Freshly back from a 2.5 day seminar on the Art of Hosting (AoH), hosted by Women for Sustainable Growth (WSG) at Lund University, Sweden, I can’t help but feel inspired, as I should do after such an event. For once I have left a training seminar with practical tools added to my bulging tool belt to help me in my professional career. Strange right? I mean, I’m not sure about you, but my expectations of a conference are usually high, I expect to take away new skills and knowledge. But, I usually leave conferences with similar sounding/alluring titles as this one, with a sense of disappointment: we’ve heard it all before (the world is screwed); we have no answers to offer you, just that we have worked out that there are lots of problems…
Importantly for me, that sense of disappointment often stems towards the food, the venue, and perhaps even those present, most of all to the conference facilitation style.
Well, what if it doesn’t have to be that way? I can happily report back that there is light at the end of the dismal conferences tunnel, or perhaps, there are solar reflector lights installed to help you along the way. The WSG team showed this weekend that seminars can be hosted with care and creativity, but still have substance and purpose and allow participants to leave with concrete skills. In fact, WSG have the participatory learning and leadership practices at the very core of their organisation and their success can be attributed in part to this style.
Taking this one step further, this weekend The Art of Hosting team showed us that having conversations and dialogues that really matter (in your community, your office, your project team, or your local rugby club), can actually happen. You can make people come together with purpose and on one level to get dialogue flowing, ideas rolling, and actions taking place. It seems good food, a nice setting, and the purposeful use and facilitation of cafe style settings becomes just as important as any key note speaker. Using tools like a World Cafe or Open Space Technology and Action Cafe’s can get smart people together, around a table or in a circle, to nut out their ideas and create action to make our communities stronger and more vibrant.
Personally, I learnt tools to help me graphically facilitate a group discussion, how to harvest ideas that have been raised into their essential components, how to host and run a Pro Action cafe to generate a market place of social-entrepreneurial projects, and how to get people together to work through issues that really matter. That was just in a couple of days.
The Art of Hosting teams have been doing this for a long time in their professional careers and work tirelessly within large organisations and businesses along with universities and NGOs to get results with these methodologies. They are tried and tested. And they work. Now it’s just a matter of integrating them into conversations that matter and taking action outside of the conversation bubble – to achieve the results we are after!