Levels of Sponsorship

Creating Art of Hosting trainings always involve working with teams of people. Usually there are anywhere from three – ten people that join with a couple of AoH Stewards. Some of those people joining are co-designers, active practitioners. Some are supporters, helping with logistics. Some are apprentices, deepening into the practice of holding the whole (true for all of us at one level or another). Some are sponsors.

People often ask about what kind of sponsorship is possible. With that in mind, Teresa Posakony at The Berkana Institute offered the following clarity. These are good to name up front.

  1. 1.Sharing the invitation in their network. This is the most simple level of sponsoring. Some who share will be people who hear about the event and are excited. However, even better, some of these are people who join in a call or two with the team to contribute there sense of key questions and issues. Thus, there is a minimum of co-creating a broad framework together. It puts a lot more energy behind the sharing of invitation.
  1. 2.Bringing people to the event. Including themselves. This involves commitment to bring paying participants and teams to the learning that will occur. Sometimes it is a couple of people. Typically it is four or more. As before, when these sponsors participate in a call or two, they are adding wisdom into the design group with a particularly keen sense of who will be coming to the training. With sponsors like this, it also helps speed the process of preparation, the time between exploring the possibility of a training and actually hosting it, by knowing that registration will be full.
  1. 3.Offering scholarship support. This has been offered in three ways. First, underwriting the overall costs so that tuition can be reduce for everyone and make it more accessible to many. These are important to know up front and influence pricing information that is included in an invitation. Or second, payment for specific individuals to be in the room. This pays for those people while the cost to other participants remains at a regular price. Or third, payment for specific types of people to be in the room. People from a particular kind of community agency that don’t have the needed resources. Or youth. Or elders. Or parents. The important point is having enough of a system in the room to be able to see each other as a system, hear the voices, and act as a system.

Thanks Teresa.

A Few Books from Along the Way



The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources (Lynne Twist) — This is really a fantastic read. Great, compelling stories. Great principles and practices. Mostly about the subtitle, reclaiming a disposition of resourcefulness. I particularly like her naming the “Lie of Scarcity” and its three prominent myths: 1) There is not enough. 2) More is better. 3) That’s just the way it is. I put this one on my kid’s must read lists.


Wild Stone Heart (Sharon Butala) — A gift from my new friend Alan Richards in Alberta. Lovely to journey into some of my memories of Saskatchewan. Lovely to witness a journey  about awakening to seeing the invisible, both in ourselves, others, and the communities we cultivate. This passage represented some of that for me, as she explored the cairns: “I didn’t expect it would be the ‘voiceless voice’ that would explain things to me. Its utterances so far had been as enigmatic as the stone piles themselves, and while after one of them I’d feel as if a light bulb had gone on in my thick brain and new realms of thought had opened for me, any answers were answers I’d come up with myself.”

You and No Other (Jane Weiss, Bonnie Zahn) — What a delightful read, a memoir from two of my friends as they entered into a same-gender relationship together. I held my breath for them. I cried for them. I felt myself awakened to hear of their courage and love and learning. It’s a book about being true to the best of what can happen as human beings.

Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen) — A novel passed on to me, read first by my Grandmother, and then my Mom. Kind of glad to join the line. I started into it several months ago, but then got busy with other things. In seeing the movie, inspired to read a bit further. Yes, the book is quite different.

The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown) — What an amazing writer. Certainly for the story. And a good format for me with lots of short chapters that switch between main threads of the story, only to be integrated in the end. And much, much to be explored from the way he weaves Noetic Sciences into this one. Thanks Jon Gilburg for the recommend.

The Dance of Life (Victor Vernon Woolf) — Some of the stories and frameworks that my uncle, Vern Woolf, has experienced and developed in his life. I appreciate the beginnings of a framework on consciousness from a quantum perspective. I appreciate the practice of tracking to mature thoughts, memories, and emotions. Vern has committed his life to an exploration of a multi-dimensional world, and to an inquiry of what is real. It has been groundwork that has opened me to similar questions in my life, and to my commitment to understanding energetics in groups.

The Purposeful Universe: How Quantum Theory and Mayan Cosmology Explain the Origin and Evolution of Life (Carl Johan Calleman) — A book recommended to me by friend Roq Gareau. It is one that I started reading a year or so ago, but aware of this version of the Mayan calendar, naming March 8, 2011 as the beginning of the last creative periods, the Universal, I picked it up again. Calleman characterizes this last time as a oneness field, the outcome of which is not known. As I understand it the world evolves with particular new waves, originating from a cosmic tree of life. The new waves account for fundamental shifts in biology and consciousness. Each represents an acceleration of frequency from the past. I don’t remember the factor but I believe it is 20 times. Drawn to this as I have been to many other sources that blend science and spirituality.

The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows (Kent Nerburn) — So much to love in this one. The form of fictional history is a great learning format for me. One of the things I loved in it is the glimpses into Lakota epistemology, ways of being, and ways of seeing. It is quite well done, I found, for showing some of the distinctions between a contemporary white person’s view, steeped in separation, and an indigenous view of wholeness. The story is of a 90 year-old Indian Elder’s search for his sister, lost in childhood when taken away to boarding schools. Informative. Sad. Compelling.

The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros) — “You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad.” I read this one because my daughter was reading it. Lovely. About voice (“…learn to become the human being you are not ashamed of…”). About activism (“…anger, when used to act non-violently, has power…”). About home (“…home is about creating one’s desired environment…”). I loved even more what my daughter wrote about it for her class assignment. About the “storm of hindrances” that can be part of life. About integrating past to present. The beginnings of her learnings about integrating masculine and feminine and partnering. So many doorways into the learning that is becoming her life and the journey of father / daughter.

The Animal Family (Randall Jarrell) — Thanks to Ann Pelo for this one, given to me as a housewarming gift. It is a children’s book about finding home, told through the voices of a man and a mermaid sharing life with a bear, a lynx, and a boy. I quite liked the beginning words — “Say what you like, but such things do happen — not often, but they do happen.” Published the year after Jarrell died, this was one of his last works, and a Newbery Honor Award winner.

The New Parish Priest (Fr. Brian Bainbridge) — Recommended to me by Chris Corrigan for the work that I’m doing with faith communities. This is a short and simple read of shifting the culture in an Australian Catholic parish, using Open Space Technology as an operating system. From looking at the past to looking at the future. From control to shared service and offering. From “what do you want us to do, Father?” to “I’ve noticed this needs attention.” From “your” parish to “our” parish. Many stories of specific projects that began to come from the people of the parish. Nice reflections at the beginning and end on some of the learning of OS.

Angel Time (Anne Rice) — Several years ago I really enjoyed Anne Rice’s vampire series. They were about so much more than vampires. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve read her stuff. I suppose her writings here reflect an evolution in her own path and interest. What remains, though not as compelling in this book for me, are themes of separation, redemption, the question of what is real. This time, explored through the story of a hired assassin reformed into angel helper.

Babies at Work: Bringing New Life to the Workplace (Carla Moquin) — Carla is a new friend for me in Utah. She is a dynamo. This book comes from a deep passion and direct body of experience in her. I love the many levels in this book. The practicality, advantages, and challenges of starting a program. The depth of research and story. The deeper philosophy and invitation to one of wholeness. The challenge to industrial era thinking and structures of separation and efficiency.

The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein) — Loaned to me by Ginny Wiley, just right for a couple of airplane reads and a few hot baths. Just the right mix of delight to hear a story told by a dog, Enzo, and deep-hearted concern of human beings in the reality of human life. A story of family, of conviction, of humility. A philosophy of connection and integration. Background themes intelligently woven in from the world of car racing. Laughter. Aches. Tears. Smiles.


Blackberries in the Dream House (Diane Frank) — Thanks Teresa Posakony for this one. It is a beautiful read. Lovely images. Some poetry. Simple. Inviting. A story of expression through flow in the arts and dreams. A story of remembering who we are across many lives, as told in this relationship between geisha girl and a zen monk, is compelling.

William Gilliland Stewart: His Life, His Message (Compiled by Bill and Maureen Woolf) — This is such a gift. A compilation of stories, writings, photographs of my Great Grandfather. Everything including migration stories (My Great Great Great Grandfather leaving during the potato famine, sailing from Ballintoy, Ireland to Canada in the 1800s. He had 15 cents in his pocket and asked the stage coach driver to take him as far into the fruit country of Niagara as he could for that amount. The next two generations lived and worked there. My Great Grandfather then migrated to southern Alberta where my Grandmother and Father were born.) A life of hard work and faith. A man who dug a root cellar by hand in his 80s. I particularly enjoyed the entries from my Grandmother, Lena Ross of her childhood.

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) — This is really an entertaining read. It is written for younger audiences. I read it because my 12 year-old son was reading it. Yet I enjoyed fully and found myself wanting to sneak it away from him. It is the first in a three part series. Good suspense to the end. Good for parent / child shared reading.

Whale Song (Cheryl Kaye Tardif) — A book that my Grandmother recommended. It was a good story that went to a surprisingly deep level. On love. On loss. On life transitions. On the edges at which cultures come together.

What capacities must individuals and groups cultivate to experience emergence and create anew? An exploration of Dialogue, Theory U and Circle (Magy Oriah Nock) — Shared through the Art of Hosting list serve by Chris Corrigan. A thesis from graduate work. Some good information about circle gained from experience with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea of PeerSpirit. A good overview of steps and important orientations. The same for Theory U. I liked Magy’s comments at the end, “feeling a need for play and silence.” These are some of the gifts I experience in the Art of Hosting workshops that seems to deepen the quality of what emerges. I also related to her call for further future attention to shadow.

The Lost Compass: One Father’s Journey (B. Clement Makepeace) — Meg Wheatley gifted this one to me. A simple, short read. Story of a father discovering what he cares about — his relationship with his son first among them. Might read this one with my son Isaac. For the story. For the experience. For the openings that shows themselves in years to come. Noticed as symbols in the book, and thus the invitation to pay attention, to “true north.” What is the true north in my life? What becomes available is focused on this? Also like the reference to “garden as a place and a process.” Like most aspects of life, they have an outcome kind of feel as well as a dynamic ongoing process. Relationships. Reminds me of Chris Corrigan’s teachings with me about “all is practice.” Reminds me of my Uncle Vern’s teachings about all as particle and wave at the same time.

Hosting What? Consciousness, Wellness, Wholeness, Resonance

I was in Rosendale, New York in early November at the Lifebridge Sanctuary. With a co-hosting team of Nancy Fritsche Eagan, Martin Siesta, Silas Lusias, and Kelly McGowan, we were close to completing the third of three days for an Art of Hosting training. It was going well. We had just completed a lovely and deep circle hosted by participants. The weave of that group was feeling particularly close.

I’ve hosted Art of Hosting trainings now over many years. Open enrollment trainings like the one in New York. Client engagements also when there is a more specific purpose or strategy to be developed. Hundreds of cafes, circles, appreciate approaches, and open space working groups. The simple know-how of any of these methods and others are really helpful skills.

During the break in New York, I found myself getting insights about a question I’ve been asking for a few years. Hosting what? Yes, hosting what? I know we call it “Hosting Conversations that Matter.” Yet, when done well, it seems like much more is happening. Like hosting conversations becomes a doorway to something deeper and more lasting. What is that? That’s what I want to learn more about. And practice with deliberateness. I know I’m not speaking of something entirely new — many of us know there is something more and have been trying to name it. In her poem, Prospective Immigrants Please Note Adrienne Rich has some words for this, going through doorways, that I love. “If you go through there is always the risk of remembering your name.” Perhaps it is the remembering of our names, purpose beneath the purpose, connection beneath the connection, that is so compelling.

So, in New York I got some clarity. Some on the “what to expect from an Art of Hosting.” A sense of “remembering the future.” Because I was seeing it play out again. And because it was a reaffirmation for any part of me that thinks, “this won’t work this time.” It is the kind of stuff I would want to share with any client or community group thinking of calling an Art of Hosting. The “what is likely to happen” through the doorway of conversations that matter.

Remembering the Future — What is Really Likely to Happen at an Art of Hosting Training

1. Though the group will start as strangers, there will be a strong sense that we have met before. It happens all of the time. After a day of working together, and it feels like we’ve been together for a lot longer than that (in an appreciated way), people start to feel that surely they have met before. It’s almost unfathomable that the group could have started only one or two days ago. This says something, by the way, about when clients are wondering if it is really different to meet over several days together rather than just a series of two-hour meetings.

2. There will be a strong sense of community. We will remember what community can be in the best of ways. We’ll anticipate being together in the mornings, the days, and the nights. People will offer some of what they can. They’ll be able to ask for the help that they need. And we’ll be deliberate about honoring beginning and ending times. Oh, and yes, as it is in any great community, we will tell stories. That’s how we will learn in our conversations together. That’s how we will show up. And one last thing, people will share things about themselves that they normally wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing. You’ll know you’re there when someone speaks beginning with, “Well, I didn’t think I would say this, but I feel I can and need to tell this story….” Deeply personal weaving into the professional.

3. People will be creative. It seems to happen when we combine three things together. First, learning. Through the maps, models, teachings, experiences. Second, relationships. Through telling stories and asking questions with each other, people will

  1. want to work together. Rather than the default isolation, people will seek each other out because they see each other as resources, friends, and allies in creativity. And third, people will want to work on projects. They will shift from what World Cafe co-founder Juanita Brown calls “if only or yah, but” to “what if…” to “why not!” Beautiful to see.

    4.  The group will come to see and want to see through a lens of beauty. They’ll adopt beauty as a criteria for their work, interactions, and offerings. Beauty in the questions they offer. Beauty in the physical set up of the room. Beauty in the individuals that are in the room. Beauty in themselves. I love this point in time. Someone tidies the circle. Brings in a flower from outside. Offers a next level of harvest. It is when imperfections are welcomed and even celebrated because they are welcomed from whatever level of beauty is in the participants. It is an exquisite moment from the standpoint of appreciative approaches. And it is as though we put on new glasses and see anew something that has been there all along. Resonance of beauty.

    5. People will be courageous. People will come to feel a strong sense of “being bigger.” I don’t experience it as ego inflation. It is more simply what becomes available as people settle in to the next level of working on their projects, working with other colleagues, and working from a shifted and renewed clarity of values and world view. It is magical when the complex becomes simple. Not reductive simple. Principled simple. Energetically-clear simple. What a thing to see us awaken to our courage to be clear and get to work from that place.

I’ve seen each of these five things happen over and over again. In myself. In others. In people young and old. In people from all sectors of work, industry, and community. I think I’ve even hesitated to speak it sometimes, concerned it would sound falsely ideal. I remember from some of the early trainings that I co-hosted, feeling my inner cynic, feeling that surely this one would not be as successful as the last one. Or that it would flop. I know flopping is possible. Yet, I have not seen it. Rather, I have seen more people eager to come further in to a community of practice. My clarity and courage have grown. And also my trust in the form that is the Art of Hosting and the teams that gather together to host it.

So, back to the original basic question — hosting what? Let’s return to that. If the above “remember the futures” happen so noticeably, then what might we point to that underlies these delicious (and productive) outcomes? What might we come to learn and own and deepen as a contribution of our time to convening people and systems so that we can do and offer what we most care about?

Hosting What?

  1. Hosting what? Hosting consciousness. Rather, I believe, what happens is that we are hosting a field of consciousness. Consciousness at the next level. Shared consciousness that stimulates meaningful action. Though “conversations that matter,” “conversational leadership,” “participative leadership,” “stakeholder engagement” and anything else we want to call it are powerful, they become transformative when next level of consciousness arrives. In individuals and in the group. My grandmother used to tell me as a young boy that most humans use only 3% of their brain cells (this might have been gentle chastising for something I did that was dumb, but I remember it as insight). Next level consciousness kicks in when we use more of those brain cells, and heart cells, and intuitive cells. It is the point when individuals and teams shift from stuck points into immense choices of possibility.
  2. Hosting what? Hosting wellness. As colleague and friend, Meg Wheatley reminds me, “if you want a system to be healthy, connect it to more of itself.” Conversations create connection. Stories create connection. Questions create connection. And even more significantly, they all create wellness. It isn’t a stretch to compare wellness in individuals to wellness in systems. When we are well individually, we have more capacity. If I am not well physically, or emotionally, or spiritually, everything changes. Oh, and yes, I get that wellness is a process, an experience — not a destination. I would also go one step further on wellness. It comes from invitations to deliberately create together. We’ve all been with teams before where the “problem” has become so monstrous that it can’t be unravelled any further. Frustration. Anger. Fear. Withdrawal. Apathy. Trying to see precise cause in such can feel like such a dead end. However, to invite a team to focus on creating — creating what they care about, yes with awareness and witnessing of the past — this is one of the best ways I know to host wellness.
  3. Hosting what? Hosting wholeness. This builds on hosting wellness. In many spiritual traditions, the fundamental need for human beings is to return to wholeness. Release the world view, paradigm, and unconscious habit of separateness. Reclaim, or remember, the fundamental identity of together, of no-separation. In organizations this is often reintegrating from silo departments or functions to a holistic view of shared information and collaboration. It is the daring shift from an imposed neat-and-tidy world view of linear relations, to a more messy, yet flourishing experience of collaboration and collective action. Messy, yet real. Whole. I’ve heard many people at Art of Hosting trainings, as well as in client meetings say, with astonishment and appreciation, “this group process feels like therapy.” They speak it a bit hesitantly — we’re not supposed to be here for therapy. It isn’t offered as therapy. Not planned. Not delivered that way. But it is what arises. It is what emerges. Not group therapy. That is not my interest, nor my expertise. But group wellness and wholeness that emerges from simple process.
  4. Hosting what? Resonance. Earlier this summer Teresa Posakony and I led several interactive processes at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Bi-Annual International Conference. One was following Edgar Mitchell, former Apollo Astronaut and founder of IONS. He said something that sticks with me. “Resonance is nature’s way of transferring information.” Resonance. Vibrancy. Frequency. Not limited to words. It is to most an invisible quality. An invisible measure. In a measurement culture largely defined by “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count.” Thankfully, to the IONS community in particular, there is significant research helping to make resonance visible and what we naturally turn to.

So, why share all of this? I get excited when I turn my attention to hosting consciousness, wellness, wholeness, and resonance. It works. It makes the outcomes and the process richly effective. By doing so, I feel immense freedom that welcomes varied approaches to conversational leadership. And to play. And to community. And to silence. Hosting consciousness, wellness, wholeness, and resonance welcomes me and others to work in the expansive magic that grows from a foundation of process methodologies. It frees me from preoccupation with form. It turns me to the next frontier of group work that can make a difference.

It gives me courage to think that some time in the future, I fully suspect we will reflect back on the days when we didn’t give attention, or know how to give attention to fields of consciousness, wellness, wholeness, and resonance. When it wasn’t common place. I like to think we’ll smile. Perhaps we will be naming next new frontiers then.