Learnings in lockdown - The virtual annual Solomon conference

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Due to the difficulties involved with meeting in real life, the Learning and Development Team has hosted the first virtual annual Solomon conference

Since its successful launch more than two years ago, Solomon has evolved and will keep doing so in a style that ensures its content is produced in the most beneficial way to our members. In July, Solomon launched Share and Encourage: Mentor’s Corner, a module that has been providing lodges and chapters with material for online gatherings and methods to best present that material.

The decision was made in mid-2020 to hold a virtual learning and development conference as opposed to a physical one. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, not only was this safer for everyone, but it allowed for more inclusion, by facilitating attendance by those who might be restricted by distance or other constraints.

The Learning and Development Team hosted the conference from within Solomon itself using BigBlueButton, an integral conferencing tool that has been used to great success previously to provide webinars to new users. This was the ideal platform to hold the conference itself, not only for the communication and breakout facilities but also as a repository for all of the documents the attendees would require.

Spread across two days, the conference aimed at establishing better contact and interactive relationships with Learning and Development Leads, and was attended by more than 80 delegates from across the Provinces and Districts as far as the District of Madras, and representing both Craft and the Royal Arch. They shared ideas and discussed existing learning and development strategies within their own Provinces and Districts, as well as how they planned to move forward using Solomon and other learning and development initiatives.

The conference featured keynote talks by both the Deputy Grand Master, RW Bro Jonathan Spence, and the Third Grand Principal, ME Comp Gareth Jones, OBE. While acknowledging that one size does not fit all and recognising the importance of varied interpretation, both referred to the critical role that Solomon has to play as part of an integrated response to re-engage with our intellectual underpinning and its increasingly important role in retaining members by ensuring that our values are understood. Full versions are available on Solomon.

Case studies were presented from the Provinces of Staffordshire (Practical Aspects of Implementing a Solomon Strategy), Shropshire (The Chisellers Lodge of Instruction), Monmouthshire (Introduction to Solomon – A Provincial Workshop) and Yorkshire, West Riding (Masonic Light Webinars) by the Learning and Development Leads, focusing on the core ideas of ‘Increasing Effectiveness within Metropolitan Areas, Provinces and Districts’ and ‘Fostering Curiosity within Lodges’. These outlined the ways in which the respective Provinces were using the material on Solomon to their greatest benefit and the successes that they had achieved within their Provinces.

The Learning and Development Team was also joined by the President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing, and the Grand Secretary, VW Bro Dr David Staples for a live Q&A and discussion forum, during which the role of the learning and development programme was contextualised as part of the integrated future.

Dr Craig Johnson’s presentation on forthcoming features outlined some of the future engagement directed at those using Solomon, including the immediate launch of the Solomon User Group. A Module will enable our users to get a first glimpse of some new material and provide feedback.

In his closing comments, the Chairman of the Learning and Development Group, RW Bro Anthony-Howlett-Bolton, OBEemphasised the importance of using this conference ‘as a catalyst for stimulating future engagement’, within lodges, chapters, Provinces, Districts and between the Learning and Development Leads and the Learning and Development Group. Ironically, in this time of uncertainty with disruption of normal meeting patterns, there has never been a better time to engage with our members. He also stressed the important role Solomon has to play in ensuring that modern Freemasonry is an attractive ‘must join’ relevant institution for modern men.

Since the conference, more Provinces and Districts have hosted presentations using the ideas discussed at the conference and the resources on Solomon. Every month, we will continue to add new and exciting content for Provincial and District presentation teams to use themselves or pass along to lodges and chapters to present in their own online gatherings, or use as a springboard to produce their own content.

The conference represents the culmination of months of hard work. However it is only the beginning of expanding our core message of ‘Fostering Curiosity – Developing Understanding’ and supporting all of the Learning and Development Leads across Provinces and Districts to help them bring as many resources as possible to our members, wherever they may be.

You can register by scanning the QR code with your smartphone or copying solomon.ugle.org.uk in the browser address bar.

You will not be able to find Solomon by searching for it on Google or the search line of your browser. Solomon is not registered on search engines and is only accessible directly from the address: solomon.ugle.org.uk

On the front page there is Getting Started with Solomon, a module that is open to everyone and provides details of how to use the system as well as user help videos, quick start guides, and a link to ‘create an account on Solomon’, which will take you through the simple process of registration. Fill in your details, once you have received the confirmation email, log in, select your first module and enrol.

If you are using a smartphone you might want to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader app first, as this will ensure that the PDFs used on Solomon retain their format.

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