The Art of Hosting

From the AoH emaillist, June-July 2012:

Hello AoH community!
At the end of July my friend and colleague Gail Jacob and I will be hosting a workshop in Chicago on Theory U for the AOH community.  We are quite excited about this opportunity to further explore the beautiful relationship between these generative modalities. 
We wanted to reach out however, as we sense there is some good work that may have already been done in articulating the relationship and we wanted to sense well what is already out there.  Gail is at the Global Forum in Berlin right now and will be bringing back the latest from Theory U world and it would be great to hear from any of you out there who have done some work/workshops/thinking/writing on articulating this relationship and have anything to share with the us and the community.   We also will share our work and approach as it comes together.   
Also curious if any other workshops or gatherings have been held specifically on this relationship before?  I know Theory U often greatly informs AoH but has how to use these together ever been taught?  Our focus is on an intro to Theory U, for AoH but would also be curious if any more practitioner and application  focused events have happened, or if/how people sense it might a future that does want to happen :)
Many thanks in advance and as always in awe and gratitude of the generosity and openness of this community!
Cari Caldwell
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Hi Cari…
We're in the middle of a leadership residential for 25 leaders in the community social services sector here in British Columbia and we are blending a strong Theory U flavour with AoH practice.  This is the second and final residential, capping a 9 month learning journey which has involved two Art of Hosting gatherings and bi-weekly webinars.
In this context, Theory U is helping give some shape and rigour to the art of learning about the systems we are in and providing a container for a learning journey about what the future of the community sector looks like in this province and what forms of leadership serve the emerging forms.  We are operating from the premise that the emerging leaders we are working with be facing a career of work in a sector that will do work in ways that haven't been invented yet and that they will have a fundamental role in co-creating these new ways of caring for society.  That premise and invitation leads us into hosting practice, as a key leadership capacity for emerging and complex context is Block's idea of "leadership as convening."  And as we all know, the Art of Hosting is the essence of that practice, from the four fold way to living systems views of complexity to deploying methodologies for co-creation and co-evolution.
I'm enjoying our work this week.  On Sunday we worked with poetry to check in and help frame a challenge.  We reviewed the Cynefin framework to help frame complex challenges and invite people to focus their attention on these.  Today we had a deeper Thoery U teaching and then played some improv theatre games to train in improv principles and to practice sensing.  We went into an afternoon of inquiry using The Work of Byron Katie which helps us to deal with the voices of cynicism, judgement and fear and to identify the stuck parts of "the system" that are actually within us.
Tomorrow we will enter the deep dive with an afternoon devoted to a solo framed withtgroup pattern language cards, a teaching on the four fold practice and some recent thinking from Tuesday Ryan-Hary and Kelly McGowan on hosting spaces for co-revealation.  Tomorrow we listen to the whispers of the future sector and Wednesday we will begin some prototyping work using Proaction Cafe and chaordic stepping stones.  Thursday we finish with a short open space to invite the community  of practice to organize itself for sustainability and co-evolution after our project has completed.  
I'm especially enjoying the way Theory U has given us a good frame to talk concretely about the deep edges of leadership practice in this sector and to invite the inversion of leadership that will take people into the co-creative space of an emerging field of practice. 
I'd be interested in your design and what you learn in the blending of theory U.  I think it is useful in the defining of a practice ground for hosting practice.  There are lots of ways to frame work together.  Theory U doesn't always serve, but in this case - focusing on leadership in a sector that is rapidly emerging - it is a very useful framework indeed.
Chris Corrigan
PS… say hi to the Chicagoans!  Tuesday, Kelly and I were there earlier this month working with Sally Wolf and Chris Foster and a great team of restorative justice practitioners in the South Suburbs.  That community is a home away from home for me and a beautiful practice ground full of learning for any who show up to teach there!
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Hi Cari,

I've for a long time wandered around with the idea of organising a 'Art of hosting a U-process' trying to blend both approaches deeper, but never got around to it. In the art of hosting trainings I've been part of so far there always has been a implicit or explicit U-journey, going from sensing into a question together, making sense of it on a personal level into collaborative action. My experience if working with the U is that it is a great process and often more embodied (learning journeys, building proto-types, nature-solo's), and can be more focused than AoH. However participants are finding it hard to just 'run with it' as with the art of hosting methodologies as it more complex to host. In training the U it is also hard to involve the participants in hosting straight away, as we do in art of hosting trainings. Additionally as theory U has more academic roots, it has less of a practice based hosting culture as the AoH network. To put it a bit stark it is more a single individual up front with a 'explaining' facilitating style, than a hosting team collaboratively creating a space for people to step into their own hosting. So I'm still trying to find ways to blend it to the optimum,  it would be great if there could be a more structured dialogue between these two great practices.

Just some reflections, hope they are useful, feel free to get in touch to continue the conversation

Hendrik Tiesinga
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Hi Hendrik, I enjoyed your post, and appreciate your intentions about having a more structured dialogue between the Art of Hosting and the U-process practices...
Last summer at the ALIA gathering in Columbus, I attended Adam Kehane's "Change Lab" workshop, and very much enjoyed the learning journeys, nature solos, building prototypes, etc... I was drawn in part from having read his great book, Love and Power, and also, because in my own "home practice" (Dynamic Facilitation) we often have participants who comment that "DF seems like a way to naturally (implicitly) embody U-process"... and so I wanted to experience a more formal U-process in action.
Another reason I resonated with your post, is that ever since connecting with Art of Hosting, I have been frustrated that DF (as it was originally taught) has also been more of a "single individual up front", rather than a collaborative hosting team... However our workshops do involve participants early on, in taking turns being in that "lead goose" role... and also, we emphasize how the whole group is actively supporting, whoever it is whose turn it is, to be in "front of the room"... and now, inspired by AoH, I have shifted my own emphasis in teaching, to developing "communities of practice", rather than individual facilitators.  It feels like a very natural "next step"...
Still, like the U-process, DF is also more complex to host, than the various elements of AoH... circle or open space or world cafe or pro-action cafe... nonetheless, i feel there is a lot of resonance, both with AoH, and also with U-process... and it's a conversation that i am very interested in.
with all best wishes,
Rosa Zubizaretta
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I'm very interested in continuing to deepen the linkages between AofH and Theory U practices...might we create a community of practice to further this?

Diana M Smith
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Hi,
 
I also would  be interested in the proposal of Diana (community of practice) and I am gratefull for  all the enriching statements which were made.
 
May be one comment. I have been trained in Theory U by Otto Scharmer and his Team of the Presencing Institute, Boston (Presencing Foundation Program....you can find it under www.presencing.com) and I did also a training in the AoH Practice, organized by members of the AoH community in Austria.
My experience was, that Otto and his team of the presencing institute used very professionally a lot of AoH practices and attitudes (without using the term AoH).
And they always insisted on the fact, that you cannot really teach the Theory U, but you only can support/host people to experience it. (It is in practice, absolutely not an academic approach, although the lecture of the book is quite challenging for a reflective pratitioner like me)
 
So....for me ......Theory U and AoH are therefore absolutely useful and complementary.
 
What I also noticed is, that there are a lot of people, who may be only have read the book and never did a proper formation for experiencing Theory U . And based on this theoretical knowledge they have created their own "Practice of Theory U", with their own interpretation/philosophies but still calling it Theory U or saying it is based on it. I am afraid this is creating a lot of misunderstanding.
 
From my point of view it is very useful to do the "Presencing Foundation Program" or at minimum the online courses of Otto Scharmer to first understand,  especially also if one is interested in the linkages with AoH. And vice versa, of course.
 
Personally I am focussed to bring the idea of the Theory U into the pratice of business. For that, I plan to start a prototype of workshop in Germany to learn and experience, what is appropiate to companies and especially top leaders with direkt profit responsiblity/people  in order to experience how useful Theory U/Presencing in practice  can be.
In helping them to get better and more sustainable results by finding solutions aligned with  future needs and not just extrapolating the experience of the past.
Having a professional carreer behind me with over 30 years in management and especially 20 years as CEO of Food Companies in Europe I hope I have an idea what potential blocking points might be  and how we might overcome them (e.g. academical and spirituell wording (lèt's face it), the (wrong) impression that this not reflection for concrete action/harvest , and last but not least also the fear that this make things for you as a manager/leader not less but even more complex, which certainly might be in the shortrun, but to see it as an investment which helps you to fix things  better in the future).
So my approach is therefore more "Kaizen" oriented or you can also call it MAYA (Most Appropriate/Yet Acceptable). Step by Step. Moving forward is at least better than waiting for doing it right.
And I would like to support my former peers to built "Living examples" of entreprenerial use (e.g. Culture/Strategy/Change/Innovation...).
Because with real and accepted "sucess-stories" you can create AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) and multiply the idea much easily. This is how business and markets are functioning...if you can't beat them join them. We have to relink Capitalism with Human Society and Nature.
May be this not the only way, but at least I am convinced it is worth trying it.
 
Best regards from Liechtenstein (inbetween Switzerland and Austria :-)
 
Gerhard Evers
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Thank you for everyone's contributions and thoughts on this. It has been super helpful to hear and also to validate much of my own sensing and hear new perspectives as well. 
 
I will be happy to share what we develop for our workshop happening next Friday in Chicago. 
 
In the meantime, how do we set up the ning group?  Just checking with all the excitement, if someone is doing it or I am happy to if told how. 
 
In anticipation of rich learning, 
Cari Caldwell
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Hi everyone,
I just watched these 2 MissionU reflection videos (one by Otto Scharmer and the other by Pieter Ploeg) this morning:
Check out the conference format: http://mission-u-berlin-2012.withtank.com/ I just participated in a project interview during that week and in the last 2 reflection days but for me this seems to be a great hosted experience of learning about Theory U in a field context (in this case Berlin).
And in regards to a group on the AoH ning. Anybody can just go here and create one :-) https://artofhosting.ning.com/groups
Best,
Frauke

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More comments in this regard:

Dear all, I've seen many mails on the connection between the art of hosting & the Uprocess, I didn't have the opportunity to read them all, but I just wanted to share my experience in this field, it's been my inquiry since a couple of years. And I'm still learning!

The past couple of years I've been intensely involved in both communities and practices. I attended and co-hosted several art of hosting trainings and applied it many times in my work in organisations. I also attended the Theory U masterclass the past two years in Boston and am giving Theory U trainings in Belgium, and I'm also working with Theory U in governments in Belgium & The Netherlands.

For me the 2 are so interwoven on many levels. I invited my colleagues to immerse in both, so that we share the language & practices in order to come to a more whole approch in what we co-create. It's a learning journey and I'm very much interested in exploring it further with those who interested, because I feel I'm only beginning to see the potential.

Maybe I can give some examples from the 3 day training on "hosting a theory U-process" we give in Belgium. It's the most tangible example, but in general it's more subtle. The purpose of the training is to experience and learn how the U process can help us to bring about change in ourselves and in our communities/organisations. The blueprint are the 5 phases of the U-process. But if you look at the flow of the 3 days, it looks like an art of hosting training.

The elements we use in the training, that we learned in art of hosting are:

- flow of the day(s) with visual harvesting

- creating a center in the circle with flowers, talking pieces, candle

- working in circle with a talking piece to check in & check out

- inviting in a beauty & harvesting team, and offering them a lot of space to make it as participatory as possible - introducing the concepts chaordic path & divergence/groan zone/convergence

- world café on the first day to explore co-initiation

- storytelling circle on the first evening, "where in your life did you experience a transition in yourself, however small or huge, and what allowed that change to come about?" (to enter co-presencing)

- invite participants to host the second evening collectively

- open space on the 3rd day (to brigde co-prototyping and co-evolving)

 

Here are some of my insights "in development":

Both frameworks have their language, practices & methodologies, but I feel they share a similar purpose & underlying principles. In essence, both are simple to "understand" but not easy to embody, and not easy to integrate in "collective action" towards sustainable change. It asks for a different quality of attention & being present.

The potential of cross-pollination lies in the application for me, and especialy in how we can invite people to be present, to participate in the process and to explore different perspectives. And in how, we as hosts, can create the conditions for all, to engage fully in the change we are working towards, as self-aware & unique individuals as well as as a collective with shared intention.

My inquiry and learning edge here is to not make the process about "knowledge", not about me/us, and not about the process itself. Maybe the essence is for me "how to invite in authenticity" in myself, in others, in the process, in the intention & the purpose.

hmmm, this email became a lot longer than I intended, but I learned a lot writing it, trying to find the right words. so thank you, and I hope it might inspire some of you too

Julie Arts

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Dear Julie,

This part of your reflection is so important to the work we do, it deserves emphasis: "Both frameworks have their language, practices & methodologies, but I feel they share a similar purpose & underlying principles. In essence, both are simple to "understand" but not easy to embody, and not easy to integrate in "collective action" towards sustainable change. It asks for a different quality of attention & being present. The potential of cross-pollination lies in the application for me, and especialy in how we can invite people to be present, to participate in the process and to explore different perspectives. And in how, we as hosts, can create the conditions for all, to engage fully in the change we are working towards, as self-aware & unique individuals as well as as a collective with shared intention. My inquiry and learning edge here is to not make the process about "knowledge", not about me/us, and not about the process itself. Maybe the essence is for me "how to invite in authenticity in myself, in others, in the process, in the intention & the purpose."

Calling ourselves to full presence and full attention to the space, what is emerging in individuals and the collective, sensing into the underlying patterns - giving attention there, recognizing that surface dynamics have a source usually in these patterns. Also witnessing what arises in us as we do the work and later as a reflective learning. And collective shift and change takes time, attention and repetition - the practice(s) we need to keep calling ourselves back to. Beautiful reflection.

Thank you for sharing.

Kathy Jourdain

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