The Art of Hosting

Hello everyone,


I hope i'm dropping this line in the right place... I'm happily brand new to the AOH and to this online community.


I was at a recent AOH gathering in Vermont and found the how'S i was desperetaly seeking for in order to give life to all the theory on knowledge mobilization and action research that went with my master's degree.


I'm really motivated to experience and integrate AOH in my further work. But i'm wondering if the different AOH process can apply as well in small groups of 3 to 6 people and in short laps of time (say a 3 hour meeting) ?


Any thoughts or experience in this direction ?


Thank you, Veronica

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Hello Veronica, I just send out a message over the AoH emailist and I included your question - as it deserves some attention and good answers! I hope people will jump over to this conversation and help you out - and in the meantime others too!

Welcome Veronica.  Yes, a good place to drop your question.  Many of the AoH practices are useful in all kinds of settings.  I have found circle practice and also Appreciative Inquiry the most helpful in a group of 3-6 people.  It is a little harder to use some of the other processes, like World Cafe and Open Space, with such a small group.  There is, however, no reason why this group couldn't identify their own agenda/conversations in an Open Space fashion.  For creative work with this size I have invited people into pairs and sometimes triads to evolve ideas and then fairly rapidly have them change their configurations to continue the conversation or idea generation.  Proves invigorating and creative.


If you are keen to practice, and why wouldn't you be, look for every opportunity to host - yourself, another person, a few other people- not from a zealous place of "look at all the great stuff I just learned" but from a grounded place full of invitation and  curiousity about the people, the conversations you are wanting to have, what happens as you host a space a little bit differently and also show up a little bit differently.  Learn from each experience, find your mates, go to another training with even more and richer questions that arise from your practice.  Play with it and have fun with it.

Welcome Veronica,


I come in alongside Kathy on this one. One of the things I really love about these practices is being enlivened by their principles. I do a lot of work with young people and one thing I have found them appreciating is the principle of self-organization that makes Open Space so generative. Maybe it has to do with the sense of play that can accompany it, maybe not, I know that's what I have it be for myself, maybe it's the sense of having passion and ownership driving a learning agenda... who knows. I've also had small groups engage the principle of movement and shifting dialogues (in dyads). One group of about 8 young people told me once that it felt a bit like speed dating... don't know if that was a good or bad thing! I think it was both, but in response we later played with the timing a bit... I also have myself resonate with Kathy's reminder (thanks Kathy!) to host ourselves and host these principles within/for ourselves and listen for the questions that bubble up. Perhaps we'll meet in practice someday!

Hello Veronica,


Thank you for giving us space to reflect about AoH in smaller scale setting.

I am, too, a starting practitioner and a member of the community since last year only. I fully share the views of other people contributed to your question and just want to describe my personal experience with smaller scale meetings with AoH spirit.


Right after the AoH training last year, I was very fortunate to get engaged in skype conversations with more experienced AoH colleagues, and noticed a stricking difference with many of the meetings I'd had before in organisations.


In those conversations I noticed that people always pay attention to how they're coming to the circle - what is happening inside and outside themselves at the moment - they acknowledge it and share fully. This might be a weather outside or the previous meeting they've had with someone right before, the news from the family or a house or a thought that occurs in their head at that moment. This was refreshing for me as I learned that the very state of what each of the participants bring to the meeting is enabling new deeper direction for the conversation, that might not have been there if we'd started with usual agenda items rigt away.


I noticed we used a talking piece every time we'd talk, even on Skype. That made me much more focused, attentive and appreciating silence. I felt I was right there putting the talking piece in my hand, and the people were so close like in a real life circle! I loved it - the ability to slow down even while talking online. 


Another observation of mine was that we had questions as 'agenda items', not statements. The questions really helped to get beyond regular updates, but to see what we're learning about ourselves and our surrounding. Check-in with the question, then the main one to explore and then check-out with the closing inquiry.


Overall, being part of those circles was a wonderful listening and participating experience for me. I felt people care for what everyone has to contribute, without a sense of judgement, they are taking it as a treasure that could open up a deeper meaning on the collective inquiry.


Keeping this feeling in my mind and heart, I started to bring small bits of it in my other meetings with people who don't know about art of hosting: having agenda made of questions, paying attention to the state of every participant at the start of the meeting, introducing check-in and check-out practice.


Maybe this would be a helpful addition to your question as well :)



Veronica, I’m involved with a small group of practitioners here in Cincinnati, Ohio. We’ve been practicing small group methods for some time… The small group dynamics are awfully powerful, small groups is where change happens. AoH is the perfect companion to small group processes.


Go to our page and check out the Civic Engagement Series Booklet, it’s a good guide for using small group methods.


Best Regards

Thank you everyone for all these great cues, insights and stories !

I like to think as mentionned by Kathy that i can find different spaces to practice these principles (myself, family, small work teams). And to keep in mind to play with it and have fun. I will cultivate that thought and put it in practice...


We will be organizing a 2 day regional event in November in wich i sens some openness to integrate World Café  and Open space practices... But first i wish to experience more smaller gatherings and try to engage meaningful conversations in the small meetings that we will be having to organize this event in the weeks to come. It will be my first dive... i'll try and design something simple... maybe not even mentionning the AOH and see what emerges and what comes out of it. I'll try to post the follow-up.

Thanks Dan for the guide, i'll definetely look into it...

With much gratitude to you all,



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