The Art of Hosting

From Ursula, a question out of her own experience:

A question I have is, if anyone has experience on hosting more regular coaching or resourcing calls for after the training. I have initiated biweekly telephone sessions with my colleague Helen for the EU agency of Human rights in Vienna. And it is just fabulous how the we are all blossoming in that space! An hour and a half intentional conversations with mates we met and some who we haven't (which did not make much difference) - were able to create such a learning field. Although they are not alone there, the local stewards are still missing.  We feel like supporting them in building their local community of practitioners of art of hosting, so they will have a good learning, growing and sharing space that can feed itself after a while. 

And now it occurs to me that this is what many participants actually do need after a three day immersion in the practices. Often other mates are far, or stewards are far, and all it takes are some questions asked for the newer practitioners to find the alignment back or get more insight into what they are facing by having more experienced hosts holding the field for them. And a few teaching injections, when asked for, but not overdosed, all together made it quite an efficient blend I feel. And as we have been developing a practice of holding telephone circles using talking pieces just as in life meetings, the listening field is really very good.

So I thought we could collect some insights here, on how this is maybe already done and organized elsewhere? I would love to hear more.

Warm greetings from Brussels,

Ursula Hillbrand

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Dear Ursula,

Thank you for your sharing... with regards to hosting virtual coaching and/or ongoing practice calls, I am more than happy to share and help...  In my practice technology is not the upmost concern, it is to co-create the container holding the collective virtual conversation without seeing one another. I personally practice this frequently with both individuals and groups. Conference or skype calls can be a simple, easy to use starting point accessible for many people already. Applying circle practice to virtual conversations works well as you already experienced. Then there are other technologies that are supporting more advanced needs of the community such as sharing documents, visuals etc and/or other forms of working such as breaking out, contributing elements (e.g post-its), harvesting etc. Though even these can be set up with minimal technology (you can use creative processes instead) technology can add functionalities that help make better value of the time (productivity).
When you have the opportunity to trigger the virtual community while still being together, this allows for everyone to share their perceived needs and co-create a format to start with. Checking in regularly over time how the format continues to serve purpose and how the purpose is evolving allows for staying in tune... 
Another aspect you may want to consider as you convene and host more regular (open) calls in a larger community (e.g. a large company or organization) is what I call "variable geometry", i.e. the group changing shape from call to call with possibly new people coming on board. There I find from experience that it is helpful to anticipate on the on-boarding needs of new members of the virtual community.
Would this be question that you would want to raise during your practice day in Bregenz ? Or even with the participants of the workshop you are going to host ? 
With my best wishes for an excellent day   +   Chris
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Dear All,

Let me pick up Ursula’s piece and continue on the “resourcing calls” and telephone circles that she speaks about – as a “young” practitioner who was on the other end of the phonecalls with her. We had two trainings in our organisation so far, and have started practicing over the past 8 months, but while we are not alone in that we have mates within our organisation, which really helps a lot - it is true that we have no experienced local stewards around. Those phonecalls are therefore a great support for us. They help us in many ways:

 

-          TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUR WORK

Concretely, we as learning practitioners need two types of support here:

One, to have someone to help with basic questions (of which we still have many) and teachings, as Ursula says.

The other one is around concrete projects: as colleagues within our Agency are starting to turn to us for help to design participatory processes and meetings, I do because there is no one else around, but at the same time am fully aware of the limitations and simply our lacking experience. So it’s great to have someone concrete you can ask for advice or feedback also on concrete projects – and I would warmly like to thank our friends at the Commission for all their support over the past months!

The situation is probably even more difficult for new practitioners who come out of a training full of energy and enthusiasm, but who then are alone in their place without AoH mates or nearby stewards – how can we support them; would an open phone CoP circle (monthly?) be useful and feasible???

 

-          TO STRENGTHEN THE FIELD IN OUR WORKPLACE

-          TO BUILD UP A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE

Our first call for help (by just 3 of us) was originally intended as a one-off. During the conversation, so many new questions came up that we decided to continue on a regular basis. On our end, we kept inviting more of the learners in. In this way, these phonecalls greatly support the creation of our Community of Practice and make its regular meetings “natural”. We have now up to 10 people gathering for these phonecalls, which so much supports the strengthening of connections between us! Plus indeed it’s a great learning field, a real community that learns….

There are some other key points which I would like to share:

-          HARVEST IS KEY: make sure these conversations are harvested and shared (and yes we intend to share our harvests with you on Ning as well).

 

-          DIFFICULTIES: For new practitioners, often circle as such can be a challenge – being present, intentional speaking, attentive listening. This can be even more challenging in a phone conversation. Also, as a not so experienced host, I find hosting phone circles more difficult, so maybe the more experienced practitioners can support here?

 

So my bottom line to all you experienced practitioners out there, especially those who give trainings:  Should we consider to build in the practice of follow-up phone call resource circles into trainings?

From lived experience, I would like to encourage experienced stewards to offer this support, it will help the quality of our work globally, and it will help to connect better globally, and strengthen the field.

Thanks to you all,

Wal

from Vienna

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More ideas from Chris Corrigan - more on interweaving and cross-polinating:

VAL: TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUR WORK

Concretely, we as learning practitioners need two types of support here: One, to have someone to help with basic questions (of which we still have many) and teachings, as Ursula says.

 
CHRIS: Ask those questions here (on the emaillist) or of some of us specifically.  It is possible for us all to join in on calls with you too, and many in our global community would probably be willing to appear as "guests" once in a while.
 


VAL: would an open phone CoP circle (monthly?) be useful and feasible???
CHRIS: That would be very useful.  People can bring their design challenges to that CoP meeting and tell stories.  You could do a collective story harvest of successful events and ask people to help you out together.  A monthly rhythm is good practice.


VAL: HARVEST IS KEY: make sure these conversations are harvested and shared (and yes we intend to share our harvests with you on ning as well).

CHRIS: Collaborative harvest is possible as well.  Consider having a Google Doc open that people can take turns editing.  If you want detailed notes, have every person in the call agree to harvest one other person, in the chat window.  That way you get detailed notes and everyone has a job to do, but not too much work.
VAL:  DIFFICULTIES: For new practitioners, often circle as such can be a challenge – being present, intentional speaking, attentive listening. This can be even more challenging in a phone conversation. Also, as a not so experienced host, I find hosting phone circles more difficult, so maybe the more experienced practitioners can support here?
CHRIS: When I host phone circles I always offer a virtual talking piece.  I say "I'm picking the piece up" and then speak.  When i am finished I say "piece back to the centre" and wait for someone else to pick it up.  
And of course all the good principles apply about having a good question, a real invitation, taking time to check in and check out and so on.  Phone circles need be hosted as intentionally as every other circle. 
VAL:So my bottom line to all you experienced practitioners out there, especially those who give trainings: Should we consider to build in the practice of follow-up phone call resource circles into trainings?

From lived experience, I would like to encourage experienced stewards to offer this support, it will help the quality of our work globally, and it will help to connect better globally, and strengthen the field.

CHRIS: Yes to building in this experience.  When you do trainings invite some from the trainings to step into this work of stewarding the CoPs.  Over time, as you do more and more trainings, you can connect together all these people.  Once a year, have a big Open Space for people to gather and share stories and ask advice.  Post the proceedings online so we can all see them.

Berlin Community of Practice: Daily Skype Check-in
For more than 10 weeks now, some practitioners from Berlin and one from Switzerland meet daily for a Skype check-in in the morning. Every work day (Monday-Friday), we meet with 4-6 people at 8:00 am before some of us go to work or others start their working day in their home office. We meet for 30 minutes and work with the principle whoever shows up is the right people. Sometimes, we take 10 minutes more but if 2 or more people want to discuss meetings, experiences or questions in more detail, they arrange to meet outside of the circle. We meet in this circle to connect with mates to start the day together, to exchange work-related questions and to reflect on our practices. Some of the circle members have found new jobs in between, others have started to work on projects together, and some are stepping in and out of the circle fluidly with no pressure of having to be present every day but showing up when learning is calling.

The conversation continued:

From lived experience, I would like to encourage experienced stewards to offer this support, it will help the quality of our work globally, and it will help to connect better globally, and strengthen the field.

what a wonderful and useful idea Wal…

let us make that part of the rhythm practice whenever appropriate and possible…..
I suggest it to be the responsibility to the practitioners who need this to call it…
cheers to learnings and wise actions that will grow healthy corn for all
kindly

 

Toke
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Hello all.

Very interesting conversation. And interesting indeed for me, because I have had similar thinking to create a kind of regular phonecalls to support the feeling of support and learning in a community of practice.  
For me, working with a youth network around questions connected to Baltic Sea, I have seen the need to have skype calls to remind ourselves of our common work and thus strengthen the individual to pick up on his/her own contribution in that context. The calls are not so much about detailed facts of different types, but merely a way for us to hear each other, and the daily work that is being done.
A feeling of belonging in a bigger community gives responsibility and inspiration to carry our the work that needs to be done.
I believe in this and I am in the loop.
all the best from a rainy Stockholm
Jonas Darin

More from the emaillist, June 2012:

Hello all!

If we think capacity building and a resilient community is of value to us, then I think that would be valuable to do.  I think each training needs to consider what they need to do, but it makes me wonder if open calls for the community could be valuable.  If we used the Maestro platform — and some of us have this platform — then we could have good practitioner sharing sessions as well.

Anyone else want to cook on this?

Mary Alice

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Mary Alice, 

I think I have been holding a question related to this for some time although it is not exactly clear to me what it is.  I'd be happy to be in an exploratory conversation with you and a few others about the need, purpose, principles of such an offering and see whether what emerges has energy.  Enjoy the sailing experience.  Will be curious to hear about it.  Holding space in my heart for the voyage.
Kathy Jourdain
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Happy to join as well!
Helen Titchen Beeth
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I'd be very happy to join that conversation.  I think it is a very important one.

I think there may also be a piece to it which is something like how the wisdom that emerges from such conversations is fed back into the whole.

Best regards

Chris Chapman
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Hi Mary Alice and all
I too am interested in building more resilience in our learning communities by using virtual tools to sustain and regenerate our face-to-face gatherings.
Count me in on the cooking if there is room
Warmly
Mark Spain
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Count me in MA!
Thank you. 
Happy sailing! 
Lina Cramer
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Dear Mates, 
Please count me in on this conversation, too. I am one of the hosts of the popular Pro Action Cafe in Brussels, and I just  got the Maestro software to take our Cafe in the virtual realm (in addition to our f2f Cafes).
As always, this conversation comes just at the right time.
Gratefully,
Nora Ganescu
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Dear all,
 
great this is picking up energy.
 
For the moment we have no licence in the European Commission for Maestro, we are using our telephone conference system, which works fine if we are in circle. Up to now we have been 3-10 people in these resourcing calls, so it worked just fine, not yet a need to split into small groups.
 
With the project Digital Futures in one of our departments it might be possible the licence is being purchased, so that this could then become a possibility for us to use in working time. Otherwise those calls have to take place outside working time which might then exclude some of the colleagues, including in the Human rights agency in Vienna. Many colleagues however are ready to go beyond those hours for learning and sharing needs, we can just find out what works for now.
 
In trainings settings outside the EU Commission we also asked ourselves how to organise this financially. Are enough senior hosts in the community able/ready to offer support just for the sheer fun of sharing and supporting? Will the software be offered on top of this? It seems not feasable to send out bills to participants for little amounts to cover the shared costs once at a time.
 
We found it complicated in earlier settings. I co-hosted a series of on-line engament events, free of charge, Open Space and Pro action cafes last year for the German speaking Theory U community, and in the end the process stopped, as no smart way has been found to cover the fees for the rather expensive licence one host had purchased (another interesting software tool by the way, called vitero) and some hosting prep time, as not all were ready or able to put in their time like this. So I just want to mention this, as it could be an issue to be worked with wisely.
 
In a way we can look at it as giving back to the community what we gained, as those opportunities always offer lots of chances to learn more for everyone involved.
 
For the future I believe we need to support each other much more, and also offer to participants of a training a consistent field they can connect to until they have managed to create a field strong enough, to hold and support them where they are. These are the invisible spaces in between visible events, and they are so needed!
That would be so great, if we could organise ourselves that way, with a rotation system perhaps..
 
Warm greetings,
 
Ursula Hillbrand

 

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