What is the Art of Hosting?

Earlier this year Peggy Holman asked for an updated definition of the Art of Hosting to use in her book, Engaging Emergence. This is a definition that continues to evolve. I like what is below, contributed to by fellow practitioners Chris Corrigan, Toke Moeller, Teresa Posakony, Peggy, and myself. Though long, the first paragraph says a lot. I like that it references a community and a commitment to action through participation.

Art of Hosting is a global community of practitioners using integrated participative change processes, methods, maps, and planning tools to engage groups and teams in meaningful conversation, deliberate collaboration, and group-supported action for the common good.

The Principles

High quality conversation arises when:

*      People in a group are present and grounded, working with a common purpose.

*      Conversation is hosted in a container that invites participation and self-organization.

*      People engage in participatory leadership, not top-down leadership, making the group’s wisdom more available to itself.

*      Groups working together over time act and harvest their learning and through feedback loops that support action.

As the Art of Hosting scales these generative principles up to larger and larger settings, the work becomes the Art of Participatory Leadership. Rather than working with pre-determined methods, the “art” is approaching each conversation from a design perspective, offering the best design for the context based on simple principles.

The Process

The Art of Hosting is the “jazz” of emergent change processes. A team of hosts works with the conveners — often traditional leadership — to surface questions and activities that support their intentions for bringing people together. Hosting teams design the flow of an engagement by discerning what is most useful in the moment. Specific processes are often selected the evening before or morning of an interaction. As hosting teams create the experience for participants, they invite them into the hosting itself. As a result, in addition to addressing the intended issue, participants are introduced to the skills of hosting, learning to ride the waves of the present moment while tending to an abiding intention.

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