Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter: London 2016

picture of doodles on paper from World Cafe session
Credit: Linda Mitchell

This has been a turbulent month for the UK, with a lot of uncertainty. A split has emerged in our country, and there is a lot of disharmony. But there is also a lot of energy and a lot of dialogue emerging. We need to harness this energy and start creating the space for the conversations that matter to happen. Ieva and I have just returned from an amazing three day Art of Hosting ‘training’ in London, and it couldn’t have come along at a more needed time.

What is Art of Hosting?

I use the term training very loosely as this suggests a very formal, top down style of learning. Art of Hosting is anything but this. It is a three day practical journey of experience and experiments. It is the art of hosting conversations that matter. It is about understanding how to harness the collective wisdom and self-organising abilities of groups of people. It’s about so many different things… it’s something that needs to be experienced.

The Art of Hosting London was quite a large group, around 65 people in total. Due to demand the a new space had to be found. The venue moved from the original space at St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, to a larger space in the Spirituality Centre.

The Methodology

Over the course of the three days we took part in a number of powerful group facilitation practices such as Wold Café, Open Space Technology and Chaordic Café, as well as exploring the power of circles and talking pieces to develop listening and storytelling environments.

photo of an Open Space Technology session at Art of Hosting
Credit: Linda Mitchell

All the workshops and methodologies explored over the three days are participatory, in the sense that they are not passively taught. Participants volunteer to be part of a session and then, guided by more experienced practitioners, host the session themselves with other participants, to other participants.

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to be part of the Open Space Technology team. This is a technique I had read a lot about, but I don’t think it is until you are actually part of one yourself that the true power of the method as a way of hosting large group discussions comes through. Ieva was part of the World Café team, of which I was a participant, and I know she felt a similar sense of awe being part of that.

photo of a World Cafe session at Art of Hosting
Credit: Linda Mitchell

Group Dynamics

It was amazing to see the development of the group dynamic over the course of the three days. On day one we arrived as 65 strangers. By day 3 bonds had been forged and there was a sense of of a collective understanding and energy.

The three days were not without conflict. Getting 60 plus people together from different places , ages and backgrounds is inevitably going to bring up differences in opinion. But the way the group for the most part was able to overcome these differences through really listening to each other was a real take away idea.

people taking part in an Open space at Art of Hosting
Credit: Linda Mitchell

Future Conversations

In the UK we’ve seen what happens when people are continually ignored and left behind by others. There is a similar sense of disenfranchisement in America and the very real possibility of Donald Trump becoming President of the Free World. There is a big change happening in the world and we need to be able to come together and create dialogue between one another.

Now more than ever, the ability to host ourselves and host one another in constructive dialogues needs to be at the forefront of everything. From these three days at Art of Hosting I got a glimpse of what could be possible if we all work together and use our collective wisdom to make the changes we want to see in the world happen.

For more about using visuals to host conversations and harvest key concepts head over to