The Art of Hosting

from the emaillist, May 2015:

Dear friends!


I’ve been following the threads of many interesting conversations here on the list. I think this is the first time I will jump into this well of abundance and ask you for help and your thoughts and experiences.


In Sweden, we are some in my organization Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, there are a group of colleagues in municipalities and county councils , and partners in civil society organizations and independent consultants who practice AoH. We're really starting to become a community of practice, a living system that extends across sectors and we are delighted!!

Some of us are engaged in one of Sweden's major cities with a collective work that involves strengthening a culture of dialogue and co-creation where we form a hosting team on participatory leadership one-day training sessions for public employees that are expected to host citizen meetings in next year. In this particular town there are gang showdowns and shootings in the suburbs that have come to form patterns how social excluded youngsters resolve conflicts. There have been in a way “defining moments” when politicians have neglected or responded with indifference towards citizen dialogue results, and residents and employees of the city are insecure, angry, disappointed and scared, and trust in politicians and senior officials drops dramatically.. In short, in some of the city districts the citizens are experiencing a kind of of crisis, and probably also live with a sense that chamos’ approaching. It happened some unexpected things in the group during our training that evokes thoughts on how to build trust and constructive relations despite this condition in the city and among the participants.

Mine and my friend Kaisa Balkfors thoughts are some of the following; Is there anyone here in the network who have attempted to draw a path or position in the borderland between Chaos and Chamos? Has anyone been working on methods to manage people's feeling of being on the border of Chaos / Chamos? Have this condition/ movement to get out of there and into the Chaordic way been a theme for/in any AoH training?

Grateful for your experiences and thoughts in this area!

Anna-Karin Berglund


Hi Anna Karin

I love your questions they really got me thinking - often our focus is on the path from order to chaordic rather than from chaos or chamos.  There was a lovely piece of writing by Vanessa Reid recently about this

Some of the places I work are also at the sharp end of conflict and inequality. Im finding myself drawn to wanting to work with the more 'invisible' but often very potent dynamics of 'how did we get to this place, how does it feel and how do we navigate our way forward now" which sometimes a participative conversation or dialogue process alone won't get its somehow beyond words.

Ive found both Process Work and Systemic Constellations a useful frame here as it seems to open up a deeper wider space for more to be seen, presenced, acknowledged... and potentially healed or at least understood differently, a new perspective.  Arnold Mindell's book ' sitting in the fire" is a great resource here.

We once did a constellation with Ria Beack here in the UK on social inequality and found that the 'root cause' was very far away from what we all expected. Some of the local authority participants changed their working practices as a result.  Constellations have since been used in something called the 'poverty truth challenge' where once experienced the local council leaders could not continue to hold the same entrenched views about 'the other', they had been changed by the very experience of meeting.

Those patterns and defining moments you speak about might hold quite some clues. And yes to building more trust and constructive relations.  How do we do this by including the disturbances and difficult stuff rather than despite it.  My experience is that much gets excluded as it feels too difficult so we turn away (me too!) and that's when the chaos gets bigger and bigger .... oh so much to learn about and lean into here.

I've also been tracking Tuesday Ryan Hart and her analysis of social injustice and power and some of the work she has been doing in the USA.   (can't wait to meet Tuesday in Beyond The Basics Europe this summer, where I sense this question around working at the edges, chaos, power and inequality is gonna be a big topic)

Just some initial thoughts would be very happy to continue this enquiry as its one so very close to my heart...

Love Linda x

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more from the emaillist:

Hello Anna-Karin,

I'm wondering if Dynamic Facilitation is a methodology to look into regarding your question, or indeed Process Work as Linda adviced. Rosa Zubizaretta (isn't that a beautiful name?), who is also on this list I guess, could help you out with this. if I remember well she wrote some article when to use DF and when AoH... (or I have dreamed it?)

What I learned from Process Work so far is that as Western middle class people - consultants and facilitators and hosts and ... - we are sometimes blind that 'having conversations' and circle is a certain style of communication; and other cultures, or other groups in society have other styles and need to shout and talk all at once etc. Then we need other methodologies than the circle or World Café... I haven't been myself in these situations but I definitely see the need for this!

with love,


Hi Ria, hi Anna-Karin, hi Linda,

for starters, I want to second the recommendation of process work (especially Deep Democracy). I, too, am a bog fan of Arnie Mindell's writing and his work...

In Dynamic Facilitation, I would say we are somewhere halfway between the "western middle class" format that Ria refers to, and the intense "everyone talking at once" nature of process work. We help people learn an approach to deep listening that holds a generative space for strong emotions and conflicting perspectives, and welcome those energies as a rich resource for creativity.  However, unlike process work, we do ask that people speak one at a time! :-) This is because we are engaging in a "mini-fishbowl" with each person, offering a relational approach to listening and allowing others to "overhear" perspectives that they might find personally challenging.
So... each "tool" can be useful in its own way... Just yesterday I finished leading a 3-day learning journey in DF, with Holger Scholz of Kommunikationslotsen. We met at a yoga retreat center called Grube Louise, outside of Bonn.... As we do each time, participants choose a "challenging topic" for the initial demonstration of the DF process. In this case, the topic that was chosen, was the issue of Islamic people in Germany, and all of the fear, controversy, and complexity that swirls around this....

Afterward, one of the practice groups chose to continue with that topic, while another practice group explored "privacy issues in the world of Big Data", and a third one chose to look at the issue of refugees. We opened and closed each day in Circle, and offered some Open Space as well on the third day, so that participants could explore their own areas of application in greater depth...

I also very much appreciate what you wrote about Constellations, Linda... My husband, Bruce Nayowith, has been studying this work intensively for the last year, and he is particularly interested in its application to social issues. I would love to hear more about the work you have been doing with this, Ria and Linda!

with all best wishes,


Rosa Zubizarreta

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