The Art of Hosting

Hi All,

I was inspired by Chris’ practice note about ProAction Café and decided I’d share an experience as well.

We recently hosted a forum on corporate social responsibility. We work primarily with government and community organisations, with some gradual interest in social justice from some corporates, so we focused the conversation on “The new CSR: Collective Social Responsibility – How business, government and community can collaborate for social responsibility”. There was a panel of four eminent “speakers” and a group of about 40 people.

We decided to do something different to the standard 10 minutes each speaker and Q&A, as we wanted to engage the collective intelligence of the room. So we ran a World Café and the harvest was a question from each table for the panel. At the end the panel reflected on the questions, having been engaged in the conversations throughout the World Café. The feedback from the audience and the speakers was consistently positive.

I tried it again at a breakfast session I hosted the other day. The topic was “Developing Our Future Leaders” and the audience was a group of about 40 HR professionals. Again we ran a World Café and then harvested one critical question from each table. We then worked through the questions with responses from our perspectives. Again the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

So from a sample size of just two this might be something worth considering.




That's cool Stephen. 

We have done something similar around building designs for the city... people have presented the designs, fly throughs etc. and then we go to cafe and harvest out 2 questions / table on post its. These get clustered on the wall and then the architects, sponsors, contractors etc. are live on stage responding to the questions. They answer 7 or 8 live and the rest are responded to online after the event. Then we usually do a final round on advice for the architects which we harvest and pattern.
This is usually one event in a more ongoing process where we have done some collaborative design already in an early event ...
Sounds very good and innovative, Stephen. 
Hosting a harvest - thru cafe practice - from the collective that then serves as a starter to further tap the knowledge and wisdom of people including those with more mandate and maybe deeper knowing of the field of work.  
We have done the same with having the collective harvest insights and questions for a international key note speaker who was deeply steeped in the content - as well as with our former minister of culture in Denmark. 
Both got to see the key insights and the questions from the cafe before they addressed the cafe. 
I work really well and was definitely a higher level of collective intelligence. 
So much to keep learning in this creative dance of bringing people together in what matters to them and help them harvest a bit more harmony and wiser actions


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