What is Participatory Leadership and Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter?
The Art of Hosting is also known as Participatory Leadership (AoH and PL) which is a highly effective way of harnessing the collective wisdomand self-organizing capacity of groups of any size. Based on the assumption that people give their energy and lend their resources to what matters most to them – in work as in life – the AoH and PL blends a suite of powerful conversational processes to invite people to step in and take charge of the challenges facing them.
Groups and organizations using the AoH and PL as a working practice report better decision-making, more efficient and effective capacity building and greater ability to quickly respond to opportunity, challenge and change. People who experience the AoH and PL typically say that they walk away feeling more empowered and able to help guide the meetings and conversations they are part of move towards more effective and desirable outcomes.
Using all the ingredients of good conversation
So why is conversation so powerful? Conversation, more than any other form of human interaction, is the place where we learn, exchange ideas, offer resources and create innovation. Not every conversation works like this, though.
Many people experience meetings that waste time, conversations that feel more like debates, and invitations to input which turn out to be something altogether different. People want to contribute, but they can’t see how. Leaders want contribution, but they don’t know how to get it.
The AoH and PL a blend of some of the most powerful methods to create open and meaningful conversation that leads to commitment and good results. Working with a range of collaborative methods – like Circle, World Café, Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology, ProAction Café, storytelling and more – practitioners can tailor the approach to their context and purpose.
An art that takes practice and care
But this is more than a suite of methods – it is also a practice. We call it The AoH and PL, because it is an art to become skillful at helping ourselves and others work well together, especially in these times of increasing complexity. We talk about hosting, because what is offered here is not a typical facilitation or moderated session. It gives attention and care to all aspects of people’s work together, intending to host them in being successful, just as any person welcoming guests will make sure they have everything they need to make their visit fruitful.
The Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter takes into account the whole process – all the preparations before the participants come together, what happens while they are working together, and how the results of their conversation – the ‘harvest’ – support next steps that are coherent for their purpose and context.
The Art of Harvesting conversations that matter
Anyone who plants a garden is planning for results. Whether the result is a fruit or a flower, a gardener is planning for a harvest. In the same way, anyone who plans to host a meeting also wants to get a good result from their efforts. In this case, the harvest might be in the form of a project plan, or an agreement to action or a better relationship.
In the AoH and PL community, we plan our conversation design around the harvest we want to produce. The results we are seeking help to determine what methods we use and how.
We are continuing to grow our harvesting capacity and experiment with different forms of harvesting – digital images,
photographic, musical, social media, multi-media, narrative – you name it! We think good harvesting is one of the most potent ways to assure that the agreements and decisions arising out of conversations that matter lead to action.
No formal organizational structure
The AoH and PL network is rapidly spreading and growing all over the world, as organizations, communities, and people from every walk of life take part in this new way of working that blends the best of what we all know about the power of conversation. We are rediscovering it, together.
The AoH and PL network has no formal, legal structure, no appointed leader, no accreditation program and no controlling body. It is based on a practitioner network, with local communities of practice; it is committed to learning and generous with its sharing and support.
Your first step to becoming a practitioner is to follow a 3-day Art of Hosting training, organized somewhere near you in the world – or maybe far away? An international group of stewards holds the deeper practice pattern and assures the quality of the trainings and the integrity of the global network.