Reflections from Labour Union Education

Deeply appreciating these words from colleague and friend, Tamara Levine of the Canadian Labour Congress. She is writing the words below to introduce her colleagues in New Zealand to attend an Art of Hosting that I’m coleading in August. She is reflecting on an event that I hosted with Chris Corrigan and Esther Matte, and a great bunch of union leaders.

“The Art of Hosting (AoH) (see is about ways to bring people together in conversations that matter in response to a powerful question in order to strengthen our work and our communities. It’s about emphasizing the value of building relationships and learning into our work so that our work and our communities can become more grounded, relevant, and stronger.

I met Tenneson about a year ago when he co-facilitated a 3-day session with staff of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the largest union in Canada. The question developed by the CUPE planning group for the invitation to that session was “What more can local unions be?”. CUPE participants left the session with deep bonds to each other, to the work, and with a new set of skills to bring to how they organize more participatory and meaningful meetings and conferences, write more dynamic courses, revitalize union locals, etc. Since then, the ripples of AoH continue to spread throughout the organization, bringing new energy, enthusiasm and possibilities.

Last fall, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Education Department was beginning to plan a retreat for our Education Advisory Committee. The CUPE rep on the committee highly recommended that we use AoH both as a way to host the retreat and as a training session for those who would attend. We started planning what came to be called our “Learning Circle” in December with a committee of affiliate reps and three facilitators, including Tenneson, hoping that we might get 25 or 30 participants. However, because of the fabulous planning and invitation process, because word of AoH was getting out into the movement, and because of the enthusiasm of the planning committee members within their own organizations, we had 70 participants at the CLC Learning Circle in May who responded to our question ” What is needed from us as activists and labour educators in these challenging times?”

I’ve attached some of the eloquent comments that have been coming in from participants at the Learning Circle FYI. Like in CUPE, the stories of how Aoh is infusing the work of the labour movement continue to inspire. Hosting the Learning Circle was seen as an important and valuable convening role for the CLC to play as the national central labour body.

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