The Art of Hosting

3 hour session, 15 participants, NGO's, part of a whole day

A question raised on the AoH emaillist, Nov.'11

Greetings friends,

I'm hoping I can draw on your collective experience for something I'm working on.

I've just been asked to host a 3 hour session with 15 participants on Thursday. These folks represent European and International NGOs which are active in trying to move the tropical fruit sector towards sustainability. The session comes towards the end of a one-day symposium, the purpose of which is to share what each organisation is working on and explore ways to work together more effectively to achieve common goals. The start of the day will be dedicated to short presentations by each of the organisations on the nature of their work to inform the dialogue in the afternoon session.

So I guess the overarching question would be "How can we work together to achieve common goals". Given the time factor and the number of participants, I'm curious to know if any of you have suggestions for how to get the most out of this session?

Thank you in advance for taking the time to consider this.


Here are some answers:

Tena koe/Respectful Greetings James
I support Amy's comments on getting a good question to anchor your discussion.  On a separate theme - my colleagues and I worked with international NGO's looking at working together on pest control on islands.  Some facilitation tools that worked really well to draw out the common themes were:
  • A simplified Appreciative Inquiry where people focussed on what worked in their regions followed by a poster session of the results with representatives from each discussion group standing by the posters to answer questions - there were chances for the representatives to be replaced so everyone could explore what worked for others.  The poster style allowed people to move and avoided the dreadful conference lecturing that turns people off.  It also meant the conversations were able to continue.
  • World cafe based on the key burning question for you with a good harvest team to capture the themes.   
  • Poster style for the introduction to what the NGO's are up to also works very well as it allows people to vote with their feet to go to the other NGO's they are most interested in. 
These got the big thumbs up from the NGO's. 
Hope this helps and kia kaha (which is Maori for be strong and hang in there - you are doing important work).

Thank you so much to all of you who responded with suggestions. It is always valuable to hear others' ideas.

Ultimately the day went really well. Following the presentations, we started with an envisioning exercise, mapping the system through stakeholders and issues and although I hadn't planned it, it soon became clear that an Open Space session was called for. Evidence of the days' success was the fact that participants are really keen to collaborate further and to continue the conversations.  For me it also highlighted the importance of being flexible with the tools being used, listening to the needs and wishes of the participants and creating a safe space for dialogue to emerge.


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