Art of Hosting

Information about Art of Hosting

Author(s): 

James R. "Chip" Coldren, Jr.

Here we introduce four core methodologies in AoH. These are the actual meeting and dialoguing mechanisms that are employed to convene people and engage them in meaningful conversations that produce sustainable collective action.

  • Appreciative Inquiry – in the course of conducting investigations or needs assessments, appreciative inquiry is an interviewing technique that identifies the strengths, passions, and positive perspectives among those affected by a problem or working toward a solution. It is similar to asset-based approaches and approaches that seek to identify resiliencies in individuals and communities, not just problems.
  • Circles – this is an ancient form of meeting (like a council) used by people for thousands of years to solve problems and community conflicts. People sit and talk in a circle format with some basic agreements in place (e.g., listen without judgment, respect confidentialities, silence and listening are important parts of the conversation, offer what you can and ask for what you need, accept a circle leader/facilitator).
  • World Café – this is a method for creating a collaborative dialogue about important questions that preserves the feel of a small, intimate, conversation in a café, but that engages everyone in a creative process, connects ideas, and develops new insights.
  • Open Space – this methodology entails creative agenda setting, through which participants in a meeting or gathering set agenda items according to the issues and questions they feel are most important. This meeting technology is particularly useful for such activities as strategic planning, visioning, morale building, conflict resolution, and community planning. It tends to promote creativity, and it assures that the issues people feel most strongly about are those that are addressed.

AoH approaches and techniques have been used in communities big and small, with groups of all sizes, and in large complex organizations to address such challenges as justice, equity, and relationship among diverse communities, and developing creative business solutions. Below are a few examples of AoH in practice:

  • The Art of Hosting has been utilized in several local communities.
    • 2012 Minneapolis, MN – A coalition of Native American and Somali groups supported an Art of Hosting retreat related to developing relationships in a south side neighborhood experiencing racial tension.
    • 2012 St. Cloud, MN – Several different organizations representing communities of color used the Art of Hosting to develop relationships and build leadership capacity within a small rural community with deep historical racial tension.
    • 2009 Detroit, MI – Art of Hosting processes and practices were used with a racially diverse, multi-stakeholder group around issues of food system transformation.
    • 2011 Chicago south suburbs, IL – Art of Hosting is a primary strategy for building local leadership capacity to expand and sustain restorative justice in south suburban schools and communities (see http://stonesoupproject.org/).
  • The Smart Policing Initiative has used Art of Hosting techniques in its national meetings from time to time, most often the World Café technique, to foster peer-to-peer dialogues around key issues in Smart Policing.
  • The European Commission (the multi-national body the represents the European Union) reports that is has employed Art of Hosting Participatory Leadership methods since 2006, with positive feedback overall and a reported appreciation among members for the innovative approach to problem-solving the Commission has taken (http://www.artofhosting.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Story-of-AoPL-in-the-European-Commission.pdf).

More information about the Art of Hosting is featured in the SPI Summer 2014 Quarterly Newsletter Reader's Corner.

You can access this resource online here.