The Art of Hosting

Here is the harvest from the one-day Introduction to Art of Hosting that Alissa Schwartz and I held at the American Evaluation Association Conference in October 2014, in Washington, DC. 

We would love to continue a conversation about using AOH practices with evaluators and evaluating AOH events and systemic change with anyone who is interested.


Some key things we learned from our experience include:

  • Evaluators are hungry for and receptive to AOH. They find it highly relevant to their work and value its inclusive processes, from crafting an invitation to planning an event. 
  • Evaluators are in the same dilemmas as many other kinds of organizational consultants in terms of navigating and changing organizational cultures. They are hungry to know how to use an AOH approach within traditional evaluation frameworks and with organizations that are not initially responsive.
  • Evaluators value the AOH approach and tools to help them address the complexities they face in their work.
  • Evaluators have many questions about how to use AOH in all phases of evaluation (notably data collection and presentation of findings), as well as questions regarding anonymity and confidentiality.

Here are a few quotes from our participants:

“One of our staff attended your workshop and said it was amazing. You left her with many ideas about specific structures for facilitating discussions, but also a different way of thinking about her own communication more generally. She will no doubt benefit from what she learned. Thanks.” Melissa McGuire, Partner, Cathexis Consulting


“In the past, I felt like my low self-confidence… was preventing me from being a leader. The workshop gave me the tools and ideas to reaffirm and enhance my approach to lead in an engaging and substantive way.” Dow Maneerattana, Monitoring and Evaluation Program Officer


Cheers and Happy Holidays,

Rita Fierro and Alissa Schwartz

American Evaluation Association AOH harvest.docx

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A couple of things...

Can you post your design, so I can see what you guys did for this taster?  It'll help me understand a bit about the feedback.

For me, participatory practices are very useful in developmental evaluation.  In fact you could even say that the cycle of invitation, hosting, and harvesting are core practices for developmental evaluation.  The Art of Hosting is a useful practice for developmental evaluators to refine in themselves, to help them stay in the cruch of DE and not default of summative or top-down approaches out of fear of complexity.

I'm studying DE in an action learning kind of way and we are using it to work with a leadership program we have been hosting for the past three years here in British Columbia.  In the past, in Minnesota we worked closely with an evaluation team that was using both summative AND developmental evaluation in their work of looking at how AoH was supporting a year long cohort of health promotion practitioners.  Interestingly, the project was terminated not because of the evaluation but because of internal politics in the sponsoring organization.  I have no idea whether they used any of the evaluation material in making their decisions, but it flagged for me a particular quandry: people privilege summative evaluation, clear outcomes and quanitifiable measurement over development, complexity and qualitative capacity building.  In order the evaluate AoH in a practitioner and in a practice field you need to do it from a development perspective because context is SOOOO important to the results.  And yet, the tolerance and capacity in the world for using the proper evaluation frameworks for understanding context based developmental practice is near zero in many places.  

As a result I think we have very little quality evaluation on the impact of the AoH in different places and in different people.  I would LOVE a group of developmental evaluators with a strong grounding in complexity to help us understand the way the Art of Hosting works through people in the world. But funders want clear outcomes and it's hard to get support for good longitudinal studies.  

As a result, as a teacher and practitioner, I adopt a DE framework for my own learning and iterate and reiterate.  Most of that learning has happened in public on my blog at  

Dear Chris, 

Thank you for your attention to this and your insights in to my and Alissa's work within the context of your rich hosting experience. 

Honestly it sounds to me that there's a slight confusion going on, understandably so, since there's been a lot of communication on evaluation lately. This training we hosted did not  incorporate Developmental Evaluation. We are doing Developmental Evaluation in the context of other different initiatives. Because of this, I'm not sure you'll gain more from our design than what is listed in the harvest attached to the previous email. If you still feel it would be hepful to you though, I'll be happy to share. This training was meant to help evaluators be more intentional  about how they hold space when they facilitate for evaluation purposes, and to learn to let go, so that participants can have the conversations important to them, as opposed to the conversations evaluators want them to have. Also, we provided ways to adapt the conversational methodologies for data planning, collection, and analysis. In other words, this was an opportunity to bring more complexity, spontaneity, intentionality, and inclusion to the way the evaluation world hosts conversations.

Regarding Evaluation and AOH in general, it seems to me, that a lot is being said, and it feels like the conversations are parallel rather than generative. Possibly, evaluation is complex, within contexts that are complex, and the linearity of the written word is not serving us?

To respond to this need, and because some have expressed interest in sharing what they've been doing and continuing the inquiry, Alissa and I will call a virtual conversation to understand more, talk more, share more. The conversation could possibly lead to a collective inquiry, or simply provide more clarity around the current community exploration and learnings in this area. Since you are committed to your own DE practice, I'll add you to the invitees list, and I hope you'll join so we can talk more about the wealth of your experiences in this area. 



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