The Art of Hosting

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Art of Hosting in Universities

Educational Application of Art of Hosting principles

From the email list, March 2015:

Hello everyone,


I have been studying the possibility of introducing participatory/conversational methods on a higher education context. It is a traditional institution, so I have a challenge of first inspiring them (I know the best way of doing so would be to invite some professors and faculty members to experience something different, but before they accept to do so, I believe some inspirations might help….)


Does anyone have materials (articles, stories, case studies) that could help me on this journey?

Thank you very much!

Best wishes



Dear Ana

Although the video is in Dutch, the images might inspire; 

Warm regards

Conny Valk
Fréderic Laloux has done research about Re-inventing Organisations (
One organisation is ESBZ - Evangelische Schüle Berlin Zentrum -
A Brazilian documentary, in Portuguese with subtitles in Spanish and English: 
The has several years of experience in introducing council in school; I recommend a contact with them.
(in the council book they have several chapters for schools -

Hi, Ana (Oi, xará!)

Good to hear from you! 
We've been working with participative approaches and active learning in Higher Education, in some experiences at Universidade Federal de Viçosa, here in Brazil (Circle, Fishbowl, World Cafe, Open Space, Way of Council, Dragon Dreaming, Project Based Learning, etc) . We did an AoH training at the University in last July, and we can share more about it, if you want.
I read about some interesting experiences at the University of Minnesota.
There's a book about Appreciative Inquiry in Higher Education ( 
I also use another book about collaborative learning (  There are other interesting resources not directly connected to AoH...
And I recommend José Pacheco's writings and work (the Portuguese educator who created Escola da Ponte, in Portugal, and lives in Brazil nowadays).  He is a very good storyteller!  There are some talks and videos available in youtube.
Last, but not least, Paulo Freire is always a powerful source of inspiration!
Keep in touch! It would be lovely to know more about your work!
Warm hugs,
Ana Carolina Simas
Hi, Ana,
I have been using AoH conversational methodologies for 6 years now in a class I teach in Intercultural Communication for the MBA program at a university here in Spokane, WA.  It takes a lot of furniture moving because the classrooms are set up in lecture format.  
The first night of class, I will have shoved all the desks to the perimeter of the room and set up a circle with a center of beauty with a variety of talking pieces.  The business students are usually shocked to walk in to this very different atmosphere.  Some ask how they can take notes on their computer in the circle and I tell them it will be ok and they won’t need to.  Others ask if we have to be in this formation for the whole course.  So it is definitely a kind of culture shock for them, which later on in the sessions, I have them talk about their experience of this culture shock.  I use the initial circle to have them share about their lives and why they’ve chosen to do an MBA program at this point.  I also use circle several more times during the course of the class and often the sharing becomes very deep, which surprises these adult learners coming back for evening classes.
I also use World Cafe to discuss the many reading assignments and harvest key learnings each time.  I save the table papers with their doodling and notes and post them on the wall during the next class.  It serves two purposes, one to remind them of what they talked about during the previous class and two, to serve as a nonverbal form of communication that this class is different.
I use pairs and trios and appreciative inquiry.  I haven’t used open space yet,but at some point I want to try it with the students thereby selecting what they are most intrigued about.  The freedom of it will blow their minds!  I often use a line, to show a spectrum of experiences, having students physically line up from one wall to the other — they place themselves wherever they feel they fit.  For instance, one side of the room might be never traveled internationally nor had any extensive experience locally with those from another culture; the other side of the room would be those who have had lots of experience.  Of course they need to talk with each other to figure out where they should stand.  Depending on the topic, I sometimes have them in pairs or trios with others standing near them — for similar experiences — and sometimes I “fold the line in half” with a person from one end talking with someone from the opposite end, to share very different experiences.
These are just some examples from a particular class, which is well suited to using these conversational approaches.  The feedback from students is extremely positive and I feel they learn the content in a much deeper way because they experience the content during class.  I’m can’t imagine, though, how you would teach math in this way, but many humanities and social sciences courses could be taught like this.  I wish you well in bringing classrooms alive!  It’s so fun to teach in this way and to see the students, reluctant at first, become really excited.
Susan Virnig
We have an active community of practice here at the University of Minnesota with over 200 faculty, staff, and graduate students having participated in AoH training hosted on campus or in the region. A couple of years ago, we published an ebook and accompanying web site containing stories of how AoH was being used at our institution from classrooms to meeting rooms to community forums and more. 
Our Center for Integrative Leadership has sponsored most of the Art of Hosting trainings on our campus. If you visit you'll find some research conducted by a couple faculty exploring what AoH training participants learn and do. 
For a more recent story of practice.. our University President, Provost, and other senior leaders sponsored a year long campus engagement strategy implemented by a core planning team guided by AoPL practitioners that utilized World Cafe and Open Space. You can read about it and see the harvest documents at
Grateful to be connected to others all around the world who are practicing in HE! 
Best wishes,
Try contacting Laura Weissel from USA, she's been in that field for a very long time and has done a lot of work that she could share! 
I believe she would love to share and help!
Also Dutch organisation they have worked with different universities and schools.
Hope this works out well!
All the best,
Olá Ana! 
If you want a research that shows how participatory methodologies are a key piece on improving education and making it be transformative, I did my Master's thesis related to the topic, you can download it here. There you can find some good examples and best practices from 6 amazing schools in Europe that use AoH or similar approaches for adult learning.
The master's that I did in Sweden and where I wrote that thesis (MSLS - Master's in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability) is facilitated using AoH constantly, and it is where the annual Art of Hosting Karlskrona happens, always called and organized by the students (the next one is happening next week by the way: / You can watch an interesting video from the 2013 training and listen to the program director at the time (Tracy Meisterheim, an AoH steward) and Toke talking about the importance of AoH in education:
Good luck and let me know if you need any more support, I'm very passionate about the topic. :)
Um abraço,
Hi Ana,
This is definitely one of my passions and I'd be happy to have a conversation with you about how we integrated AoH as a way of engaging our MSLS students in Sweden. Next year it will become even more embedded, as we redesign the flow of courses and create a year-long course called 'Leadership in Complexity'. 
I'm back in the states now, after serving as MSLS Program Director for the past 3½ years. I'm still in the throws of transition with new contracts starting up now, but should have some time available soon if you'd like to connect. Maybe there's a larger conversation we could host on this topic with all these brilliant and experienced people engaged in shifting higher education!
Warm wishes, from a snowy Duluth Minnesota,
A number of people contributed to a good thread on the AoH Facebook group on the theme of designing an educational program - such as a certificate or an MA degree - using AoH principles and practices.

I'd love to be involved in the conversation. I've worked in several graduate programs in transformative learning.

that conversation would be soooo gooood to be hosted!!!
-- and learn from each other; and inspire even more!

with love,
Agreed, Ria! Would love to be part of this conversation.
I'm helping to run the mid-career MPA in Development Practice program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs here in New York City, and used World Cafe, Circle Practice, and discussions surrounding the complexity of international development practice and poverty alleviation work during our annual student retreat, meant to harvest the lessons of 12-week summer field placements that students undertake in dozens of countries around the world each summer.
Last fall was a pilot effort, and I would love to use this bigger hosted conversation to shape next year's offerings as well as expand ideas to be worked on throughout the academic year.
Sounds like there's a real need for this conversation among many educators and practitioners. There's so much hungry conversation, exploration, and prototyping of new approaches to higher education happening around the world right now. Bringing an inquiry-based approach into many different educational formats is absolutely ripe for the picking! Can't say I've ever known any other way.
We need to share what we're learning and become wiser together. Using that language brings Juanita's work into focus as well - this is such an inter-generational conversation, given the end-of-life stage that the educational system many of us grew up with is no longer serving those who were born into the digital age (not that it ever served many of us very well either!). 
I'm intrigued by the potential to host this conversation with a range of approaches, to share our stories of 'how' we're doing this, what's working/not working, do some collective presencing work to see what wants to rise, co-designing some approaches - oh dear, I could play all day imagining this.
I'm not sure where this fits into the flow of life for me right now, but clearly the hunger is in me to see what's possible. I'll take some time to sense my own energy for this and check in with some mates offline, and see what feels ready to rise. Let's keep this inquiry alive.

I am currently working on an initiative that brings our Student Health Center, University Counseling Center, Campus Recreation Center and Nutrition under one roof in a wellness center concept. I also work with dining services, retail services and the campus greenhouse.  This integration process and wellness concept is perfect for participative formats! I would love to continue to be part of this dialog and would value participation in further discussions and exploration. I am very grateful for Ana bringing forth this issue and for the emerging insight.




Hi everyone again,

We have just started a 2 year Eramsus+ project between 5 countries in Europe (Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands), and most of organisations are active Art of Hosting practitioners. Check out more here:
The whole goal of the program is to make adult education prototypes and for co-creation process we will be using AoH, Theory U, Design thinking. There are quite a few of the participants who are university lectureres, and who have experience in using AoH and other innovative methods in their classes.
As the project is in the beginning phase now, we can’t offer much at the moment. But keep us updated and let’s collaborate in the future!
All the best,
Would be lovely to take this conversation further in Art of Hosting in Education in October 13-17 in Lithuania.
Hope to see some of you there!

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