This week I was able to connect with Diana Smith. She is among other things, a consultant in Victoria, British Columbia, through Ecosol and The Ginger Group Collaborative. She is also an educator. A great thinker. Soulful. Practical. Integrated. Diana and I have known of each other for about ten years, meeting through a Berkana Institute event that I co-created. We’ve touched in with each other a bit over the years. Yet, in a way that feels just ready, within the last year, have been participants together at a conference on Leadership in a Self-Organizing World, co-designers for a recent Art of Hosting on Vancouver Island, and now designing together again for an upcoming Art of Hosting in Edmonton, Alberta. It’s been a good year with Diana!
Our conversation this week was about what it means to steward the Art of Hosting. I appreciated Diana’s starting point. Stewarding is a strong word. She doesn’t take it lightly. She had several questions about what it means to do so. Together we also had many questions. What is different between hosting and other forms of leadership? In other words, what needs to be stewarded? What is the importance of brand and integrity of brand? What does brand mean when it is held by an amorphous network of people rather than trademarked or copyrighted by an organization? What is accountability in a network? Like it is with many great conversations, we found insights and many new questions.
One of the most helpful insights that I carried away from our call was the notion of “fluency.” We explored what it means to be “fluent” in a language. How fluency is a concept — is anybody really fluent in any language. How fluency comes from a presence and experience within a culture. Beyond words is meaning. Just as beyond methods for hosting is meaning. We explored “dialects” within a given language. I asked Diana to say more about what fluency with the Art of Hosting means to her. “Sensitivity to the field. Multiple sensitivities. Enough understanding to make design decisions.” Just as it is with enough fluency to recognize choices of expressions rather than one simple way. I further found myself aware of commitments to “crowd-sourcing” and “self-organization.” Of commitments I know with colleagues at Berkana: “emergence,” “healthy and resilient communities,” and “life-affirming leadership.”
We both became curious about this. What could become clear at the next level of helpfulness if we were to look at Art of Hosting as a dialect that requires fluency? How would this help all of us — from stewards and pattern-keepers to new people wanting to apply learnings? What if the broader language is something about participative leadership or engagement? And the dialect is Art of Hosting? This helps me to think more clearly about the many people I know who know a ton of stuff and have extensive experience in leadership and the like, yet don’t yet have the dialect of the Art of Hosting. As it was with Diana, we were talking about a lot more than the meaning of words or the translations. There is indeed a dialect to learn. A cultural experience, multiple times. Something to learn to develop proficiency in. As will a language, to practice, practice, practice so as to come to embody the dialect.
Thanks Diana. Lots of sparks as always.