The Art of Hosting

 Yesterday we 'sacrificed' the warmest day of springtime, this far, to meet other Belgian-.. AOH-practitionars at the rather 'chilly' Brussels Hub. But any of the 17 (?) people showed some doubt on their choice: we all had good reasons and good mood to be there, and most were familiar with the value of that one 'law': "Whoever comes is the right people".


To participate and being hosted in this special way of the Art of Hosting is for me always a time of 'association'.

There is always a rich amount of ideas and learning-points, that my rational mind in fact mostly is able to  follow and categorise and compare to earlier experiences, theories and insights or add to my detailed as well as to my holistic rational view on self and the world: but mostly the amount of new, interesting viewpoints is so big that it is quasi impossible to have a 'reasonable' conversation: jumping from one viewpoint to the other and resisting to the longing to add my owns personal views to it.  That' s why for me a 'dialogue' with more than 2 person persons is in fact always somehow frustrating.
 (In fact the Greek word Dialogos = logic reasoning with 2 persons..!)


I've always wondered why arguing people were so unreasonable, and probably others have wondered many times in the same way about me.

So many unreasonable factors, personal agendas and systemic differences will interfere in a reasonable co-examination of a topic, that I more or less gave up to find that in a group-dialogue.  Apparently other people have different experience with 'group-reasoning'. Maybe they have lived and worked in surroundings that were limited by frames that made it possible to be 'reasonable' and productive on some -separated- part and exclude more or less the unreasonable to the door or windows of that frame, or to the depth of their stomach.


So what solution did I find to handle f.e. a world-café-dialogue?  First of all: sit back. Secondly: listen and help  the other to express and yourself to understand. Then: associate. Next: see what's in the middle .. And how my association might contribute.   This last step is mostly a trial and error from my side.

I wonder if I often don't miss the personal connection, when I 'put something on the table'. Or I should say that different: mostly I sense a strong connection, but it's inside, passes by what's in the middle, and is mostly much wider than the little circle (or square) I'm in. When its about the people around the table, the feeling of straight connection appears only rarely; but when it happens it's always clear and has to do or with co-created 'insights' and activation, or with authentic sharing on another than pure (mindly) reasonable level. "Recognition" is a word that pops up while I'm righting this.


And so I arrive at my overall World-Café experience: rich and feeding Pop-Corn of associations, which I take into my own structuring and 'more wise' handling of live. Food that I can share sometimes a little bit with other people and put into the patterns that they/we try to recognise together. But I must admit that till now the plenum Harvests seldom add something useful on a 'reasonable level'.


Open Space is slightly more easy for me, because basically there is a kind of dialogue between the convener of the session and the participants; and the purpose is mostly more clear. But once the convener invites the different ways of contributing, in his examination and withdraws his own needs and organising-system to give space to the viewpoints and ways of handling of the participants, the same  buzzy, multi-layered, chaordic multi-logue start which oblige the 'head to surrender' .


For me trying to find a reasonable common ground in an unreasonable gathering is harder than to surrender to the unreasonable and find some common ground, systemic connection and purpose in it to build on and serve with some reasonable action.  And sometimes it is opposite.


So , I thought to tell something about my personal harvest of this day, what it did to me, something about my personal experiment with 'being invited, or not' -on which I learned a lot-, or something about the intruding constellation..

but instead I wrote about my Art of Hosting- experience as a participant.

I wrote this with my eyes shut. As a first reviewing.

See you!




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Replies to This Conversation

Great, Rik! Thank you for bringing this personal perspective on what I see as the tension between the individual and the collective. I am really intrigued, though, to hear more about your 'personal experiment with 'being invited, or not''... Won't you say more? It's not as if we're only allowed to make one contribution to the harvest!
Thanks Rik, as I was not there, this harvest with eyes shut is a very precious one. Any harvest that reflects a deeper personal experience is a precious one. Looking forward to hearing the other 16 angles of the event...

Thanks from me too Rik!

First of all... I learned that 'dialogue' means: the meaning flowing through (the conversation)... in that way, you say here that the meaning that was flowing through was not yet grasped by your mind.

(let me try to experiment with how you wrote this - with my eyes closed - as I know I am able then to access some deeper layers in myself, as the same is true for me: from my logical mind I'm not sure what happened in our day; there is not a fixed conclusion - but I know it was worthwhile, and it was a starting and marking point of something)

From my experience in hosting in many different settings, I know that collective harvest from a World Café works best when the conversation - or dialogue - has been around a common issue that has a lot of passion, and sometimes urgency, for the participants involved. That goes back to what is said: if there is no need, then don't do any hosting of conversations. I think our situation - gathering AoH practitioners in the same location - there is not really a great need. There is more an opportunity, possibilities, some space for something to emerge.

And this asks for a deeper listening - and a deeper holding - in my opinion. It is through the gatherings, through some more conversations and getting together that 'what is in the middle' will show itself - more and more over time. Related with my point above I think that the importance of this day can be seen on an energetic level. We came together, more relations came into being, the Belgian network got some more flesh to the bones... and I hope that people will find it easier to self-organise in whatever way they see fit...

The other point is that this kind of harvest of a World Café could be done in a better - or more focused - way. Actually Jean-Christophe and myself were talking about this point afterwards. What would have made it better? JC missed a little bit the energy that was present at the individual tables... I'm used these days to end most World Café rounds with asking the participants to write down their two or three main points of the conversation. This helps to converge what was said, and then makes the harvest afterwards somewhat focused.

I hope you still do your other harvest-reflections that you had in mind too... 

It is my intention to do that too...

Hi Ria,

This 'energetic' weaving I can witness about, and indeed sometimes thàt harvest  happens long after the end of a gathering..! So I tell you this recent story:

Two hours ago a car entered on my yard. The driver hesitated when I came out of my garden to 'check who entered my domain, feeling that it was about 'looking for some nice place to buy'. He drove a few meters backwards, but something made him stop and step out of the car. We knew each other very clearly. But we needed several minutes to find out where from! He was an entrepreneur that participated in the Open Space - Transition-Leerdag we organised in october 2010. Didn't know exactly why he had stopped at my place, but it had to do with is longing and plan to return and re-create 'home' in the rural region he had lived before making carrière. home.. 

Right moment, right time!

With a local bio-beer in the hand, we told our live-stories. And we shared our dreams: co-housing, integral quarter building, Kempen, nature, transition.. 
It was not only about dreams: it was a strong invitation to each other for action, and co-creation...

Wordt vervolgd...
And that's where I recognised one headliner from the meeting on saturday: if you want realy 'host transitional dialogue and action', coöperate with, and recreate: PLACES !!

Lovely story, Rik! Whatever else happens, you're opening up to the miracles of co-creation with the Kosmos!

I was moved by the way Mother Earth moved into our midst in so many ways. The call from Place to be present in our conversations again and again. At my café table, we had the best tablecloth EVER - it was full, it was beautiful, everybody participated.

Thinking back on the harvest of the world café, I was reminded of some of the points that came up in the harvesting calls some of us have been having recently - about power dynamics of harvesting. As soon as someone is standing up at a flipchart or mindmap 'facilitating' the harvest, the dynamics change - the power tips towards the lone harvester and his/her choices of what to capture.

Much interesting food for thought.


As soon as someone is standing up at a flipchart or mindmap 'facilitating' the harvest, the dynamics change - the power tips towards the lone harvester and his/her choices of what to capture.

That  is right. And sometimes there is a polite trying to give 'democratic' picture of  the different view- and learningpoints of the participants, where in even the authentic captures of the speaker disappears.

Good  to sometimes first harvest personaly and than bring together.

Yes, Rik - and the 'weak signals' get lost int the search for consensus. There is still so much we have to learn about harvesting!


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