Over the years the Art of Hosting community of practice has developed some methods for large group process facilitation that have become standards alongside the methods we have imported into our work, such as Circle Way, Open Space Technology and World Cafe.
One of these, Pro Action Cafe, is one of my go to methods for hosting small and rapid fire project development. Ria Baeck, one of the co-developers of this method along with Rainer von Leoprechting shared the Pro Action Cafe origin story on the Art of Hosting list, and so here are her words and observations, for posterity:
Quite some years back – Rainer will know the date – I was hosting my ever first World Café in Brussels; in a back room of a real café. One of the participants was Rainer. He had been hosting what he called Pro Action groups of change agents in the Eur.institutions. It is was structured as groups of 10-12 people who came together one evening per month. As there were more people asking to join, he felt the pressure on his evening time. Being in this World Café, he realised that there was a key in scaling the number of people, being present at the same time.
So, we joined our forces to find a way of how the purpose of his Pro Action Groups could be blended with the key features of the World Café. We actually had a meeting in Mechelen, a Flemish city, and walked around… I remember it as a collective sensing of how we could blend the piece of Open Space – where people bring there own topics and questions – with the element of World Café, where people mix and are talking about the same question in each round. That’s how we came up with the 3 rounds and its 3 questions.
We then started in Brussels with regular Pro Action Cafés, with some food and drinks right after office time, and then diving into the Pro Action Café. All kind of questions came forward, from very, very personal to very professional and more. This open Pro Action Café is still going on in Brussels, although there have been different hosting teams holding it over the years.
Some people come and join to just see what Participatory Leadership is about – as Art of Hosting is called within the Eur. Institutions. I guess that it started to travel the world through one of the hosts, working with Toke and Monica in the Eur.context. Ursula or Helen probably know more here.Amazing to see it travel to so many places and situations. Something I could have never imagined up front. Lesson here is: don’t hold back when you feel passioned to do something, you never know where it will have some impact.