The Art of Hosting

History and Governance of Art of Hosting


Then there was the FIRST STEWARDS GATHERING in July 2005, at the Shire, in Nova Scotia - Canada, where some 10-12 people gathered and had deep conversations. A few documents were produced that set the tone for the unfolding of this network. Here they are for you to read:

There was an Art of Hosting on Art of Hosting in Belgium, called by Toke Møller and Ria Baeck, in June 2006.
Toke and Donna Alvorado, having stepped forward in the first Stewards Gathering as being the Council for one year, were still holding that, and had a few conversations with Ria and some others about How can we best host the emergence of the next level of the AoH fellowship? It was clear that similar kind of conversations - regarding stewardship of self-organising netwerks - were going on in the World Café Community and in Berkana.

Next came an invitation for a SECOND STEWARDS GATHERING in the Shire again, June 2008. Central questions were: How do we host the evolution that the Art of Hosting is calling for? How do we bring forth a steward-ful community? There doesn't seem to exist one document that offers a harvest of this gathering; but one of the main things that happened was that Toke stepped back from holding the whole (with Donna) and four other people stepped forward: Bob Wing, Chris Corrigan, David Stevenson and Ria Baeck.
Two documents grew out of this, over the summer:

  • Art of Hosting as a mega-field? In which Bob and Ria tried to understand what they were supposed to do in stewarding the whole.
    080930 AoHMegafield Ria-Bob.pdf
  • And a document that Ria developed further to name of what 'the whole' existed and what where the related questions. It includes some of the learnings from the Stewards Gathering in June; written Oct.'08.
    081011 Hosting AoH as a field - Baeck.pdf

As time went by, and more and more practitioners were engaging with the work, the question came up who is a steward and who is not? Who is deciding? What are the responsibilities? The Stewards Gathering of 2008 had not given a clear answer to these questions, but the question kept lingering in conversations here and there.

  • 091218 AoH Levels of Engagement.doc
    Put together by Maria Scordialou and Toke Møller in the summer of ’09; edited by Ria Baeck Dec. ’09, with input from a document by Mary-Alice Arthur and Toke Møller, Sept.’09.

As said, the questions around stewarding were still floating around, came up in different conversations in our global community. Somewhere in the summer of 2009 Maria Scordialos, Sarah Whiteley, Bob Wing and Ria Baeck started talking about what was named Mastery of Stewardship. It looked to us four, that we needed to understand what Stewardship was about and what the mastery of it would hold. We decided to start with three scheduled conference calls where we invited the (unofficial) list of stewards to have a deeper sense of what was going on around this topic and as preparation for a gathering to be held in 2010.

By the time we had these three calls, it was clear that a gathering was needed and we decided to organise it in Axladitsa, Greece. But on the other side of the globe - Northern America - a similar call was heard and there was a second invitation to gather around many questions of stewarding or guiding a self-organised web of practitioners. Soon the calling teams of both places decided to work closely together and to see it as one gathering, although held in two places and two different times, one in May 2010 in Greece, one in Canada, British Columbia, in August 2010.

  • The gathering in Greece was rather small and proved to be not the easiest gathering. Looking back, as I am writing this now half a year later, I think the tensions around different topics were coming to the surface, but with no real resolution. For the ones attenting, it was an experience of holding... in service of the whole. The harvest attached here is a rich document, with many pages - as the one that will follow - but it is worthwhile reading if you are interested in what is going on in this community regarding governance and stewardship.
    100511 AoH Stewards Gathering Part 1, Axladitsa.pdf
  • We had made sure that the link between the two gatherings was made, both through conference calls between the two hosting teams and through a few people who were in both gatherings. Here, on Bowen Island, our group was way bigger and lots of work was done, many new intentions and offerings made to take our work forward in the world. On the last day, a deep tension found its resolution in the stepping forward of five people 'sitting on the rocks' as it was called that time. To me, it was the collective recognition that 'holding the center' is a need for a community as ours... reading the attached document will give you more context and story!
    101013 AoH Stewards' Gathering part 2, Bowen Island.pdf

It is good to remember that we are a real network, a self-organising network, and as Heinz Pagels says in his book, The Dreams of Reason: "A network has no 'top' or 'bottom'. Rather, it has a plurality of connections that increase the possible interactions between components of the network. There is no central executive authority that oversees the system." and this is really as it is and has been so far.

The questions of Who is a steward? Who decides who is one? has been lingering in the network since some years. One thing is clear about stewards: they offer their work, knowledge and care to the whole of the network, or at least a part of it. They pay travel and accommodation for the stewards gatherings out of their own pocket because they care; they offer harvest, new questions, time and energy...

One of the questions the steward circle is holding is: What is the minimal structure needed to keep coherence and quality within the network? We don't have an answer to that, we are in conversations around it and there is no board who will decide...

You can read a conversation on Stewardship Development here, in the Conversation section of this site. And there is one document that goes a bit deeper on what is stewardship and the relation with apprenticing in the Art of Hosting trainings.

101224 AoH on stewardship and apprenticing.pdf

In this document you will also see that a Holding Circle is mentioned, as part of the global circle of Stewards of the Whole. This circle came into being in the Stewards Gathering of Aug.'10 in Bowen Island (see document a little higher). So far they had a few conference calls; and as it is stated in this document here, they are not a board and don't take decisions.



Maybe this is the first time someone is teaching around stewardship as we have come to understand it over the years: Tim Merry in Nova Scotia, 2011 - great video!


The invitation for the Stewards' gathering in 2010 was send to around 50 persons. Slowly, but surely, over the next 2-3 years the list was growing: stewards recognising other AoH practitioners as holding and doing something of service for the whole, beyond their own personal gain - then adding them to the list. By the time invitation were sent for the Stewards Gathering in Oct.'13 150 people were on the list!

Some harvest of this gathering is compiled in a 'group' here on this site; and you can add your questions or comments.

More is coming, as the story unfolds...

Ria Baeck

(last update Dec.2013)

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