Facilitating Dialogue: Why Art of Hosting?

Well, quite simply because I love to facilitate (or host*) spaces for dialogue and change.


So what is Art of Hosting and why use it?

Art of Hosting is a movement based around creating space for whatever needs to happen to happen and can be used to facilitate dialogue in communities, in companies, in public sector organisations.  Basically, it’s great and can be used in any context where you want to bring people together to have conversations.  When I say ‘it’, I should explain that actually Art of Hosting isn’t a specific method, it’s more a way of working that is about hosting useful, relevant, participatory, inclusive meetings and events where people get to engage in dialogue and express their views with the aim of leading to sustainable change and action taking place.  Say goodbye to stuffy, boring meetings with agendas in black ink on white paper and people sitting round a big board table..  

Art of hosting techniques are varied and you may have experienced some of them before if you’ve ever been to a participatory or conversation-based event.  For example, Open Space Technology is one method that I had been a participant in at least several times before coming across AoH (mostly at arty, creative, alternative gatherings).  The great thing is that the tools and methods are all open source and they can work well in any context/sector (with consideration and tailoring).

So perhaps you are working with a community where there is a piece of wasteland that people want to make use of.  You could use the World Cafe process to provide space for people to come together to share their ideas around what should happen to the wasteland and how it should be developed with them leaving with action points that they are going to follow up on.

Perhaps you are a company that wants to find out how it help its employees to be happier, so there’s a more positive and motivated vibe in the workplace and less sickness absences.  You could use World Cafe or Appreciative Enquiry to work out how best to do this.

At its core Art of Hosting sits in line with my belief that the individual or group I am working with knows how best to move forward or tackle specific issues, they just need a framework, a process, someone – a facilitator – to hold the process in order to enable them to access this information.  There are similarities, for example, between coaching models and techniques and Art of Hosting processes.  Both hosting and coaching (using the GROW model) advocate that creating and holding the space is enough for magic to happen!  Self-directed learning and development is more empowering and sustainable than any other kind and this is why I choose to work with these models.

Over the past 10 years I’ve been working in different ways to facilitate dialogue and participation and Art of Hosting (I’ll call it AoH for short some of the time) is one tradition into which I have delved deeply of the past 5 years.  Right now I’m using AoH in my facilitation and training delivery, and I’m particularly excited to be exploring how participatory creative practice and AoH and other facilitative traditions can weave together in different ways.  Why so excited? Because as well as facilitating great conversations without art, I am a practising artist and my background is in community arts and my artwork is all about dialogue and conversation (you can see more about this at www.larnacampbell.co.uk).

If you’re new to AoH there are plenty of free resources online if you are interested in getting to grips with what Art of Hosting is all about.  

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Arts of Hosting and what the benefit of working with AoH in the context of your work has been.  Please post comments below.

Speak soon!


*Hosting or Facilitating? So what’s the difference? I’m using the term ‘facilitating’ in this post as it is more widely understood.  The difference as described in today’s intro is that facilitating implies the making easy of a process or action, or something happening, whereas ‘hosting’ just implies creating the space for things to happen.


3 thoughts on “Facilitating Dialogue: Why Art of Hosting?

  1. Just read a good blogpost you might also be interested by Tim Merry called, ‘What is the Art of Hosting? … again!’
    http://www.timmerry.com/blog/what-is-the-art-of-hosting-again It’s a very in depth post, of which I really appreciate the following paraghraph (because it’s something I try and explain often and Tim’s words articulate it perfectly):

    ‘The Art of Hosting is not a company. It is a global community of people on a shared inquiry on how we can build greater participation and therefore wiser decision making and action for the common good. The closest analogy is that it is like open source software. There is no central decision making body, set of rules or regulations that run it. In fact, I think the more people seek the locus of power in the Art of Hosting community, the more confused and frustrated they become! Not that there is not a differentiation among practitioners; there are some who have been doing it longer, or have stronger experience in different types of sector or activity. There are people that consider Art of Hosting a spiritual path, some who consider it a community building tool, others that see it as a way to transform our organisations, others that apply it for large scale systems change. There is no simple way to define it – because so many people define it in so many different ways. For me, that is the beauty of it. It is what you make it and the global community is fed by what we share back from individual or group experiences.’ Tim Merry http://www.timmerry.com/blog/what-is-the-art-of-hosting-again


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