The Art of Hosting

The global Occupy movement, inspired by Occupy Wall Street, has the potential to bring more joy and dignity into the life of more people around the world than any past social movements, by righting what is wrong with the capitalist system.

Whether it will realize that potential is another question. Among other factors, it is also a question whether Occupy-ers can become skilled in the arts of hosting conversations that matter, rapidly. It is an urgent issue because the forces of repression threatens the all Occupy sites and the movement may even implode, by not being able to access and mobilize its full collective intelligence.

Where do we, AoH practitioners, stand? On the sideline watching history doing its work in front of our eyes, or with our sisters and brothers, who put their body on the line, day after day, fighting for all of us? If you feel called, go to your nearest Occupy site, participate in a General Assembly, feel into how you can help, then act on your feeling!

If you're in London and inspired, please join LindaLiane and me in the conversation about how we can support Occupy London, in this forum. To start with, we could meet next Friday (Dec 9), 7 pm at the General Assembly at St.Paul's and have share our thoughts about it over a warm meal or tea afterwards. In preparation to that, to get better acquainted with what is going on I suggest that browse the Working Groups and other online conversations, here.

For more background information on the current use of collective intelligence methods by the movement, you may also want to review these two blogposts

Then, when we are ready, when we learned how we can introduce AoH in a way highly relevant to the movement's issues, let's offer a series of brief educational events either in the its Banks of Ideas (the re-possessed UBS building) or at the Tent City University.

We can also use this forum, here, to explore any of the broader issues about the relationship between AoH and Occupy. Let us know what all this means to you.

love and solidarity!

george

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I'm very happy to see this moving forward. I felt called to support London even before a movement formed (when riots happened...) but at the moment I'm not able to be in the UK as I live in Denmark and like many others are out of a job (and while being supported by the government, it's illegal to leave the country)

I am with you in heart and spirit!

hello Lama, is there any Occupation happening in Denmark?

It seems that both of you (Liane and George) are also part of the calling team; no?

I see ourselves on the hosting team. (Linda also offered her help.)

The call needs to come from someone more embedded in the movement.

Hi Friends!

I have been very active in Occupy Wall Street and co-called the Open Space here that you saw on Facebook (http://ows-open-space.posterous.com/)

Our local Art of Participatory Leadership group has been trying to offer our skills and pattern to organizers. It has been really hard! Some folks LOVE it and ask for more. At the same time,  the pattern of 'strong facilitators', no small groups, limited relationship building and a lot of organization building patterns --- that don't fit the flow of the rapidly growing and dispersing movement --- continue to dominate. 

Not quite sure what to do next, but would LOVE to be in this inquiry.

Peace, Kelly

Dear Kelly, thank you so much for sharing the news from OWS!

I don't know enough abut the circumstances, in which you introduced Open space but in Occupy London, we're facing the following dilemma. We have two very popular spaces for self-education: Tent City University and Bank of Ideas.

There are lots of interesting educational programs at both places, and there's always room for more. So it would be easy to announce something there but the activists who would need the most the better skills in hosting conversations that matter are just too busy to attend. 

We could go where the action is, in  the General Assemblies, but as you said, " the pattern of 'strong facilitators', no small groups, limited relationship building and a lot of organization building patterns --- that don't fit the flow of the rapidly growing and dispersing movement --- continue to dominate."

The notes with the questions that you posted on Posterous are great. How did you guys collect the answers and what did you do with them?

One more thought. Maybe what is needed, even before doing what we know well (how to do Art of Hosting training), is taking a humble position and learning what we don't know that well: how to serve the movement, by supporting where it is and help making little process improvements. That would be like a background/foreground reversal. Instead asking how we (as supporters on the sideline) can bring AoH to it, we would immerse ourselves deeply enough to be able to feel and sense as the movement, or at least, as a General Assembly (GA). Think of systemic constellation.

What could become possible? I don't know but it seems worth trying. Here's a small example. A month ago our Working Group (WG) introduced a temperature check to the evening GA on the steps of St. Paul's cathedral in London. It was about a proposed amendment the Occupy London's Initial Statement. The Democracy Working Group wanted to insert a call for "People’s Assemblies across the country, to facilitate (a new constitution guaranteeing): (a) full social and political participation (b) a new and popular democratic sovereignty (c) a common, structured political economy that delivers social equality and wellbeing for all." 

To find out whether the GA would support that call if we developed the draft into a formal proposal, we broke into circles of 10 to discuss it, so that everybody can be heard in a short time, then the rapporteur of each circle presented the conclusion and some of the points raised. It turned out that not only the physical temperature was cold that night but also how the draft amendment was received. Participants in some of the circles of 10 liked neither the term "sovereignty," nor idea of calling others to have their People’s Assemblies. The GA sent the Working Group back to the drawing board. You can read more about it here. I hope the picture above, which I took that night, reflects a bit the atmosphere of how we organized ourselves for that act of direct democracy.

But that's not the end of the story. It continues in my observation of how much the rich content of the conversation in the circle where I participated got lost, by necessity, in the brief report that our spokesperson had to give. It was not unlike what happens at many of the plenary sessions of an Open Space or World Cafe event. The collective intelligence of the people is reduced to bullet points, or in some cases, to visual symbols   on posters presented in a "gallery walk."

What's missing is the realization that in moments of collective inspiration, the content of our collective consciousness is sacred and needs to be treated with the reverence manifest in harvesting it for guiding future action. The emphasis is on the last four words. 

So what can we do differently to support the whole richness of collective deliberations to become more actionable? Why not use a simple tool borrowed from the treasure chest of our methods, the Harvest Sheet, customized to the needs of the GA or WG, on which the host or the scribe of the group document all the key ideas that emerged. After the event the content of the sheet can be transferred to digital media that can invite broader reflection, dialogue, summarizing, and action by those both who were present and those who weren't.

It's much less than an AoH training but a small step that can demonstrate the usefulness of our process tools. It is also a step towards letting the movement become our teacher before we can teach anything to it.

Oh george I love this, its absolutely right.  Ive been working with the principles that you have to get to know people, get close to them and become one of them before you can even begin to offer what you have.  It reminds me of the story of the tribe who were terrified of water melons, beliveing them to be evil  - the first person who came along to tell them that water melons were actually OK and good to eat was killed by them as they were so suspicious, the second who lived amongst them for a time and made friends was able to introduce the idea slowly and was more trusted - that led to change.   AND thats why I offered the question what might we ( AOH -ers if there is such a thing anyway ! ) learn as well from the occupy movement. Im very much in the question myself about how to dance with activism and deeper levels of understanding - the being and the doing.  Here in Leeds its very much about activism and with little pockets of being in inquiry.  We want answers and we want them now - and ironically this is getting the way of us all learning more 

On monday I was at the university of Bradford listening to someone from occupy leeds talk about the camp, the thing that captured my attention was him speaking about what was different in this movement from the very many activist movements he had been in all his life.  He said it was that the people there were going " beyond the paradigm of left and right" As well as the points you make about harvesting and illuminating in rich ways the essence and collective intelligence of the many conversations ( story, art and graphic recording seem to me to make a good contribution here - as does having a dedicated harvest team and process ) I think one of the things we might also offer ( when the time is right ) is a framework for understanding this - some thoughts about living systems and how they operate and also the chaordic.  

Wow lama thats really disturbing - is it really illegal to leave the country in Denmark - wow, how will you continue your studies?   L xx



Lama Juma said:

I'm very happy to see this moving forward. I felt called to support London even before a movement formed (when riots happened...) but at the moment I'm not able to be in the UK as I live in Denmark and like many others are out of a job (and while being supported by the government, it's illegal to leave the country)

I am with you in heart and spirit!

Linda, it's good that you mentioned the harvest team. Larger General Assemblies, such as in New York, typically have what they call "MINUTES TEAM." It's another possibility for our empowering intervention, assuming that we follow your advice of "get close to them and become one of them before you can even begin to offer what you have."

Insightful discussion guys, thank you.

And Ria, I would agree with George re him and I as hosting team rather than callers.

I would be interested to hear from the experience from Georg Pleger who is connected to the Occupy Innsbruck movement. One of the most stable ones in Austria.

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