The Art of Hosting

Sept.'11 I received an email from Natasha Dalmia - who I never met or I never heard of before - with 'a basket of flowers that says Thank You'. This is what she wrote:

Dear Ria, Rainer,

Hi, this is my first mail to you ever -  It is a pleasure to write to you both - Greetings from Singapore.

I got your mail ids from Andries, who revisited the roots of Pro Action Cafe with us  as more of our hosts and guests are connecting with this practice and space.

Thanks to all of you, and Andries, who introduced it to us, we embarked on this journey of
Pro Action Cafe in Singapore since 2009, and it has been an amazing one.

Wish to share with you the harvest, something that I got inspired and found courage to do
when I recently attended Art of Hosting in Budapest and Thailand, 2011.

We are much grateful to you both for sharing this practice as humbly appreciated under 'The Pearls from far far away'.

Do feel free to advise us should anything emerge for you when you read the harvest. and also should you visit Singapore anytime. 


Natasha Dalmia
The blogpost is really, really great! It is a full harvest of a group of people, mostly AEISEC (ex-)members, who have been doing monthly Pro Action Cafés for 2 years.
Since Rainer and I started the Pro Action Café in Brussels many years ago, the Brussels one is also still running, more or less every month. After both of us left the regular hosting, three young ladies took over: Katrin Duerkoop, Naomi Takagi and Nora Ganescu.
Looking around on the net, it turns out that Pro Action Café is even on twitter! @ProActionCafe
Some months ago, Jenny Werbelof, living in Melbourne called me on Skype to hear from me how she could go about starting a regular Pro Action Café in Melbourne. She connected later with Katrin in Brussels to share the experiences so far. Now it turns out they have already a website and a great logo! I noticed that both the Brussels and Melbourne café's are happening in the local Hubs!
Some weeks ago I met three people from a town nearby, Leuven, and they want to start another Pro Action Café. Soooo curious how it will unfold! In the meantime there has been one in Gent - TransitieCafé too!
Is there a Pro Action Café in Finland??? Yes! At the Hub in Helsinki. Here is their Facebook page.
If you know of other Pro Action Café's that meet regularly, please make a comment below, and include a link if you have one.
There is another conversation thread on Pro Action Café here.

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Adding to this thread from a conversation on Facebook:

Hello fellow ProAction Cafe hosts - I am working with a group who is exploring the idea of having a regular salon/ProAction Cafe evening in their community. Having been in Europe recently I was re-inspired by the contribution this is to supporting action inside a community; to have an ongoing place, date and time where the community can come to move their ideas to wiser action.

My question to those of you who have been involved in hosting regular ProAction Cafe evenings: Looking back to your first few months, what did you learn about how to create momentum and traction? What advice do you have for someone who want to start a regular ProAction Cafe evening in their community? (Bonus: these folks already have a great physical space they will host out of.)

Ria Baeck Katrin is also involved since many, many years in Brussels. What did we learn? I guess it was about inviting and inviting and inviting... Rainer was great at doing that. The physical space is quite important! and of course: good hosting! all kind of folks like that. We invited in the beginning all kind of questions - also sometimes very personal ones. and remind people, again and again, not to give solutions but to 'coach' people to find their own answers, somewhere within. 
Natasha Dalmia is another person who held a Pro Action Café for years and years. She might also contribute here.
Waltraud and Holger Heller might also contribute from their experience in Vienna?

  • Marjeta Novak We have amazing experience in Ljubljana, Slovenia (started this spring as part of a broader aim to build the AoH community, as well as reach out to others who might benefit from meaningful and enjoyable participatory experiences). We're linked with the national Association of Facilitators, and with the City Museum (venue host). A good invitation, dedicated core team (growing and expanding fast!), and - Facebook contribute to 30-40 people gathering each month (well, and the crisis that is still going strong in our country, and people looking for new ideas/models, as well as inspiration and hope). In February, we'll offer a training to host PAC ("Slovenian style" - including all that we've learned in the process) , hopefully spreading the wave to other towns ...
  • Rainer V. Leoprechting I can only confirm what all have written. What helped in Brussels was that there was already a community of change agents eager to move on while their environments were slow or stuck. (A bit like Marjetadescribes the Slovenian situation.) The combination of talent in the hosting team is crucial. There need to be the community hubs, the charismatic attractors and the silent space holders all in the team.  Don' underestimate the team dynamics. 
    We are just expanding the team for the Grazer Salon that is still in an early stage: the community has found a hard core, yet is still finding its path to expansion. 
    The venue is key! It hosts for 50% of the success. Some self-organising DNA in the venue's organisation and a bit of cosy style is a promising mix. 
    The one who has pushed the frontiers the furthest are Peter and Ursula. They took the Brussels model to Bregenz and created the Bregenzer Salon, they have offered trainings in Salon hosting and helped to start Salons in Innsbruck, Meran and Köln!
  • Rainer V. Leoprechting The Wiener Salon für Wandel took a while to take off from a AoH follow-up group to become a self-standing institution for people to meet for an inspiring evening. One needed to hold the tension between the wish to 'practice' AoH and to 'be in a good conversation' around change and transformation. Patience and team building for a diverse hosting team were the two good practices I saw making it flourish!
  • Ursula Hillbrand Dear all, looking at Amanda's question I can see two variations here: Pro action Café for a group of community, to learn from each other, as we do regularly at the European Commission in now several communities of practice. This is a fantastic tool for creating community bonding, and knowledge sharing alike. The check-out usually reflects "Now I know I am not alone, I have peers, there is so much knowledge and wisdom in the group..". The outcomes when harvested out, can become a treasure and tools box for others, who were not there, or for any community member new or old, to dive into the practical knowledge and wisdom of a community. The other variation, the Salonvariation of the Pro action Cafe, as we use it, also creates bonding and community, however of people who often did not know each other, or just superficially, although it happens that people come with partners, friends and family siblings, which creates a nice element. Here the common practice would be transformation, learning, and making the world/or the region/ their work place a better place, or they want to improve themselves. Very often we see a pattern through the different topics posted on one evening, a read thread, and often that larger theme repeats over a year or so. It would be interesting to start to harvest this on a meta level, we are just giving thought to this now and make it available.
  • Annamária Erdei Thank your for your question, beautiful Amanda. You got already many answers - and also, I was not there when the Pro-Action café Brussels was set up: the merit goes to Ria and Rainer. I could contribute on what it takes for me a good hosting and a good event - not only when starting a Pro-Action café but anytime. Your question triggers many thoughts in me, let me listen to my internal voices around it and let me get back to you when I found the one that wants to be shared with you  Sending you love and holding you in your efforts. Thank you for being.
  • Melinda Varfi Hello Amanda! One thing that comes to my mind as someone who experienced a few Pro-Action Salons is the continuation of a good harvest. People like to feel that they are not alone, but they also would like to follow up on different projects/ideas even at a later stage when they cannot be present. For this reason the harvest is key to keep the connections alive and to see how some of the buds become a flower 
  • Ursula Hillbrand Yes, Melinda is right! We have more and more questions from participants to know what has become of the projects in Salons. Sometimes people come back and report on the success, and what we also have started, and should continue more, actually, is a Collective Story Harvest, so we can see together what has become of the tangible and intagible harvest, rather than just do the preparation phase. In that way the two formats really complement each other. One for setting up an activity with peer learning, and one for celebrating the successes with peer learning!

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