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The Connect-Up Gala: empowered connection in the time of COVID

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You’d be forgiven for feeling that 2020 has been, well, a total letdown.

But founder of the CBR Gals Network Rae Knopik still holds hope that 2020 will serve as a catalyst for Canberrans’ personal and professional growth on a scale unseen before.

“Fire, hailstorms, COVID-19 and a civil rights movement have painted 2020 as the year for staying inside of our homes, our comfortable patterns and our individual bubbles,” says Rae.

“But how can we expect to not only build back, but to build back better if we don’t give people the best opportunities to get together and connect on what unites us?”

This idea of uniting Canberrans in this time of crisis inspired Rae and her passionate team to create The Connect-Up Gala, which will take place at Barton’s Hotel Realm on Saturday 25 July.

Billed as the “first black-tie event of 2020”, the Connect-Up Gala’s purpose is threefold—to inspire, empower and connect Canberrans through a unique event structure that flips the ‘same-old’ conference model on its head.

“The Connect Up Gala is a one-of-a-kind black-tie gala on matchmaking, upskilling and finding business and social partners to help Canberrans grow,” says Rae, adding that for those who feel professionally or personally stuck—this is the place to be.

“What we’ve noticed with the CBR Gals Network is that a lot of people are wanting to change careers—2020 has been a big life moment for most people.”

The CBR Gals Network was founded in 2018 with the purpose of connecting Canberra’s transient community—a way for people to meet without the pressure of networking.

Having grown up in the US before meeting her Australian partner in Florence, Italy, Rae knows all too well the difficulties people can face when it comes to meeting people in a new city. Her goal for the Network? Inclusion and community through events.

And what better time to connect Canberrans than now?

The CBR Gals Network team. (L-R) Ruhi Asher (Secretary), Rae Knopik (President), Shannon Beckwith (Vice President), and Declan Norrie (Treasurer).

The Gala will start with canapés and wine from sponsors Contentious Character before guests move into the Hotel Realm ballroom for a sit-down dinner.

To create an instant community, guests will be given a form to fill out pre-Gala that will then be used to match them with a table of likeminded individuals with similar professional and personal interests.

While guests eat, the two panels will take place, hosting some of Canberra’s brightest minds.

The first panel, Upskilling and Rebranding in the face of Adversity will feature a panel of inspirational people who have successfully pivoted mid-career or adapted to sudden change including SBS political producer Jamie Travers, former Member of the House of Representatives Gai Brodtmann, doctor, public servant and lifestyle blogger Rasi Gupta, Ben Alexander, former Brumbies player and owner of The Dock, and Olympian and current COO of Proximity, Zoe Lynam.

Rae describes the second panel, Snapping Forward and Building Back Better, as a balm for these strange times we find ourselves in.

“It’s a very topical [panel], because a lot of politicians and thought leaders are asking about how we can snap forward after COVID—but the vision for this panel was about bringing in some younger voices and people who might not have had the opportunity to speak on this before.”

Moderating Snapping Forward will be journalist Virginia Haussegger along with Forbes 30 under 30’s Ashleigh Streeter-Jones, CEO of YWCA Canberra Frances Crimmins, Director of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House Daryl Karp, and Kemiso Matlho, equity advocate and Student Associate at Mill House Ventures.

There will also be special interactive elements to make asking questions a breeze for all guests.

“We’re utilising a program that guests can access from their smartphone,” says Rae.

“Which means that you’re able to ask questions in real-time and the emcees will be able to mix in those questions, so it becomes a more interactive experience, even if we’re in a room of a hundred people.”

When it comes to timing, Rae is the first to admit that some might find it bold to hold such an event now. However, with strict COVID-safe precautions and policies in place—not to mention a virtual Plan B should circumstances change—Rae feels confident that Canberrans not only want this sort of event but need it.

“We noticed that most of the Canberra-wide events have been cancelled for 2020, so Canberrans haven’t had the opportunity to grow. We wanted to seize the moment and give Canberrans that platform…and it’s been incredible to see how Canberrans have come around this event.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: The Connect-Up Gala
When: Saturday 25 July from 4-9 pm
Where: Hotel Realm, 18 National Circuit, Barton
Cost: $180, including canapes, drinks package, dinner, entertainment, panels, activities, keynote speakers, locally-sourced giveaways and freebies
Tickets + more information: cbrgals.com/product/connect-up-gala

HerCanberra is a proud sponsor of The Connect-Up Gala

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