Tag Archive: Art of Hosting


Organising as hosting


My first posts on the Art of Hosting training last week shared some of my harvest from Peter Senge, Margaret Wheatley and the amazing hosting team for the training. Thinking about my learning from the event I realise that as well as the great content, so much of what I learnt was around how to call and host an event, and to collaborate in practice to bring the training into being as a shared outcome from the Masters in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability, KaosPilots and Team Academy.

It’s often easy for me to overlook the arts that go into organising, and instead focus on the inspiring external presenters, skilled facilitators and the excitement of who is participating and what happens once the event’s started. But what if organising wasn’t boring logistics management, and instead an important service as part of the hosting arts, done in dynamic teams and full of valuable learning and service?

Toke Moller gave me a valuable reminder on the importance of organising as a hosting art, and asked Benjamin and Liher (my great co-organisers from KaosPilots and Team Academy) and I to share our learnings from organising the training over the last two months more widely. So here’s a first go at extracting some of my personal learning from organising. There are lots of great models out there to support event organising, such as the 5 Breaths, Chaordic Stepping Stones, and useful project and event management tools. The Art of Hosting list serve is another good resource for learning from organising hosts around the world.

CALLING an event

Start with a powerful urge

When Karen Miller held a short Art of Hosting (AoH) workshop with MSLS students last November, I was immediately on fire at the potential I felt a longer AoH training held for MSLS students. As change agents for sustainability, we need to be able to effectively engage groups of people. Personally, I wanted to grow my own hosting skills, and the content of AoH put me back in connection with a lot of the valuable group process work I’d done through Heart Politics gatherings, a four-day Dialogue on Genetic Engineering (pdf), and the Stewardship Learning Community in New Zealand.

At the end of the session I told my classmates that I’d look into possibilities for us to attend an AoH in training. The more the idea sat with me, the more my energy grew around the possibility of not just showing up to an event, but making one happen for ourselves.

Jump on opportunities

With great serendipity, through my friend Jasmine Cargill I met Toke Paludan Møller, one of the founders of AoH, at the Inner Climate Learning Village in Copenhagen at the time of the climate change negotiations. I mentioned the idea of an Art of Hosting training for young change agents to him, which sparked his interest, and we said we’d be in touch.

Share the excitement with a few change agents who can build the idea and run with it

The next night I met the wild fire connector Benjamin Degenhart from KaosPilots at a Survival Academy event, and mentioned the idea of an AoH training for young people to him. In his great style of running with ideas he has energy for, the next day at the Survival Academy Open Space session he brought students and AoH hosts together around the idea, and stood at the end of the day to commit to making a training happen. Suddenly, the idea was a possibility held by not just me and keen MSLS’ers, but by a connected KaosPiloter and one of the founders and Stewards of the Art of Hosting.

Share the dream and create a wider team

A few days later Liher Pillado, Rogerio Gonzalez and Henna Kaariainen from Team Academy with great foresight and trust came to visit MSLS in Karlskrona to introduce us to Team Academy and discuss over two evening workshops how our two programs might be able to collaborate. Benjamin jumped on the opportunity of adding KaosPilots to the discussion by travelling from Copenhagen for the 2 days, and quickly we began to appreciate the different strengths of our radical education programs, variously focusing on social innovation, sustainability and entrepreneurship, and on the potential for us to compliment each other by collaborating together.

At the end of our second workshop we had a project ‘birthing’ session (a great Team Academy process) on how we could collaborate together, and about ten people self-selected to work together as representatives of the three programs. We decided that an Art of Hosting training would be our first tangible project in order to get the collaboration ball rolling. Soon after a  Sustainable Kaos Academy (SKA) Google Group was set up as a collaboration platform between the programs.

ORGANISING an event

Form a tight hub to hold together

Over the holidays Benjamin, Liher and I started overloading the SKA Google Group with long posts of early stage organising. With a first Skype call with Toke coming up in early January, we decided to take the initiative and form a tighter organising hub to really run with the project. While we kept up the communication with Sustainable Kaos Academy (SKA) reps, working with a tight-knit team was really critical to our ability to create a major gathering in such a short time period, allowing us fast turn around on decisions and a high level of accountability to each other.

My learning from working with Benjamin and Liher on a daily basis over a month and half period was incredible. I have huge respect and heart for ‘my boys’ and would go anywhere with them on future projects – just send me the call guys : ).

Create a vision document

Liher created a ‘Pre-Motorola’ document for us, a pre project plan in Team Academy language, which set out how the project was established and what we were seeking to achieve. Looking back, going through this process together would have been really helpful for us as an organising team to set out our purpose, bottom lines and goal posts very clearly.

Set up an organising infrastructure and use it

Given we were working to organise an event from our bases in Sweden, Denmark and Spain, our online infrastructure was critical. We found a Google Group to be pretty clunky for SKA, so set up a Wiki for AoH Karlskrona organising, which proved to be very easy to use and great value. For participant lists we found Google Spreadsheets really helpful, embedded into appropriate pages on our Wiki.

Benjamin, Liher and I met twice a week by Skype at the same time, and wrote up minutes from our meetings directly on the Wiki, making an effort to record decisions and actions more clearly as we went along. Skype chat was also a useful way to harvest outcomes from group discussions in real time. For documents we needed to draft together we tried out GoogleWave a few times and found it much easier than resending emails to each other with lots of changes.

Pay attention to the practicalities

With so much content in such a short space of time, email chains got pretty silly quickly, and so we made an effort (most of the time, eh Benjamin ; ) to create separate emails with specific subject lines, and to bold the ‘ask’ or required actions from an email. All simple stuff, but makes a huge difference in practice with a full inbox. As much as we could, we tried to save more complex discussions for our meetings and record key actions on the Wiki for permanent archiving and to avoid email searches and confusion (thank god for the search function in gmail which also got used a lot!)

With payments coming from different countries and invoices needing to be created, it was really important to have someone with experience to manage the finances and keep track of payments – huge thanks to Liher, Henna and others from Monkey Business, and their contracted book keeper, which we set aside budget for.  We calculated a break even point in terms of participants and based the hosts’ payment on this, with an agreement to allocate any profit from additional participants above this number, including the possibility of creating a seed fund for future collaboration events.

Meet regularly

With busy lives as full-time students going through exams and project deadlines, there were a few times when I was tempted to drop one of our twice weekly Skype meetings. I was really glad we kept with them, as there was always decisions to process, and they helped keep up our connection and momentum. In future for meetings of more than three people I think I’d invest in an online conference call platform, as the quality of our call with ten people on a Skype line for meetings of the hosting team was very variable and sanity-testing! Apparently http://www.freeconferencecall.com is a good platform which we’ll use for our last meeting with the hosting team.

Value the relationships

More and more I see that the quality of connection and working together determines the outcomes from team projects. Having a personal check in and check out at the beginning and end of each call was really valuable for getting to know each other and deepening our relationships, as well as processing challenges as they came up. Learning about our organising was also a regular agenda item for our meetings, which we harvested in our minutes and on Google Wave.

Make a great invitation and build the excitement

We spent quite a bit of time drafting and redrafting the invitation for AoH Karlskrona, which Ronny from MSLS then turned into a funky graphic invitation which we distributed via a website and in personalised emails to our own programs and networks. The website and promotion via Facebook and Twitter were good ways to hype the event, although Benjamin found that presenting face to face with KaosPilot students was important for helping them understand what the event was actually about and what the value was for them in attending.

Subdivide roles

Originally I thought that as a group we’d develop our strengths by taking on different roles than what was usual for us. But in the short time we had we ended up working to our strengths and clearly subdividing our roles, which was a successful strategy for us. Our role breakdown was:

Benjamin: Online platforms, promotion, key contact and coordinator for hosting team, KP funding and collaboration product, invitations, managing RSVPs and payment from KP’s and external participants, oversee workbook production for event.

Liher: Budget, invoicing and financial management, communication with hosting team re payment, invitations, managing RSVPs and payment from TA participants and those paying in cash.

Kati: Overall project oversight, venue, MSLS funding, invitations, managing RSVPs and payment from MSLS, and overseeing a fantastic MSLS team management of invitation production, catering, accommodation for participants, printing workbook, orientation for visitors, harvesting materials, cleaning. 

Get support from a wider team

Without support from a much wider team of incredibly generous MSLS volunteers, Benjamin, Liher and I alone could never have organised the training. I can’t underestimate the value of an on the ground organising team who select and self-manage their area of responsibility, with a number of group meetings and ongoing support from a core team. Financially, the training would have been totally inaccessible for student participants without the generous financial support of the KaosPilot and MSLS Programs, as well as a number of local and international businesses who believed in the project.

Prepare people before the event

It seemed that warming up participants before they arrived by using an online Ning was really successful. This allowed participants to see each other’s faces and learn more about each others’ networks, projects, and motivation in coming to the training. Anna, Sophia and Maureen from MSLS also produced a great detailed Arrival Guide which went to all participants, letting them know about Karlskrona and what to bring so there were less individual questions.

After a few scrambles and some innovation on the first day, I realised how important it is to give organisers the information they need before they have to make something happen, rather than reviewing what didn’t work so well afterwards. By halfway through the first day I found it useful to have conversations with people who were responsible for catering, harvesting materials, cleaning or other areas about what would be needed, what the time frames were, and who they could involve, so they could self-organise to do a great job.

Hand over, let go, and participate!

While a huge amount of work went into organising the Art of Hosting Karlskrona training, it was incredibly satisfying to see people step into the training so fully right from the start. I felt the incredible value of being in an organising role, physically hosting the hosting of an event, and seeing the value others got from the experience, and really feel that the sense of service that organising brings is more needed in the world, particularly the feeling of shared organising for shared outcomes. Because of this, I’m becoming more comfortable in asking people to take on part of an organising role, and letting go of my tendency to try and do things myself: an area of really valuable learning! So once we’d got into the organising swing by the end of the first day and all the roles were covered by small self-organising teams, it was great to step in as a full participant on the second day.

Celebrate, reflect, harvest and share your learning

Gratitude for this incredible learning experience, and for the appreciation and recognition of AoH Karlskrona!

This is my first go at harvesting my learnings on organising as part of a hosting role. If it would be useful, Benjamin, Liher and I would be happy to share our Wiki, budget and other resources with you in the spirit of shared learning, and to be in conversation to support your organising. Feel free to get in touch on kati.aroha @ gmail.com

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The Arts of Hosting


I’m still digesting the incredible Art of Hosting training we held in Karlskrona last week with 90 young leaders from the Masters in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability, KaosPilot, Team Academy, Youth Initiative Program and other youth leadership networks throughout Europe. As well as the upcoming collaboration as the Sustainable Kaos Academy Initiative, the joint platform for our four programs, it was fantastic to see so many connections being made, project ideas formed, and some great skills development amongst the participants in how to host groups in having the conversations that matter most in the world right now.

I learnt a lot from watching our very skilled hosting team in action – Toke Moller, Tenneson Woolf, Rowan Simonsen, Valentine Giraud, Jasmine Cargill, Augusto Cuginotti and Julie Arts (see their profiles here).  Thank you to our wonderful hosts!

Here are some notes on my learning highlights on hosting from the 4 days:

Art of Hosting methodology and tools

Introduction

Tools are containers. They are the way in to the learning space. The learning space will not open through hard work – it will open with art, skillfullness and practice.

Don’t become a disciple of a particular methodology. Instead ask:

  • What is a tool going to serve?
  • What’s the purpose?
  • What’s needed?
  • What does the group need/want?
  • Timing – what’s best now?
  • Choose and blend your use of tools depending on your responses.

Use the tools for something that is needed. There is definitely enough work to do, and these tools will help us reach the learning space, so that energy can be released and used for what is most needed.

Asking great questions is a warrior’s art – do it gently, but it’s still a fierce art. Know your ‘sword’ and don’t be afraid of it by posing the questions that matter.

Overall guidance on Hosting:

  • Be present
  • Have a good question that is connected to the heart of the matter and what you feel from the group
  • Use a talking piece  (a stone, ball or other object) to allow deep listening and meaningful speech.

Hosting Tools:

Circles are the mother of all processes

Proactive Café is a sharp tool for convergence and birthing tangible project outcomes with support from a group

Appreciative Inquiry shifts the emphasis from solving problems to feeding and amplifying what works in a situation/group

World Café builds relationships and helps the intelligence of a group emerge as the system connects to itself in diverse and creative ways

Chaordic Stepping Stones (Need, Purpose, Principles, People, Concept, Limiting Beliefs, Structure, Practice) is a great tool for project management

5 Breaths Model (Callers, Principles, Invite, Event, Practice + Hosting the Whole as a sixth breath) is a great model for integrated project planning and event management.

General reflections from Toke Paludan Møller on process, purpose and action:

Process

  • A person who cannot ask for help cannot be trusted (because they don’t trust others)
  • Relationships are the path to working together. Relationships are the medium tangible results come from. Don’t plan for outcomes, build relationships. Don’t push and control, tend to the growth – inspire, notice, appreciate.

Purpose

  • Helping birth and cooperate with life wanting to be its connected self
  • Do work that makes you tremble
  • Confusion is a blessing – this is a learning space. A leader must be open to being confused – it represents a willingness to let go of fixed and existing ideas
  • The significance of sacred intent – why am I on the planet?
  • Hunt for clarity! By holding clarity at the centre you earn the right to lead.

Action

  • Action will come from heartfelt work. An awakened human being is action.