Art of Hosting workshops also explore worldviews and theory about complexity and living systems, and we also use a number of different design tools for organizing strategic initiatives, whether it is hosting a single conversation or planning a longer term project, all of which are based on keeping participation at the centre of the work.
So it’s not really a facilitation workshop. I tell people that pretty clearly. What I do say is that our goal is to have people leave an Art of Hosting workshop as a practitioner, meaning that they go back to their daily lives with a focus to develop some aspect of their leadership: it could be facilitation or participating in dialogue or just good personal practice. Some of those people catch fire as facilitators, and start or continue on a path of developing their own practice.
I have never seen a facilitation workshop that makes you a skillful facilitator. Facilitation is an art that can only be learned by doing it. There is no way anyone can directly transmit quality skills in a workshop. Instead, what many experience is an offering that helps them ground their practice in good theory and personal practice. And that CAN help people in their facilitation practice. It’s not the workshops that make you a better facilitator, but the experience of pausing to reflect, learn and integrate your practice and maybe learn one or two new things.
This is why we don’t certify people. You can’t certify people after taking a single workshop. A real learner will probably do a poor job the first time they facilitate a meeting, regardless of the training they have had, because they start raw and get better. You don’t paint a Mona Lisa the first time you try. It is impossible to say how well-equipped anyone is leaving any facilitation workshop. That all depends on the person, the workshop and the context of their next gig. They might subsequently do a great job in a non-profit Boardroom meeting, be lost in a community setting and then nail a corporate World Cafe. How much of that is down to a “training?” I would never dare promise that anyone will be “well-equipped” and I wouldn’t trust anyone who said they could equip a person to facilitate well in any context after a single workshop.
As for the methods, we introduce them through experience rather than talking about them much. Usually most Art of Hosting workshops I have done have included a full half day Open Space, a full two hour World Cafe and small group Circle practice of at least an hour. We also usually do a half day Pro-Action Cafe as well.
Each of these methods has it’s integrity, but in the Art of Hosting, we are exploring the “river beneath the river.” In other words, what are the leadership stances that these methods imply or rely on? These are really interesting questions because for me, the effectiveness of these methods points to bigger implications for how we lead and organize in the world. Being curious about that is where Art of Hosting came from.
These methods are actually easy to learn. Read the user’s guides and do and do it. The best way to become a skilled facilitator is to go out and host conversations. The best way to learn Open Space is to run one. Most of us who have been facilitating OST for a long time for example learned because we were curious and we were hosted well in an OST meeting. And so in the Art of Hosting, we try to give people a quality experience of each method so that, if they are there to learn the method, they get a participant’s eye view of the process and they can then go and learn more.