My friend Tenneson Woolf sent along a glimpse of the wholeness that is an Art of Hosting gathering. Tenneson and I work a lot together doing these things, and this is the best version of what happens over four days:
1. Arrival. Coming Present. Feeling Shared Purpose.
The intention of this first time, often in an evening, is to help people arrive. Show up. Begin to see each other. Begin to see more of themselves. To open participants to being in the event context, in the learning space, and in the community for the next period of time. To begin to feel, beyond words, a sense of shared purpose. Some of this is letting go of what participants bring to the room. For many, we carry pretty big to-do lists wherever we go. We are committed to speed and efficiency. The intent in this first period is to find another way into the accomplishment that we want. It has the feel of slowing down, so that we can speed up. It is about moving deeper so that from that depth, we might work faster and in more sustainable ways. It usually involves a welcome by the sponsor. It usually involves overall sharing of context – the process we will be in over the next days. It usually involves a question, “Why did you choose to come here?” I’ve seen it work very well with a circle. I’ve seen it work very well with a world cafÃ©. I’ve seen people at the end of this first evening delighted and surprised by how close they feel to other participants in such a short period of time and by how clear the purpose is.
2. Deepening In. Dreaming. Indentifying Questions.
The intention of this second time, often a full day, is to deepen in. To begin to note the many layers of assumptions, questions, and beliefs that are part of the work we do. It is increasingly rare for any of us, individuals or teams, to take time to imagine what our work could also be. And yet it is increasingly common for us to need better ways to do our work. Many of us are accountable in our doing within very demanding deadlines. Many are without time to pause and look more broadly at the purpose and the practicalities of our work and how we must innovate our working together. Or what new insights we have learned through our experience. Or what conditions have changed in the world that require us to adapt some of our previous plans. I have seen this work very well, again in circle and cafÃ©, and also in appreciative inquiry. I have seen it work well in open space, particularly when the invitation is to stay conceptual rather than tactical. It is a time to ask questions like, “What is going on in the world that makes this work important?” Or, what are the core questions that if given attention would further strengthen our ability to do the work that we know matters and that we care about? Or what are the images of the future that we can see that we want to begin building in the present? I’ve seen people in a mix of places by the end of this day. Some are full – without any plenary speakers, there is a lot of information that has been shared and created. Some are tired – listening in conversation is hard work. Some are elated – they feel the quality of learning, work, and relationships that is beginning to spark new images of possibility. And some are frustrated – to let go of a personal viewpoint amidst a sea of other viewpoints can be a real challenge to individual or shared identity.
3. Listening. Letting Come. Doing the Work.
The intention of this third time, often another full day, is to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It is the kind of work that many crave, and that some arrive ready to do on the first evening. However, doing the work on this third day is very different than if done on the first night. Work on this day comes from a greater sense of community, and thus sustainability. It comes from a greater sense of colleagues who have come to see each other at more rich and more whole levels. Work on this day comes from the process of seeing our own opinions and beliefs change as we have been actively learning with others. It comes from a sense of shared story, of enriched sense of purpose. It comes from a place of shared commitment rather than obligation. I have seen this work very well in open space formats. People name the topics that they most care about. Others self-select into joining them, and they get to work. I have seen teams uniquely united on this day. The response I often here from participants is surprise at how quickly things moved and how detailed and practical they were. Whereas the previous day felt more conceptual, this day is more tactical and leaves people feeling a great sense of tangible outcome.
4. Taking it Out of the Room. Action at Home.
The intention of this last time, often a half or two thirds of a day, is to further solidify what participants take with them to apply in their local settings. For some it is asking a few more questions. For some it is setting a clear intention. For some it is connecting with a few more people. For some it is listening to one more teaching or model. I have seen this work well with knowledge cafes, circles, and action open spaces. It is a time to help people clarify their next first steps, whether in content, process, relationships, or strengthening fields. It is also about taking the surprise, the reawakened memory or strengthened sense of community and applying it. Practicing it. Doing the work in our local places of work and community. It is about a commitment to action, wise action that is simple, clear, and sustainable. And it is a time to close well, often with simple ritual, to seal the learning space that we have had together. I have seen many people share heartfelt expressions of love and appreciation here. It is what happens when we realign with our deepest sense of purpose.