The Art of Hosting

From Tim Merry, Dec.8, 2011:

Hello folks,

I am hosting a pro action cafe as part of some strategy development around addictions and mental health in Alberta.
The folks coming are already working within "regions" and need to be able to converge into their regions for action. I was thinking of doing an Pro Action cafe with folks posting sessions in the four regions and then having the room split into four regions and participants would only rotate through their region.
Has anyone done anything like this before? 
Insights, learnings and tips welcome ...
How was harvest done? How could harvest be done? 
I would like to harvest out regional and a big picture form the pro action cafe so we could see the four regions as a whole piece again. Any thoughts welcome ...
Prior to this is a cafe in the morning setting vision and leverage areas with teaching on the Chaordic Path and and then Stepping Stones.
Thanks for any help and experiences,
There is another conversation thread on Pro Action Café here.

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Reply from Rainer:

Hello Tim,
As diversity is a key ingredient for the café part of a pro action café, you might consider to do the regional convergence only during the harvest. Hence your harvesting question gets an answer, too: You might group the hosts per region, and have the activists meet their regional hosts in the convergence round to explore/sign up for the various action plans.
This as a first shot right before I'll be teaching pro action café here in a EU art of hosting training :-)
Hugs from Brussels,

Addition from Stephen:

Hi Tim,


This sounds like a really interesting piece.


My sense is that proaction cafe gets its power from the diversity of perspectives and "cross regional" perspectives might be valuable. I wonder if it would be possible to share the stepping up opportunities across the regions, allow the diverse interaction and then aggregate each group of projects into regions at the end - for a region specific conversation about the combined impact of the group of projects?


Might it be a shame to almost limit the diversity and rich interaction by breaking into regions too early?


I'd love to hear about your final design and how it all goes.





And Bob from Japan with a new teak:

I don't know if this fits at all with what you're doing, Tim, but we've been experimenting with an interesting Pro-Action Cafe variation in Japan.

One of the founders of TEDxTokyo has developed a process for coaching people to give 3 minute TEDx talks about what they're passionate about doing.  With larger groups (60) we've broken into three smaller groups -- so we're at 20 in a group, and then opened space for 5 people who wanted to be coached.  There's a 30 minute coaching protocol in groups of 4 (just like ProAction Cafe) and then those coached give their 3 minute overview of their work.  Altogether less than an hour.  
In some ways it has let us have some of the essence of ProAction Cafe with a shorter amount of time and with as much energy.  And it has been reported to be really powerful for coaches and speakers.
Perhaps there's some weaving that  uses something this at a regional level and ProAction Cafe at the systems level.

An experience of working with a large group by Monica:

Hi Tim

Good  question!
I have tried a big Pro Action Café (I think we were between 150 - 200 people at the end of ALIA in Columbus summer '11 - co-hosted with Mary-Alice, Sera and Greg Judelman) 
Because of the amount of people we did divide the café in four areas - not because of separate interests but to make it a bit easier to find the topic people wanted to contribute to - equally we had four big boards for sign up - one per section of the café. 
The boards were in one side of the room - then we had chairs in a horse-shoe around the boards + 2 microphones in front of the boards - and finally a cafe (divided in four sections) in a fan or horse-shoe shape behind the chairs.
This is of course pure logistics - but I thought that this might be ok to identify topics by region - and then as suggested earlier - let people self-organise - either chose their region and topic - or just go by topic. 
We had planned a café weaving / harvest - but because of lack of time - ended up going back into the horse-shoe chair set-up and microphones, where hosts got up and gave a short essence of what really had made a difference to them. - Could sound like a nightmare of a plenary - but actually it was quite short and sweet. - May not be the best harvest in your case.

And finally Tim again - after the event:

HI All,

On the Pro Action Cafe design in zones/regions... thank you everyone for feedback. Some asked for a summary of what we are doing, here it is:
The room is divided into the regional zones and hosts post their sessions on the wall in the zones. Participants can move freely between the zones for the first two rounds, on the last round of next steps and key learnings participants only move in their zone. After that there is short period for people to be able to sign up to projects by leaving their contacts or business card at the table. Then we move into a short harvest from each of the hosts.
Thanks all for your input - I am really glad that we are keeping it open for the first two rounds as many of you suggested so the projects get the full benefit of the diversity of perspective and optinion in the room...

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