Last year in Slovenia, a group of Art of Hosting practitioners gatherd for a week at a well loved 17th century manor to be together. I suppose you could call it a “conference” but we all called it a “Learning Village.” And it was a learning village. The agenda we set was for a five day Open Space gathering. there was music and local wine drinking and a learning journey on the land, and the teenagers cleaned out an old stone chapel that hadn’t been dusted for 300 years. We talked about our work, did tai chi and aikido, played football and made art. Our kids fell in love and broke up!
It was a village, and there was tons of learning. And no action plans, no next steps, no commitments, no necessary reports. A few months later there was a harvest document lovingly stewarded by a few people. This is all appropriate and good.
And sometimes, there are gatherings where next steps and action plans are important and necessary and are the reason why we are gathering. But always? No.
I have begun to notice that when I see conference agendas with “next steps and action plans” attached to them (and especially attached to the end of the last day when everyone is tired and most people have left), I become sad. Actually and emotionally a little sad. i think it is because doing this unconsciously reduces the pure experience of being together and intenstly learning into something “productive” in order to justify doing it.
So please, think really carefully about whether or not you gathering needs action steps, especially if you are planning a conference where the purpose is for people to simply be together learning and connecting. That alone is significant action. Do we really need to justify it any further?