The Art of Hosting

From the emaillist, Aug.2017:

Dear friends,
This might be a bit of a strange request/question but it makes sense to me to place it here amongst this diverse group of stewards and mates
Have you or How have you worked with open tenders for art of hosting trainings ? 
My whole experience so far has been that my hosting work and how i support trainings always builds on strong existing relationship and compelling calls for bringing hosting practice into a field of real need, coupled with a genuine felt sense and desire to learn and experiment new ways of being and working together.  I firmly  believe this is about building a conscious field of practice, not selling a package of training on request.  
However I have recently been asked to respond to a formal tender ( that they have said is open across the field of AoH, I'm not sure how they have done that ) and its brought up all kinds of questions for me.  
Obviously Im going to make initial contact with the ‘caller’ (Caritas Austria) to have a conversation and enquire into what they are seeing and wanting and what the potential might be here. I don’t have enough information to  make any judgement of this yet.  
The formal tender process often mitigates against this relational way of working, the way this has arrived as an 'open tender' makes me also wonder how we work with this within our own stewardship field of those of us who care for this pattern.  It could potentially mean many of us responding  and somehow being in competition with each other.  
Maybe not a bad thing in itself, but as this practice grows and grows in reach, I feel this is an indication of a need for some conversation or transparent sharing between us. 
How might we elegantly ( even should we ) work with a mechanised system of competitive tender, client and provider  in a more organic living system way? 
So with a little trepidation as I know this is a fuzzy area,  I’m opening this thread and would love to hear any experiences, views, principles, thoughts if you have any.
With love   Linda xx
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Hi Linda!
This might be the standard operating practice of an NGO or governmental organisation, needing to prove the transparency of their process by offering an open tender, even if they have a specific provider in mind.
Caritas has been part of trainings we’ve done in Innsbruck over the past few years.  I can contact the team there to inquire into it or be the point people on a reply.  I think that might be wise.
Mary Alice
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Thanks Mary Alice 
Yes I do understand that, could you hold off for now contacting Caritas if they haven't contacted you directly …...  I’m asking this question on behalf of another group who have also been working with Caritas for some time now as well 
What Im really interested in is people’s experiences and thoughts about how we work - what would we do if an open tender arrived in our midst? 
Love linda xx
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Dear Linda,
I've been more than enough on the other (requesting) end of tendering, and sometimes in the last years on the offering side.
The good news in your message, Linda, is that they want AoH in the tender!!!
If it's in Austria, I'd go to all Austrian stewards at least, or the open list, as you do, and be transparent here. If they just sent their invitation to a few consortia or companies, than only those can answer to the tender. If it is "open", there will be a web page and any one can offer AoH services, even if they can't.
The real issue with the tendering processes are that engagement can only happen after you won the tender, or it is deemed "unfair" or "illegal". Sh... for good work.
At the EU, the collaborative had formed. We are both members there. We didn't bring our act together to offer a tender as an AoH consortium to the EU, so we just stayed sub-contractors to the actual winning company. 
Depending on the size and credentials Caritas asks here, this needn't be the fate of ours.

What about making an open call in our networks to spell out the requirements and some (non-confidential) background of the call and invite all practitioners in that are ready to work in Austria (or where ever the work should take place), and make a selection in function of the requirements of the tender? Work the tender then out with inputs and expertise from the group of practitioners forming, and have in mind that the size of the group is appropriate for the actual project(s).
Finally, tendering is a hell of work and risky, as one never knows wether the clients actually understand what one is writing. A bit better hopes if there is a meeting planned with the jury.
So if anyone wants to be included, ask them to pay in a tender-share upfront that will be lost if the tender is not won, and will be earned back if it is. That will help to keep the group of practitioners focused and energized, and is fair to the ones doing the work of drafting the tender and providing all the heavy documentation that is usually being asked for.
Those are my 2 cents, hope it inspires some practical progress :-)
Love from Obenaus,
Rainer
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Thanks Rainer a very helpful 2 cents 
The call is for a training in Moldova with teams from Romania and Ukraine as well, and its part of a bigger support and development process that colleagues of mine have been involved in over the last year.  
So i guess that begs the question, are there stewards from those countries in this group? Maybe we could have a conversation about what might be possible ?  
Has anyone else received the request ….and if so, could we somehow collaborate and sense the best way forward together?  
Love Linda x
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Happy that this conversation is happening here.   Though this is not in my neck of the world, open tenders happen in many places.   The core of the inquiry of how we work and are together in this space is alive for me.  
Lovely to see how this communication and shared perspectives develop.  Bow of gratitude as I am observing from the rim. 
Marcela
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Dear Linda,
Thank you for sharing your concern,
Open tender is also a common practice here in Chile
We are used to navigate both friendly collaboration and fair competition with our colleagues.
We accept it as being part of a learning community of practice, also playing within the rules of the market.
We also worked with Caritas Chile in April 2015.. we hosted a World Cafe with their elders
Take a look to the visual harvest of that 
un gran abrazo from Chile,
I hope to see you soon in Colombia!
Pablo Villoch
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Thanks Pablo for this sentence:
"we accept it as being part of a learning community of practice, also playing within the rules of the market".

Also in Brussels we were recently engaged in a formal tender process. For me, being part of a network where we practice open conversation and dialogue meant that I forwarded the tender announcement to many others in the network. In that way, information was open and shared; (as in friendly collaboration and fair competition with our colleagues).

Relating with the topic of 'working in a field of relationships'... we tried to manage that by having enough conversation upfront with the client; and even to give a bit of coaching away for free upfront of the training. Wondering how others have done that?

with love,
Ria
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Hello everyone,
On this, I'd like to add that in many occasions we've also been asked to support writing the tender announcement, which is a bit tricky since sometimes we would like to be bidding as well, but if a third party can support that, my experience it's that's been helpful for the client to express its view more clearly so the bidders can be more specific.  
In doing that we avoid a common practice (here, at least) of consultancies that bid for everything at a lower price and don't really know what they are doing, but also leave the field open so colleagues can go for it.
Cheers,
Augusto
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I break the rules all the time with tenders, even though I don’t respond to them much.  
For example, I just flat out ask if other AoH practitioners are being invited to submit and then we talk about it together. Often we end up doing work together, even if it means less money, in the long run it means a better experience for the client and a deeper working relationship between practitioners.  
If there is conflict between good AoH practitioners for a piece of work, I will often step out of that - I am lucky at the moment to have an abundance of work - but I will offer to serve as an eagle for my friends who get the work.  And vice versa.
Chris
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These feel like very real and relevant issues at the interface between an old paradigm (tenders) and a new one (collaboration).  How do we practice and model collaboration when the rules of the game require competition?  How do the contractors evaluate the qualifications of the tenders if the content is collaboration and the prescribed process is competition?  Is it possible to put new wine into old wineskins without creating a mess?  What is wise action that might disrupt entrenched systems of control and competition?  And, how do we as a community of practice respond when there is a the seduction of a lucrative contract at stake?  All of these questions contain the shadows of scarcity and competition.  How might we utilize our shared practices to hold space for something new to emerge from this process.
Thank you Linda for raising this important question.
Steve
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This inquiry is both of great interest to me and quite timely. I must say that I have disliked and avoided “serious” competition my whole life, and yet I completely enjoy “play” competition. This last is where competing is used to get more skillful, not necessarily to win. The real goal in “play competition” is to participate whole-heartedly and to have genuine heartfelt engagements. The rules are usually: 1) don't hurt yourself or hurt others. 2) the underlying ruling principle is always cooperation, however that may look from the outside. 3) it is always a dialogue and never a monologue. 
You could say that “serious” competition is just the opposite; you don’t care if you hurt others, you don’t cooperate, and your thoughts and actions are usually monologues. I have found that a sure sign of unconsciously being drawn into some kind of “seriously competing" with someone is when I find myself avoid any kind of genuine dialogue with them. Even avoidance and silence, combined with negative judgement, is actually a kind of internal monologue, and can be a form of passive-agressive competing, as weird as this may seem. 
From the Aikido point of view, the founder always said, “ NO COMPETITION “  and  “ Always first put yourself into the harmonious flow of the universe and your actions and outcomes will be good”. A fiercer side of that is what another important teacher of mine taught concerning the martial arts, “Never ever compete. If you have to engage in doing something of great importance, just trust your training and engage in it 100 % with your whole heart and soul. Don’t even try to win, just do it!  Of course a very important part of that is the “trust your training which in Aikido, and I would say also Art of Hosting, is how to accomplish your work with caring, cooperation, ethics, dignity, and especially dialogue on all levels -physical, emotional, mental, and ultimately in all your actions.
If I am pulled into negatively competing, I have already lost the initiative by continually reacting to what others are doing or even just what they might be doing. But especially because I have let myself be pulled off my own center integrity, and dear focus.  Maybe the real question in helping define what you might do or not do when confronted with others attempting to compete with you is, “Are my thoughts and actions in alignment with my values and with how I want to live my life?” Then be honest with yourself and others.
OK, just some quick thoughts to maybe be helpful,
Bob
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Dear Linda, 
 
Thanks for opening this conversation. I also have my questions and difficulties with tenders - knowing these procedures from both sides, as tenderer and in my previous work life also as bidder. For me tenders for consultancy services, in particular in the public sector,  seem to be an inadequate procedure, because usually both sides do not even have the opportunity to talk and clarify  in particular the purpose and the need together – as per public sector regulation this would create ‘unfair competition’. And both - disconnected - parties put a hell of a lot of work in papers and the tenderer also in procedures, both acting in the unknown and shady grey. Therefore often this leads to quite a mismatch between the real needs and the services requested on the one side and the services offered in the bid on the other. Quite a source for frustration for all involved. Not mentioning the issue of trust here, and of course often this means the potential cannot fully unfold. This is also the reason why I hardly participate in tender procedures, if there is no direct contact and open dialogue possible.
 
The other dimension is how we deal with it among colleagues. Maybe not very much different from other quality consultancy networks: alignment, sharing of information, open dialog, trust,  and exchange among colleagues and seeing together who could contribute best to the tender. And if not bidding together (which could  become very powerful)  then at least competing in fairness. This should be possible among (aoh) colleagues who know each other well. However, the question remains: how to deal with it within big size networks like the wider aoh network ?  And – how can we practice cooperation in a situation of competition? Can we through our way of being and doing change these patterns?
 
As regards Caritas, my colleague Ruth and I also received the invitation to tender, as we have been quite involved in the preparation phase of that DARE project. A.o we worked  in Romania with about 80 experts from the three countries mentioned, in co-creating the cornerstones of this program during a three days participatory conference. This is also the background why they now tender for an AoH training. If you want to know more about it, we are happy to share. For the time being, we are trying to find out more of what they really need, will keep you posted.
 
warm regards
 
holger
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Oh my, dear Bob-san, thank you for this offering.
Very helpful reframing, and I think I will be able to take it with me into many, many contexts where mindless competition is the norm.
<3
helen
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Thanks Holger and everyone who has responded so generously to this, I especially love the idea of play competition and the whole hearted ‘don’t enter the game of competition just do it 100% and follow the flow”   
I agree there might be nothing wrong with competition in itself, its how it can be used ( or how we also use it )  to divide and fragment us
I felt such trepidation opening up this conversation as it touches on some very ‘shadowy unspoken stuff”  yet though it I’ve come to see the full benefit of open sharing and disrupting the ‘business as normal’ model.  It's not normal and it’s not business… and neither are we ;)
Holger lets be in touch and talk. The organisation I'm working with, Somos Mas in Spain have also been working with DARE  for the last year or so to help them build their local community,  it was one of their recommendations that might have led to the call for this training.  What's the real call and need is a question we are looking to explore with them as well.  Yes to collaborating on our understandings and yes to blending with unhealthy competition and redirecting it into either collaboration or healthy open competition.
I do feel a little uncomfortable with how this call for some training has become a bit of a 'football or product’, but our approach here has the potential to cut right through that.
Thank you community, proud to be a part of this.
Love linda xx

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