The Art of Harvesting

in the Art of Hosting world we put a lot of emphasis on the Art of Harvesting.  Locally, Amanda Fenton has been paying attention to this practice a lot and is harvesting tons about hosting and harvesting on her blog, which is worth a regular read.
We’re in an interesting time in our inquiry around harvesting.  At the Stantenberg learning Village in Slovenia. Monica Nissén hosted a great session on the chaordic design of harvesting processes and a really useful tool will be developed out of that.  But until then, here is some high level summary on where we are with the practice, that I gleaned from an email I sent out to some local folks today.
Basic principles around harvesting from participatory processes include:
  • Participatory processes should also have participatory harvests – what is co-created is co-owned.
  • Meaning making should be shared.
  • Harvests need both artifacts and feedback loops.  Artifacts make learning visible and portable and feedback loops making learning useful beyond events.  Both need strategic conversations so that needs can be met.  these conversations include what media the artifacts need to be in, and how to use our harvests with existing power structures and methods of enacting change in order to maximize impacts.
  • Harvesting can be both intentional and emergent.  Intentional harvests are the fruits we set out to gather – in this case the report that we know we will be writing.  Emergent harvests are the surprises we learn along the way.  As these often require different eyes (focused vision for intentional harvests, “soft eyes” to see what is emerging) I often have people take on these distinct roles.
There is lots of work being done in our global community of practice around harvesting.  You can find some of that work at the global Art of Hosting site, including our most recent thinking on harvesting.  You can also see some of my musings over the years published here.
One of the really interesting things that this harvest inquiry has produced is a process initially developed by Monica Nissén and Mary Alice Arthur called Collective Story Harvest.  I use this tool a lot to learn from community stories that can benefit a collective inquiry.  But more important than its use as a tool, it actually embodies all of these principles above and is a fantastic training ground for learning to become a skilled practitioner of harvesting.
Next March along with some of my Danish colleagues, we are planning an Art of Harvesting retreat  in Copenhagen where we will dive in more fully.  We continue to think deeply about how to strategically use harvesting to accelerate the work that happens within powerful processes.
And if you want to learn more right away, consider joining us for the Art of Hosting retreat on Bowen island next month.