The Art of Hosting

As much as Art of Hosting is also about harvesting, in many AoH trainings and events using the AoH principles and methodologies the harvest feels sometimes as one more thing to add at the end...

Please share if you have really good examples of how to integrate the conversations, the process and the harvest into the next step of conversations...

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From an email from Chris Corrigan:

We have been doing a lot of harvesting at AoH trainings I have done with Tenneson and Teresa and others. Tenneson in particular has a real gift for working with the harvest team.

What we do early on is invite people to step into that practice and then we coach and client them as we would with any other team.  Essentially we put the challenge to them: How will we tell the story of things going on here in a way that is beautiful and useful?  Then they self-organize to produce artifacts for the moment or of the whole event.  They go to work with hosting teams as "harvesters" and they sometimes produce lovely photo or video harvests as well. 

We work with the end in mind, and design backwards from there.  


From the moment I'm brought onto a team, I ask the planning/design team what the desired end result is for the event.  We spend some time talking about where we want people to be at the end of the day, and what we hope to see them doing moving forward.  Everything - from the process design to the graphic recording - comes from that place.


Two examples:

A local nonprofit convened a World Cafe to end hunger in San Diego.  The design team knew wanted to see community members pick up and sustain pieces of the work moving forward.  They also decided that as the hosts of the event, their role was to be a hub to support the work of these community members moving forward.  The cafe questions were designed with this in mind, and my recording reflected their brainstorming and emergence into certain levels of clarity.  The hub then used the recording as a touchstone to start subsequent meetings - as a reminder of the common experience and commitment they all share, and to propel the work forward.  A proceedings document was designed to convey the emotions and excitement of the event, bringing in lots of pictures and details that would allow recipients to relive their experience upon review.  This was created and shared electronically with all participants afterwards.  Three months after the initial World Cafe, the community groups are going strong and additional funds are coming in to support new levels of their work.  Yay!  : )


A large hospital group was embarking on a three-year culture change project.  They wanted to transform the organization from the traditional hierarchical structure (and all that implies) to one that is more networked, holistic, and patient/family centric.  The design team knew that the most important outcomes were to share the vision and desire for change with the thousands of employees throughout the system.  The recordings were planned to keep the vision, passion, and commitment alive moving forward (because this was "year one" of a three year movement...and they didn't want people to forget what they were excited about changing.)  We planned for large (20') recordings of each group's launch experience, as well as a variety of visual templates - from 32' timelines to 4' tombstones - to frame and capture employees' contributions, reactions, and responses to various processes the team designed.  Moving forward, the hospital group has created a touring gallery of these pieces, installed at their locations throughout the that all employees can not only remember what they were so excited about, but they can actually see themselves and their contributions in the harvests.  Additionally, a core team of staff has emerged serving as champions for the culture change project, and they are equipped from the start with visual harvest tools to support their conversations with staff moving forward.  It's an exciting time for this organization, and the harvests (graphic recording and interactive pieces) keep adding fuel to their fire.


One of the most important things I learned from Chris Corrigan was that harvesting is not an afterthought.  My experience has validated this time and again.  How many events have you been to where people have invested time and money to bring folks together for a meaningful experience, only to have that experience dissipate from memory weeks, days, or even hours later?  If it's worth bringing people together, it's worth planning ways to keep the results of that work alive long after the gathering has ended.  The easiest way I've found to do this is to plan with the end in mind.  It opens the space for people to consider what could be possible after the event, and encourages the design team to consider ways to keep the work living and breathing from start to beyond-the-finish.


Whoo! That was a lot.  

I'm passionate about this particular question, and I'm grateful to see it being asked here.  Thanks for the opportunity to share.

Thanks Jeanel, for sharing your experiences and learning! Good sharing! That's how we all can learn from your experience; and Chris is definitely a good teacher in this!

Harvest tools, by Tuesday

Tuesday Ryan-Hart
339 Olentangy Street
Columbus, OH  43202
skype: tuesday.ryanhart

And here is a .pdf image (attachment) picturing some essence of the Art of Harvesting, Oct.'11. One especially good overview on what is harvesting is on the Posterous blog that was used in this Art of Harvesting training.


There is a group opened on this site just now that is a placeholder for a 2-day training pilot on the Art of Harvesting, held in the context of the European Commission, Autum 2011.

Picking up on the thread thrown several months ago that "harvesting is not an after-thought"...just completed several hostings with school leaders, lead teachers and teachers and we considered up front what and why we needed to harvest.  

First as an artifact - to capture the spirit, the intensity, the engagement of staff involved in a reorg in which staff development rests within the local community.  

Second to show the prototyping of make it viable, acceptable and to model for other sites.

What technology did we need to have in place and to support this?  What "permissions" did we need to garner?

Twitter as a chronicling of the day, to "trend" and pop what was grabbing people's attention.

Photos made into movies - of the work, the people, the atmosphere - to give validity that conversation is a core practice.

Video, blogging, creating share sites and docs to spread the word, make transparent the work and seed for the next step.

And not just an artifact...the essence of good harvesting is not simply producing artifacts to make learning visible but equally to create feedback loops in which those artifacts can be intentionally used.  In working with clients, I focus a lot on what practices might we undertake AFTER the event to use the harvest we produce.  

No farmer grows food and then lets it rot.  Likewise, no harvester produces an artifact without a way to use it.

ah, Chris! you said it so clearly -

i've been trying to say the same in AoH circles but with not much success

i guess jotting down words on a flip chart requires different mindset than tending a community knowledge garden to support collaborative action...

A great example of good and innovative harvest, done by Frauke and her friend. Congratulations for this great example and practice!

and here the slides!


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