Ever felt stuck when working on a complex project, trying to get an innovative idea off the ground or tackling a challenge that nobody else around you seemed to understand? That is when peer coaching can help.

How does it work? You gather a group of communication professionals with different backgrounds, coming from different industries and sectors and having various length of experience and working in different areas of the communication field. They might have never met before but the problems and challenges they face are strikingly similar.

So, I thought why not bring together communication professionals working in the Brussels bubble for a peer coaching event that became the EACD Coaching Day on 1 March, hosted by DIGITALEUROPE. We had a very diverse group who were all keen to share their experiences. Some of them came from the EU institutions, others from European associations representing organic producers, allergy sufferers, domestic equipment manufacturers or road construction companies.

The three facilitators  – Annamaria Erdei, Frans Nijs and myself – used the Pro-action Café method to guide the conversations. Pro-action Café is one of the Art of Hosting methods which aim to create meaningful conversations among people. These conversations can be created for different purposes and in different settings.

Pro-action Café brings about action oriented conversations. The participants start off their journey of inspiration and sharing by creating their own agenda. Those who hold a burning question about their ideas, projects or challenges may come forward and offer the question as a conversation topic. They will become table hosts for the conversation on the topic and the other participants – the so called 'travellers' – contribute with their experience, expertise and insights. There are three discussion rounds and the travellers are invited to change tables in between those rounds, thus offering their knowledge on other topics too.

The three discussion rounds take participants through a path of joint exploration and discovery which will ultimately lead to identifying concrete actions that will help move the project forward. The first round allows participants to dig deeper into the challenge and understand the real meaning and purpose of the questions that the table hosts raised when setting the agenda. The second round focuses on possibilities and opportunities but also on obstacles, threats and missing elements. It helps explore alternative paths and solutions. The third round focuses on next steps and concrete actions to take in order to advance the project.

At the EACD Coaching Day, the discussion topics were:

  • How to create powerful messages?
  • Transforming internal communication
  • Motivating members (of associations) to communicate
  • How to reach out and convert audiences with limited budget?
  • Creating a "social media first" strategy
  • Maximising and optimising communication tools

All participants contributed to the conversations with great energy and enthusiasm. This was a real time learning experience both for those who came forward with a topic and for those who were there to offer their peer support.

Béla Dajka is a communication specialist with 10-years' experience at the EU institutions, now focusing on digital communication and digital transformation at the health and food safety department of the European Commission. In his previous roles, he developed the corporate communication practice at the Commission, advised Commission departments on communication strategies and actions, ran marketing campaigns and managed the Commission's visual identity. He is a trained facilitator of participatory discussions and processes. Before joining the European Commission in 2008, he worked as an editor at the BBC where he also held public policy and change management roles. He studied journalism and media management at universities in Russia, UK and US. His interests include the role of communication in developing the organisational brand, identity and culture.