One AoH Training Does Not a Practitioner Make

From the last few Art of Hosting trainings I have co-hosted there are two things that I am increasingly aware of: what it means to be a practitioner of the Art of Hosting and the value and contribution of stewarding to the field and the learning and growth of all.

People come to Art of Hosting trainings hungry for any number of things: to learn more about the methodologies and practices, to connect into a sense of community, to find refuge from the craziness of the worlds they live and work in, to deepen their own self leadership, to find new ways to be in the world, to discover mates they can work and play with in the world, because they have been part of a process somewhere that has drawn from Art of Hosting and they want to learn more and many more reasons I’m sure.  And they go away refreshed, curious, hungry for more and a bit hesitant around how they can bring this back to their life and work.

Two things I am aware of: to really be a practitioner of an Art requires practice and one Art of Hosting training does not a practitioner make.

The Art of Hosting field is incredibly rich and diverse and linked to so many other fields: World Cafe, Circle Practice, Open Space Technology, the Chaordic Field, Theory U, Appreciative Inquiry and more.  When we call a three for four day training, the breadth and scope of the days is shaped by the intended purpose and the people who show up – responsive to the collective need of the group, no matter whether it is a public or client offering.  There is no such thing as a set agenda.  It is a fluid process that the host team and the participants all contribute to.  It also means that the host team is having to pick and choose among the vast array of possible offerings that could flow into the training.  It is not possible to do them all.

All of these things – the hosting team, the purpose, the participants, the choices made within a training ground – contribute to the look, feel and shape of each training, while some underlying things always remain – paying attention to the field, holding space for co-creation and emergence, recognizing the interplay between the dynamics in the field and the learning needs of the group, between self hosting and collective hosting.  No two offerings are ever exactly the same, even if the same hosting team is in place – because the hosting team is also in its own learning individually and collectively and because of the responsiveness to each new training ground.

One Art of Hosting training offers a slice of the Art of Hosting field, even if it is a large slice.  Another Art of Hosting training will show different nuances, different strengths, different emphases and be just as relevant and meaningful as a reflection of the field.  If we leave an AoH training believing this is the way it is – and the only way – we will have missed something fundamentally important – that a key underlying principle is responsiveness to need, co-creation which influences the flow of any training or practice ground, paying attention to what’s in the space and what’s wanting to happen.

It really does take a number of trainings to have a more fulsome understanding and experience of AoH and what’s possible and really understand how AoH contributes to the shifting shape of the world.  We become practitioners when we practice and learn from what we practice.  The next post will explore some ways that practice shows up and how to ask for and offer support in the practice and a future post will look at the questions and observations that have been occurring to me about the role and importance of stewarding.

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24 thoughts on “One AoH Training Does Not a Practitioner Make

  1. Beautiful reflections, Kathy.

    I appreciate your saying that it takes more than one training to become fully aware of the full circle of the “field”, rather than imagine it is just the one or two slices of that whole you may have seen. Perhaps even more importantly, I appreciate your point that it’s not about taking trainings, no matter how wonderful they are …

    Rather, it is in applying what we have learned that we gain the *experience* that makes us good hosts. We need to have those chances to step into the field ourselves, even if we “fail”, so that we begin to hone our capacity to move with and respond to the energy of what appears in any given moment… this is of course the learning that goes beyond any methodology, and makes all of them work.

  2. This is so beautifully said, Kathy. We just hosted today a whole day preparation gathering for a region in Austria, a very seasoned field. The check-out of these practitioners to be and some apprentice hosts included: “Thank you for making us sense that we are part of a larger whole” (meaning being part of the larger AoH field), “More unclarity has been created”, and a collection of small obervations from having been held in an intentional way throughout the day that enabled to grasp the wholeness of Art of Hosting.

    The “shifting” quality of AoH came out when formulating the purpose and invitation as the essence of a day’s work. And it didn’t come out through any teaching, it came out as a learning of the group. How beautiful. The more we practice, the more we learn to do less and to consciously support the flow of what wants to naturally unfold.

    • This is so lovely Ursula. To me, the learning that comes out of the group as we are all in it as co-learners provides some of the richest moments. What you describe is the very essence of good emergence and flow. And it is this practice which takes more than a training here or there along the way.

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  4. Excellent post. I wish there were more trainings available. I live in Chicago and have been looking for anything within the Midwest. I’m laying the groundwork for introducing AoH, or something like it, in the Bank I work at but need training.

    • Hi Linda, There are active Art of Hosting Communities of Practice in Chicago, New York, Columbus and Minnesota with different offerings happening from time to time. Some of those offerings are specific to a client but there are public offerings as well. One way to track down the public offerings is through the Art of Hosting web site. I could also put you in touch with people in each of those communities if you thought that might be helpful. Also happy to be in conversation with you about your thoughts about how and what to introduce to your bank. A bow to you for being in good questions about what, when and how and what more do you need to prepare yourself to step into something new in an intentional enough way to seed long term success.

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