Depending on who you ask, the Art of Hosting as a community of practice has been around since about 1999. Since that time, it has evolved and morphed and changed and developed. It does so based on the inquiries that come from practice and that are captured in the workshops that are delivered by various people all over the world. It is a community and a movement of learning that I have never quite seen the likes of, although I am sure that there are others. It focuses on dialogue, participatory leadership and making tools for these things accessible to everyone, while at the same time disrupting the field of facilitation with strange terms and language and ideas that are drawn from everything from organizational development, to sociology, psychology, anthropology, complexity theory and a variety of spiritual paths and experiences.
It’s is really hard to pin down, so I appreciate the efforts of the researchers out there who have been trying to understand the shape of this morphing mycellium of a community.
Elizabeth Hunt (@elizpercolab) is one of these researchers. Grounded in Frierian pedagogy, she has just submitted her Master’s thesis in which she explores the Art of Hosting pedagogy. Her research was based in interviews, reading and through being a practitioner with percolab in Montreal, one of my favourite groups of professional colleagues in my network. (Full disclosure: I really love these guys!). In her thesis she identifies four assumptions that underlie the bigger invitation that the Art of Hosting embodies:
- We are living a crisis of immense complexity;
- Finding appropriate solutions requires us to shift our thinking;
- Dialogue enables us to access collective intelligence;
- We can identify and learn from recurring patterns in our work
The more I look at these assumptions, the more I recognize them in my work. I can reflect on how each of these live in me and my work. The crisis I feel drives the urgency of my work, but it’s probably a different version of the crisis than it is for you. The shifts in thinking for me reflect my own shifts in thinking. I try to embody the changes in mindset that I speak up for without becoming an evangelist and a fundamentalist. that’s a hard line to tread when I believe so strongly that complexity thinking and conscious action are critical for survival in this world at any scale.
I also have often said that “I might be wrong, but I’m basically staking my life on the idea that dialogue is the social technology we need to all become good at.” At this point in my life, I’m pretty far down that road, and I’m not sure I’m going to be doing much else in the next half of my life. So that’s my bet. You go ahead let my epitaph be a pithy assessment of how well that worked.
And finally on the fourth assumption, I think the dynamic nature of this is what keeps this community of practice so rich for me. It is always changing and the patterns of dialogue are shifted by context, technology, thinking and the new challenges. Showing up at Occupy Wall Street is as illuminating for me as watching a Trump rally, helping organize participation in the supporter’s section of my beloved Vancouver Whitecaps FC, or sitting in the Snug Cafe here on Bowen Island, kicking around ideas with my neighbours. It is endlessly fascinating to see how participation, dialogue and leadership intersect. The richer my experience observing and experimenting in a variety of contexts, the more I learn. And that’s what makes this a worthy pursuit for the rest of my life.
So a huge thanks to Elizabeth for this research and being a high level observer of our community. And good luck with the thesis!