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Little did we know that when the new blog series “CAHSPR Connects” was created by Maggie Keresteci when she joined CAHSPR in early January as the new Executive Director, just how important those two words would become to the organization in 2020.

The annual CAHSPR Conference traditionally brought us together in person to spend 4 days celebrating great work, sharing and exchanging knowledge and reconnecting as a community.

Like so many organizations, CAHSPR was faced with the difficult but important decision to cancel the annual conference due to COVID-19. The planning for the annual conference in Saskatoon was nearly complete. Keeping the community connected was of the utmost importance, and with that in mind we determined that it was critical to pivot and find a new way to connect during this critical time.

As the Board and leadership of CAHSPR began to plan for an alternative to our in person conference, one of the most important things we came to terms with is a recognition that an in-person conference cannot be completely replicated through a virtual conference. The formats are vastly different and, as such, they require a new set of objectives for delivery along with a different structure. That being said, a virtual conference has tremendous advantages and we decided to take this opportunity to test the waters and learn from the experience by hosting out first “Virtually CAHSPR” event. We quickly realized outstanding opportunities exist for innovative content delivery, networking, showcasing of work, sponsorship and exhibiting through a virtual event platform.

We had about a month from the time of decision to implementation! We determined that in order to quickly pivot from an in-person conference to a virtual event (that presented content currently relevant to the CAHSPR community with so little time to mobilize) the structure of the event would have to remain “simple and elegant”. The focus needed to be on the content; and securing the best speakers to deliver that content. We realized that while this choice in format would not meet everyone’s needs, it would be a good start from which to learn and evolve to something greater. The opportunity for CAHSPR members to meet more frequently, and to enjoy a robust program of virtual offerings in the future is becoming a reality.

One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Drucker, who said “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. The pandemic has forced all of us to re-evaluate how we work, rethink our priorities, and refocus our energies. It is somewhat ironic that this pandemic is taking place in 2020; when hindsight, insight and foresight are seemingly blended into one required mindset.

As “Virtually CAHSPR” evolves, the benefits of your CAHSPR membership will become even more compelling. While we very much look forward to bringing everyone together in-person again in the future, we will continue to push the boundaries of technology and embrace our new normal while providing opportunities and innovative ways to bring the community together.

This is not a new chapter…but rather a new book. And we cannot wait for you to read it!


Sally Clelford

President & Event Strategist, Face 2 Face Events Management Association Manager, Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research