The Art of Hosting

Posted by Ursula:

Dear mates,
Can anyone share an experience or knows about participatory approaches used for official intergovernmental conferences in the UN or UNESCO like environment?
I am working with a colleague who is looking into making a series of intergovernmental conferences participatory. It would help tremendously with hierarchy if we had some examples where it worked,  to show.
Thanks a lot!!
Warm greetings from again rainy Brussels,
Ursula Hillbrand

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My answer was:

I know of one report made by CHE - Center for Human Emergence - in Holland, when they worked across sectors and governments around one of the MDGs, on initiative of one of the Dutch ministers - if I am not mistaken. You could ask Tatiana Glad or Anne-Marie Voorhoeve.

It was Christopher Baan who guided us to the right webpage:

The case studies Ria is referring to can be found here:
If possible, would you mind keeping me in the loop about your quest for case studies, and especially what the outcome will be? This topic is very close to my heart...
Wishing you all the best with your further endeavours!
Kind regards, from the Netherlands.

Later Anne-Marie send us some documents with case-studies.

The most important seem to be a report on the Parliamentarians Take Action, which was around the MDG5 (Millenium Development Goal 5 - maternal and newborn health). This was on initiative of a Dutch minister and held in The Netherlands, 2009.

Here is also attached what CHE (Center for Human Emergence) did in regard with the Climate Leadership Campaign, a conference held in Belo Horizonte, Brasil; also 2009.


Answer from Agota:

Dear Ursula, 

Although it is not the UN or UNESCO yet, in the past 4 months I have been working with a Hungarian ministry responsible for new strategy development procedures for all ministries  and it has turned out to be a beatiful participatory process. For two months meeting every Wednesday morning - 4hrs - with designs around cooperation and participation of ca. 30 people from the ministries; then rounded it off with a version of syntegrity, fully participatory.  The following Monday and Tuesday there will be an anticorruption all governmental conference as well, with some elements of table and participative processes... 

Love, Agota

Dear Ursula,


yes we do at the FRA (EU Fundamental Rights Agency We only got started in June this year, had three stakeholder meetings so far which are relevant for your question. On average 25-35 participants:

- a meeting with representatives from national governments and local authorities, on joined-up governance on human rights 

- a meeting with our network of government representatives

- one meeting with interngovernmental organisations, governments and NGOs about the rights of transgender persons; conference was co-hosted with Council of Europe (who also needed to be brought on board first...).


We were curious to see what would happen. In fact, feedback from participants (collected on feedback froms) shows that participants were very satisfied, even thrilled, about the different format of the meetings. Feedback shows that there was real added value.


key learnings:

just do it! (and don't over-emphasis AoH jargon - but simply apply!)

and: be very cautious on which method to apply, and on "how much" your audience can "digest" in a first meeting; a lot of people are not used going to conferences and then having to be active themsleves.


I will post something a bit mroe concrete here soon.


We are planning a more extensive harvest of our experiences on how to put AoH into practice in such a work environment, but only after we will have a had a few more meetings.


In the meantime, I would be happy to put your colleague in touch with the respective colleagues at FRA directly (they are not on aoh-ning).


PS: maybe tag "govenment" as well, as quite similar setting


best regards,


Send by Tami:

Dear Ursula
I recently used Open Space Technology for a UNICEF regional training I facilitated with government counterparts and other key partners on early childhood development in emergencies. I used it specifically for generating dialogue and drawing upon the collective wisdom to identify entry points for ECD in the emergency context. We have also used a lot of Appreciative Inquiry on the ground.
Tami Farber

On 21/22 November 2011, the FRA (EU Fundamental Rights Agency) will host together with the Polish EU Presidency a major conference about the fundamental rights of irregular migrants, involving governments, international organisations, NGOs and experts.

Part of the agenda is participatory. A specific challenge here is how to "include" irregular migrants (who cannot attend the conference physically...) - I will report back. For the time being you can already check


best regards,


What a wealth of conferences and participatory meetings showed up here. I have the aim to post the list here, so we can go back on them when needed. Thank you all for sending in what you knew about or were involved doing! The example served for seeding into the future, the field was not quite ready...

Hi Waltraud,

In my imagination we could even take it further and do a systemic constellation where we could represent these migrants... what wealth we could learn then!?!

hoping - imagining...

Hello Everyone,


I have just joined at host and taking a tour of the site. Many years ago I worked outside Vienna at an east-west think tank the Internationale Institut fur Angewandte Sysems Analyse (IIASA).  Ursula'srequest struck a chord with me as I was looking at a similar question although not in the UN context. At IIASA, Howard Raiffa was the director during my tenure and his book Neogtation analysis: the science and art of collaborative decision making By Howard Raïffa, John Richardson, David Metcalfe, has some insights even if not directly addressing your question.

Thanks Kathleen for your information - contribution. I haven't checked your profile yet - wondering if you are still around Vienna, you might then find inspiration in what the Group Central Eastern Europe is cooking.

Kathleen Ann Porter said:

Hello Everyone,

I have just joined

No I'm now located in British Columbia and am slowly updating my profile.



Here's a harvest, sent to us by Toke Paludan Moeller, of the World as Cafe in the European Conference on Volunteering in Brussels last May:

World Cafe in the European Conference on Volunteering, Brussels

On 23 and 24 May 2011, 300 representatives from different parts of the volunteering sector in the EU met at the Hotel Crowne Plaza and at the EESC for the “2nd EU-level thematic conference for the European Year of Volunteering 2011”. This second conference had the specific purpose of looking at the world of volunteering through the eyes of the individual volunteer and to gather experiences from the field of volunteering. The third and fourth conferences will take place in Athens in  November and Warsaw in December of 2011.

True to the purpose, the format of the conference was highly participatory, which allowed participants to share experiences of volunteering, develop connections and networks, as well as explore possible next steps to support the further development of volunteering in Europe. The conference was a joint event of the European Commission (EC), the European Parliament (EP), and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

The support for the conference and for volunteering was clearly demonstrated by the keynote speakers. The keynote addresses of the first day were given by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Zoltán Hernyes, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hungary to the Kingdom of Belgium. Claus Sørensen, Director-General for Communication, European Commission, opened the conference and introduced the key note speakers.

The keynote addresses of the second day were given by Seán Kelly MEP, Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Gabriella Civico, Project Manager for the EYV 2011 Alliance.
Ylva Tivéus, Director for Citizens at the EC moderated the closing plenary session and made the closing speech, The keynotes were interwoven with conversations among the participants.

The conversations explored and provided input on the following topics:
• What works well in the volunteering sector?
• What are the conditions that support this?
• What are the challenges or barriers?
• What are the areas that need to be developed or improved to create
even better conditions for volunteering in the future?

(This had a follow-up in a conference in Greece, in autumn)

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