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?


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I work at the University of Tasmania, in HR in an organisational development role and have been incorporating AOH practices in my work with leaders and would really enjoy further conversations about this work in universities with mates. I would also appreciate any references to support this work,
best wishes

Jill.Currey @
Dear All,

I am also spreading the AoH virus in the academic field, having run ca. 6 semesters so far for students of communication and PR at Pazmany P. University in Budapest, in this respect with a title Dialogue communication and large group processes, inv. TWC and OS, and a deeper understanding of the Bohmean dialogue. IWe are also having a course under accreditation, Dialogue facilitators' Development... Agota Ruzsa,
There is another book, which I´m not sure is in the recent journa,l called "Large Group Interventions" by Barbara Benedict Bunker & Billlie T. Alban.
On page 12-13 there is an overview of where these different social methodologies stem from (AoH was not around when the book was written though).


Great to see all of this. A good list growing. Perhaps even awareness of the extensiveness of the list will help with the need.

Two that I would add:

- The Work of Leadership. It is attached. A Harvard Business Review article by Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie. HBR tends to have good credibility. I love the subtitle: "Leaders do not need to know all of the answers." A good description of complex problems as adaptive challenges.

- The Myth of Leadership. A book by Jeffrey Neilsen. I know Jeff from my days working at BYU. Jeff was one of those guys doing some great practice and trying to find ways to bridge that work to his academic commitments as professor. An Amazon link is here:


I'd enjoy hearing, too, more about what OSU is doing.  I do feel there are some important applications of AoH and like practices to be created in academic environments at the largest scale.

I'll share a bit more of what is happening in my little part of the world, and would be happy to talk more with you or any one on this thread off-line as well.

Florida State College at Jacksonville is part of an interesting move in Florida to transition 14 of its community colleges to 4-year state colleges.  We have 5 campuses and several satellites in the greater Jacksonville area in two counties; the president of my campus (which is housing the first bachelor's degree program in Business Administration) was familiar with Wheatley's work and had been part of World Cafes during her time at NYU.  Part of her hiring me 2 years ago was to begin an intellectual culture shift amongst faculty and to facilitate dialogue about the changes at the college.  (My prior positions combined teaching at research universities and running arts education nonprofits.)

It has been interesting trying to merge some of the AoH practices with existing academic practices.  We used the standing faculty convocation times at the beginning of each semester for me to share some of the theory, to introduce a series of workshops drawing from AoH content and to make invitations to events (several World Cafes for both students and faculty the first semester of the initiative).  A number of programs were redesigned or even moved off campus and I did hear in the hallways use of phrases like "chaordic path" in trying to meet the radical reorganization some of our programs had to face, though a more direct incorporation of specific practices into their departmental meeting structure for instance has yet to occur.

With the bulk of the physical moves completed, this semester we wanted to have a series of circle dialogues to go deeper, share best practices and increase interdisciplinary conversation and community.   A silo mentality had developed in the college culture and this was one thing, in addition to raising the level of academic standards and discourse, we wanted to address early on.  We have framed this in the language of "Faculty Roundtables," which has brought more turn out than the circles I called in the first semester.  The aim for next semester is to invite key players from other campuses in our system and community partners into this pattern.

I would say that the most noticeable success has been in creating space for faculty who were already "ready" to work in a more integrated way to find each other and feel warranted and 'seen' by the administration.  And, I would say the student involvement has been a very quick if not immediate response; they seem willing to go much faster than faculty and administration overall and I would even say are hungry for this kind of work to infuse their learning communities.  I do know of a couple students additionally who have taken their learning in our earlier workshops into their lives outside of school, in their work with ministries and volunteer organizations.  Also, the Student Government Association, perhaps who has been most open to the leadership and community building concepts, has been incredibly responsive and have begun monthly circles themselves, under the heading of "Interclub Council," and have asked for World Cafe to become a standing semester offering.

I am aware that perhaps those folks who are most troubled or resistant to the changes taking place have not taken the opportunity to engage in this process outside of the experiences embedded in the campus-wide events such as convocation, and I continue to think about this a lot. 

At this stage of the process, I also am aware that we are meeting some procedural roadblocks at the college-level that are limiting the actualization of some of the good, shared ideas emerging at the campus level in these faculty roundtables and through interclub council.  And so I'd be especially curious to hear about how OSU might be able to use a broader brush so to speak in your design.

I heard Ervin Laszlo give a talk in Toronto a couple years ago and he said, "The only thing that changes slower than the academy is the Vatican."  I am a little more hopeful than that, but there have been many days where I feel the great force of something like a universal academic tradition more than the specific, local dynamics.

My own inclination right now towards shaping academic writing around this is in creating a discourse about an ethics of change....which is what has led to me to embark on a relationship with the larger state university in Jacksonville, the University of North Florida, and their Ethics Center.  We are having a conference this weekend about dialogue in the public sphere, with specific attention to inclusion of faiths and nonfaiths; I am thinking the framework of this practical philosophy/applied ethics debate could offer one way into academic discourse on hosting.

hlmast @
I am just finishing the theory part of my master degree in Kowledge management, starting to write my master theses on participatory leadership. As we are having the first AoH here in Oslo, that will be a part of my work in some way. And I would love to interview, talk to and have litterature suggestions for this work.
Lise Hannevig
My doctoral dissertation on the World Café is one resource--along with all the bibliographic references there.

And, on our website, I think there is a list of all the references from our book....or, if not, at the back of the book itself.

Hi everyone

Another possibly-relevant piece about more academic work might be the journal InterAction, of which I am one of the editors. It's the journal of SFCT ( which focused on the Solution Focus approach with organisationa - a very chaordic method taking emergence and language very seriously (and itself not too seriously!). Most of the first issue is downloadable free to anyone at - scroll down past the contents.
The second issue is now in press.

We also have quite an impressive editorial advisory board including complexity and postmodernism professor Paul Cilliers, philosopher Prof Rom Harré and german constellations expert Prof Dr Matthias Varga von Kibed.


*** sfwork - The Centre for Solutions Focus at Work ***
mark @

Thanks to all who have expressed interest in reading my thesis!  I'm attaching it to this e-mail so that anyone may review it if interested.  (The document has quite a few images in it, so it ends up being a large file...and probably somewhat slow to download.  Thank you for your patience with it!)

My masters degree is in nonprofit management, and my thesis explores the Art of Hosting through that lens in three parts:
a review of nonprofit organization structures and the evolution of organizational structure from bureaucracy to learning organization
a review of the Art of Hosting as an emerging practice, focusing primarily on the fourfold invitation, five breaths, chaordic stepping stones, and harvesting
a case study of the only US nonprofit to use the Art of Hosting to shape and frame its organization: Our Optimal Health
The thesis was originally designed with a fourth part: a quantitative analysis of the performance of Our Optimal Health as a learning nonprofit organization.  Existing research results from a tested and validated questionnaire for measuring the dimensions of learning organizations showed that nonprofits were deficient as learning organizations in the following three areas: 
Promoting dialogue and inquiry
Empowering people toward a collective vision
Connecting the organization to its environment
My plan was to administer this questionnaire to Our Optimal Health and then compare the organization's results against the baseline data already collected by the questionnaire's creators.  The hypothesis was that a nonprofit practicing the Art of Hosting would score higher in these three deficit areas than nonprofits who were not practicing the Art of Hosting (basically, everyone in the baseline).  The questionnaire would test the hypothesis, while generating baseline research data for the Art of Hosting at the same time. The questionnaire's creators were supportive of this effort and curious to see what the results would be.  The process got stuck somewhere, however, and the questionnaire was not able to be administered by my thesis deadline.  This component was ultimately removed from my work, but is briefly discussed in the thesis.

I still believe that completion of this component would contribute much-needed quantitative research to the emerging body of work that is the Art of Hosting.  This type of research has value and may help to increase the Art of Hosting's credibility in certain academic and business communities, and I am happy to support it in any way I can. 

If you are interested in further discussing the specifics of this research piece, know of an organization that may be a prime candidate to participate in such a questionnaire, or just want to chat about the thesis in general, I would enjoy that very much!

Hoping this finds all happy and well, and that the information is helpful,
Jeannel King
Hi All,

Please find a reading list attached for AoH.  I promised this a few weeks ago but have been distracted by work and Illness.

It is in three key sections:  Complexity and Quantum Sciences, Values, Practices and Methodologies.  The final section is sorted into obvious categories.  It also has a leadership bias.

It is not intended to be comprehensive and is merely a list of the relevant books I have read.  It would be great if others could add their contributions.

I hope it will be helpful and/or interesting.

Stephen Duns
Stephen, thanks much for this list!

To the list of work by harrison owen, I'd add
Spirit: Transformation and Development in Organizations. (1981)

available for free download:

if i had to read just two books by harrison, one would be the user's guide, the second would this Spirit book.

More info from the Open Space Technololgy emaillist:

There are several e-books now published on Open Space including two collections of stories:
one by Raffi (Living Peace ) 
and one by Holger Nauheimer (New Stories from the Field )
as well as my The Tao of Holding Space , which is a kind of deep meditation on the practice of OST facilitation.

None of these are peer reviewed or published by a publishing house, but they were compiled and released in the spirit of the User's Non-Guide (Open Space Technology), and they were prepared with a lot of thought.  they're good reads too and I think worthy additions to the field.  in fact the free, online library of e-books on Open Space is pretty impressive when you add all of Harrison's manuscripts into the mix as well.  

Chris Corrigan

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