will design an interactive training session that will include an opportunity for staff at all levels to practice virtual facilitation techniques. Secondly, I want to create an infographic for our members to outline ways they can engage with MFOA and each other. I also want to design a series of virtual networking sessions (e.g. speed networking and trivia) as a way to build community in a fun and engaging way. Eventually, this can also can pave the way for more municipal finance related virtual interactive sessions to be designed in the future.