The Art of Hosting

This was a most inspiring thread on the AoH emaillist late '09. In the comments below you will find some resources; and a lot of interest to get the facts and theory together. And stories are shared about how AoH has been applied within universities. Please add your resources too!
In the meantime a Research Group has formed on this site, you are welcome to join!

This is how it started:
Hi Folks,

I am just off the phone with a fellow who is cutting paths for participatory leadership and art of hosting at McGill university. He is looking for articles and books that will hold credibility in the academic arena that make the case and/or tell the story of this type of approach ...

any recommendations?


Views: 478

Reply to This

Replies to This Conversation

Hey Tim,

I can't point to any books or articles but we have been doing a lot of work with Ohio State University and in turn they have been applying
these arts in many ways at the university. Would be glad to have a conversation with him. The person at OSU who has called in this work is
named Deb Ballam and we can put him in touch with her as well.


Hello Tim and all,
Beside books, I suggest real and recent experience actually done in Montreal last week. We are starting the harvest of three events hosted during an international conference on community development (animation, in french). There is lots to share on this but it is not documented yet.

Re. research and useful inside academia, I am doing research on all these practices, through participatory action research, with a strong focus on art as part of the hosting and harvesting processes.

Two of my masters students are also doing their research on the practices. Maybe a conversation on all of this would be an easy way to start and share, as lots of bits and pieces of harvests are yet to be organized. Older harvests are video based and are themselves part of research grounds.

Let me know.

Isabelle Mahy Ph.D.
Responsable du programme court de 2e cycle de mentorat
Responsable facultaire du programme court de 2e cycle de responsabilité
sociale des organisations
Département de communication sociale et publique
Université du Québec à Montréal
(514) 987-3000 # 5070
Nov.4, '09
Tim and community,
I'm afraid I don't have any articles to recommend at this time either, though it is something I"d like to write myself. 
Certainly, I'm thinking of the books that are probably already cited in some of the AoH manuals by Meg Wheatley and Peggy Holman.
I'll add that the methods are used successfully in my sophomore-level Humanities for Business course at Florida State College in Jacksonville; also, our campus president approved some of the AoH techniques as part of an 18-month intellectual culture shift initiative I'm leading on our campus.
I agree with Isabelle that the possibility for increasing documentation on this is rich.
I've been conversing with the local Applied Ethics and Practical Philosophy academics, too, and hearing connections very much worth naming more explicitly. 
I would be interested in supporting further conversation and/or shared harvesting on this subject.
All best,
Holly Masturzo, Ph.D.
Professor of Humanities & English
Florida State College at Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL
office: +1.904.381.3583
mobile: +1.904.226.6098
Nov.4, '09:

I am completing my doctorate at the moment and have included AoH practices as part of it. Having done the literature review the academic material is thin. There are of course a host of great books on complex adaptive systems and living systems. They lead inexorably to the Chaordic Path ("disequilibrium) and support a strengths paradigm ("positive deviance" from complexity science) so AI. There are also a host of books on storytelling - some of which have academic merit. I'd be happy to provide a bibliography if that helps.

There are of course books referred to in the work book/journal.

We are doing work at Deakin University here in Melbourne with a view to embedding AoH as a practice throughout the university and into curriculum. In fact we are hosting a conversation with the whole school of psychology this very day! We would welcome conversations with other universities and perhaps a special interest community of practice. All approaches to Deb Ballam so far have resulted in no response. We wait with patience and gratitude. Our intention at some stage is to set up a research group.


sjdsuxswx at

Deb Ballam is currently transitioning from an administrative position back into the classroom, which may account for a slow response time. I’m part of a developing AOH community of practice at OSU, and would be happy to convey a query to her or to share my perspective on our experience. We have a couple of people who have started to use AoH in curricular and programmatic redesign processes; I can provide their contacts as well.

Holly, I’m very interested to learn more about what you’re doing at FSC by way of culture-shifting. We have a university-wide initiative underway, and are trying to figure out how to create synergy between that process and AoH practices.

Rick Livingston
Hello All

This conversation is a bit of fresh air for me as I too am in the academic world and have been tossing AoH as part of the learning experience for the candidates in educational leadership.  I have been using storytelling and wisdom stories more frequently as a pedagogy as well as modeling how this strategy can be used as an tool for organizational leadership especially as it may apply to the work of shared visioning.  One of my doctoral students is using AoH as part of his methodology/data collection process for qualitative research.   A bibliography would be most helpful. 

Perhaps it is time to consider birthing a journal (peer reviewed and all that so  this good work gets recognized in more traditional academic settings)

Mary Ann Kahl
National-Louis University
Milwaukee Campus
Milwaukee WI, USA
Mary.Kahl @
Here is an interesting piece of work by a famous action research academic who has recently retired.
Hi all - great conversation. I spent 13 years at the University of British Columbia as an educational programmer helping 3 faculties develop and deliver international or local service learning projects that engaged the community and infused the pedagogy with real world experiences. Occasionally we used hosting approaches and techniques (OST) to work through pressing issues, open up possibilities, etc. I never had an interest in tenure and failed to write much of this up beyond internal reports; if someone was out there with a few hours to interview people like me and my colleagues, we could get case studies written up quite quickly. Does anyone anywhere have a strategy to out the resource together with the knowledge?

Vince Verlaan, MA

#200 - 420 W. Hastings St.
Vancouver, BC, V6B 1L1
C. 604.908.2550
T. 604.688.9769 x127
F. 604.688.9764
Let me offer an idea or two from our progressive practice, dialogic design.
I am currently integrating hosting and structured dialogue as compatible modes conducted in sequence with each other.

The research basis for dialogic design goes back to Ashby and Pask systems theory. The facilitated practices have been adapted from lessons learned from the Club of Rome, always a good starting point when tracing the success (or not) of resolving complex social concerns. The Christakis & Bausch text "How people harness their collective wisdom" is a rigorous presentation of more structured facilitated practices. See:

There are plenty of research articles in the literature on this process and its uses in peacemaking, community building, civil society, education, resource management.

Aleco Christakis and Tom Flanagan have a new book in this line to be published by late this year, The Talking Point, by the same publishers.

Several universities in the US, Japan, Australia and perhaps Europe have used the book for courses on dialogic systems thinking for social and political concerns.


Peter H. Jones, Ph.D.
Redesign Research

Visiting Scholar, University of Toronto
Graduate Faculty, Ontario College of Art and Design
I offer three pieces of action research to the conversation - which bridge the theory/practice divide:

Dialogue Project and Tools - from South Africa

Meshworking - an EU experience Meshworking Case Study.pdf

Mindsets in Action - US work

I am also aware of a number of graduate level theses which have used participatory approaches embodied in AofH.....

Diana M. Smith, M.A., CMC
EcoSol Consulting Inc...shifting thinking, building capacity
Ginger Group Collaborative-helping collaborative ventures come alive
Adjunct Faculty, Public Admin, University of Victoria
1512 Regents Place
Victoria, BC V8S 1Y4
ph. 250 595-2880 fax 250-595-2558 web:
in collaboration with
There are several theses that have been completed over the years looking at Open Space.  You can find some of them on

Please add my name to the mix of academics with an AOH interest.  Along with a couple of mates I am giving a paper at a national conference this week on our experience hosting a curriculum re-design here at Ohio State University in Columbus. I’d be very interested in chatting about this with any kindred spirits.
Take care
Tom Gregoire
gregoire.5 @

Reply to Discussion


© 2024   Created by Rowan.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service