Archive for the ‘art of hosting’ Category

The combination of roots and being flexible

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

If you looked at our hosting and calling team for this Art of Hosting training in Berlin, you saw a bunch of young, creative, energetic people, two older ladies, and one in between. For me it represents the energy that I tried to understand in the Open Space session that I called and that was looking into the dynamic between ‘commitment to place’ and ‘being flexible’.

I told before that we learned in our preparation day that many people in Berlin are there, as part of being on a journey and for many it is not clear how long they are going to stay or that they will travel on. Having lived all my life within a radius of 20 to 30 km, that is kind of weird to me, although I have moved and changed houses and gardens a lot. I know a lot of these bright, energetic young people that are dedicated to make the world a better place, and I have always wondered how we could join forces and what was needed for that. So this was a next step in my inquiry.

In the conversation with the other participants in this conversation it became clear to me that my deeper intention for this dialogue was my sense that a lot of these young folks seem to miss something. Something that I have, that is so obvious and natural to me and that is hard to explain or to transfer to others.

One level of naming it is taking care of a place. With place we mean a lot of things here. It can be the building, the room we are using, but it can be our organization, our neighborhood, our community. Who realizes how much work it is to take care of a place? Who really appreciates it? Is it seen as ‘professional’ when we do that kind of work?

We realized that at the heart of commitment is a ‘saying yes!’, as we say in a relationship or a friendship. We give it energy, care, our love. We came to see that commitment has to do with roots. Again a concept that is difficult to explain to people who don’t have the experience of it.

We finished our conversation with the insights that whatever projects are going on somewhere, the best would be that the young, the energetic, the flexible people make a relation with the rooted ones, the ones who feel that they belong to that place. The synergy of these two energies would make that projects could fly and benefit from both energies.

I have to test that out. Please let me know if you have some experience in this domain.

How a systemic field can show itself

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

This is the second blog post from the recent Art of Hosting training in Berlin.

As is normally the case, somewhere half way through a workshop or a gathering some participants hit the groan zone. Many times the team does too! Conflict may arise. Facilitators, trainers or host are challenged by the participants. People hit the boundary of their identity or their beliefs an things get uncomfortable. It is good to know that it always happens and that it is normal. Learning, change or transformation implies always a widening of perspectives, a change in habits, an embracing of the old and the new into a new hole.

On the second day, just before lunch, this became visible and present in our circle around the topic of posting pictures or videos from our time together. Where would they go? Who could see them? What was the need for it? Could we just take pictures of the flipcharts and not of the people? The energy rose in the circle. The conversation became almost more of a heated discussion…

First I was surprised because in Belgium or international gatherings in the US I had seen less and less emotion and energy these last years around this topic. What was going on? Remembering the previous Art of Hosting training in Berlin over 2 years ago – with a strong call for more structure and explanation -; and a gathering with a small circle of AoH practitioners in Frankfurt 1,5 year ago – with a tension between paying attention to the pain of the German past and the longing to look into strengths and into the future – it suddenly became clear to me: something systemic was at play. These were not strange people, but the wider field of Berlin and Germany, with its history, was voiced through their words and concerns. We had to be aware of this and pay attention to it. It is not difficult to understand that ‘misuse of private information’ is a sensitive topic for Berlin and Germany.

A systemic constellation was proposed in the hosting team to look into this, but it didn’t feel right to give up the Knowledge Expedition that was planned, so it became just one of the options. Around 10 people showed up, and some more dropped by later. I’m not going to even try to report on the sequence of the constellation, but how I made sense of it after we had done it for +/- 45 min. As guiding question we wanted to have some clarity around the connection between Art of Hosting and what it stands for, and the field of Berlin and Germany.

What I saw as psychotherapist and constellator was different elements who represented traumatized reactions and then practitioners/peers who wanted to help, to connect etc. It didn’t work, not really. The representative of Berlin didn’t feel good, was sitting on the floor and didn’t feel connected to all other elements that came into the constellation. I noticed some charge in the wanting to connect, even some passive aggression, a wish ‘to poke’… Relating with the traumatized – and notice I use the word relating instead of the word connecting – needs a very gentle and soft approach. Basically you can just be present with trauma and pain. Present in your self next to the other; maybe with not much exchange. Respecting the distance the other needs to feel at ease.

At the end we shared some insights and one participants spoke it quite clearly: This is not about fixing anything; this is not about changing other people, this is about being with what is.

Later I wondered if there needs to be more knowledge in the global AoH community of how to relate with deep (collective) pain and trauma. At least some more knowledge and understanding about it would be good. Some people just need more space to process lots of people and lots of conversations. They are not backing out, they are taking care for themselves. And ‘difficult’ people may not only hold a personal background that explains there behavior, it might be that the collective field is working through them, and we need to integrate and embrace that; in our circle and in the collective wisdom we aim for.

Different areas of connection

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

This blog post first appeared on the harvest blog of the recent Art of Hosting training, held in Berlin.

Due to circumstances in the venue we were not able to open this Art of Hosting training with a proper check-in circle. This made the field in the room a bit wobbly this first morning, until we were able to do it after lunch. One harvest of this check-in was made by Mary-Alice in a harvest poem, and this blog post will be another attempt to share the collective meaning, as perceived by myself.

In the preparation day before we heard stories from the calling team about Berlin, its specific energy and the habits of people living there. I hadn’t been fully aware of this particular ‘culture’ and energy field, but in this circle it came through as “a lack of connection” and the “sadness” that goes with that. We heard many stories of people being in Berlin temporarily – a few months, a few years – and even someone who arrived from Canada just last week.

In the World Café before lunch I was struck by someone saying – after having been 3 years abroad – that “a commitment to a place (Berlin in her case) is the first step in belonging somewhere.” I had never given this full thought before because for me – born, raised and still living in Belgium – my connection with the land is such a daily presence and so obvious that I go with the unchecked assumption that this is so for most people. At least in Europe I thought. In the check-in I heard this longing for connection and this commitment spoken in different ways and on different levels.

First there was the level of connection with and in myself. People were talking about presence, about authenticity and about dignity. Mentioning the longing and hope of connecting the brain with the body. And not just that; also connecting this with the heart and into the action. Crucial in all this is the ‘hosting myself first’, which is so crucial when we step into hosting others and when the situation is getting unclear or chaotic. Can we be grounded in every situation? Can we get back into trusting ourselves – a commitment to myself – instead of following a leader or following a plan?

The next level people were mentioning in the check-in was the level of a little group or team. How can we move to a flow together; weave ourselves intentionally into a living system? Here friendship was mentioned a few times. Later we would name it in the hosting team not as ‘friendship for friendship’s sake’, but friendship in service of the shared purpose.

Then people named a big, big longing for community. It really surprised me that people could not name their own community! It surprised me, just as hearing that people are not really connected to the place they live on/in. And in my view, these two are related. I know that when life situation gets worse, I can rely on my garden an the neighbors to support one another. That is my local community. Next to that I have my trans-local community – actually I have different ones – that support me in my learning and evolution.

Lastly I heard people speak about “living the dream” and the field of emergence, where one becomes committed to the potential. Have you ever wondered how many acorns can come forth from one acorn that becomes a full grown oak? There was the object and the metaphor of the Rubric cube, with the invitation not to solve the cube, but to discover what you see when you turn or twist some of it. Maybe for the future we can offer questions instead of solutions? Can we make creative stuff out of ordinary things? Can it be fun, beautiful and creative all at the same time? Can we bring back in our innocence?

It was very rich and I was glad that we took the time to check-in with over 50 people, although it meant we had to skip a planned teaching session. It build the rim of our circle, and made it strong to hold deep exploration, experimentation, some conflict and the groan zone. Some say ‘the circle is the mother of all social technologies’. This is how it lives in me.

Hosting the grief in Japan, and beyond…

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

A next message by Bob Stilger.
April 14, 2011

Dear Friends,

Yesterday morning the earth shook in Tokyo twice as I sat here at my hotel desk. They are what are now considered mild quakes — just a little more than 5 Magnitude — and both around 100 miles away. This is part of the new normal here. The earth just shakes from time to time. People notice immediately (sometimes aided by little iPhone Apps that set of an alarm). I notice I wait, a little surprised, but not really, and wonder how long will this last and should I be doing something other than sitting here, watching the shaking.


A little later, I went downstairs and outside into a lovely, sunny Tokyo morning. Spring has popped completely into being here. The cherry blossoms have moved past prime, but on my street, gorgeous purple tulips now mark the path. Such an interesting contrast — earth shakes and purple tulips bloom. Life finds a way to be normal.

Lot’s of thinking activity going on on about how to grow a network of 500 or so FutureCenters as spaces of innovation and change. I’ll write about that a bit later. Right now I want to share some of what happened at a gathering last night. Forty or so people came.


Most were folks I had an opportunity to meet and work with last year — teachers, students, personal coaches, web designers, business people, government workers, facilitators. A somewhat unusual collection of wonderful folks who have become community to each other through Art of Hosting. In a check-in circle, we reminded each other of when we each had become part of this community and then talked about how life has been since 3/11. A number of those present have spent time volunteering in the Tohoku region in the last month. Some have family there.

As I listened, one of the themes which came up time and time again was that people are searching for the right way to stand with and behind people who live in the Tohoku. Sano-sensei, who has left a post teaching social innovation to graduate students at Rikkyo University is starting an NPO for this purpose. There’s just a boat load of people wanting to volunteer, people starting NPOs, corporations wanting to help. Earlier in the day I heard about a major data services company which is seeing its mission shift from “exchange of data to exchange of personal will.” They’re planning on sending people in to Tohoku to listen deeply to discover how people what to be connected and exchange their personal wills.

But back to last night’s meeting. Part of the sense I picked up is that for everyone, trying to think of all the Tohoku is just paralyzing. They need to find one place where they can form more intimate human connections. In that place, they need to listen and listen and listen. They need to find the local people who are starting to step forward with some leadership and work with them. They need to not rush in and try to fix things.

One of the things I’ve shared on a number of occasions is something Meg Wheatley wrote earlier this week. Normally in situations like this people go in and ask “what do you need?” Its a totally overwhelming question. The question to be asking is “what do you have?” Starting from this place of what we have will often eventually lead to needs. But needs which arise out of what we have are totally different than the staggering weight of asking someone whose old life is gone what they need.

The sensitivity to wanting to come into right relationship with people from communities in the Tohoku is strong. One of the things we keep talking about, probably since I am present, is how to create and connect self-organizing systems in the Tohoku. There’s a knowing that first there needs to be a continual hosting of the grief everyone feels. People outside the Tohoku feel guilty for having grief when they have not personally experienced the devastation of Tohoku’s people. The grief is just everywhere. People speak of how often, and how easily tears come to the corners of their eyes. This grief will be present for a long time all begins by hosting it.

Some of the folks who had been present at Kiyosato last weekend spoke of how it was important for us to have spent the first day just being in our confusion together before we started to move on to develop some ideas that might be of help. Grief, confusion, listening. They’re all needed before action comes.

Another thing that happened during the evening is we talked about how different the disasters of 3/11 feel than the Kobe earthquake 16 years ago. Certainly there are the physical differences — much wider area, many more people, the triology of quakes/tsunami/nuclear, the continuing medium magnitude quakes, the unraveling nuclear disaster. All those differences play a role, AND it feels like there is something deeper present as well. A couple of days ago one person I was speaking with talked about how in this collectivist culture, grief and emotion travel subtly and rapidly through the cultural membrane. So there’s this feeling present and it is present all over Japan. Another colleague talked about how she has found ways to switch the feeling off — to be able to act as if normal is here. It gets easier to distance oneself from this emotional field when further away than Tokyo. But it is still there.

So, the insight that dropped into the room is that 16 years ago, most people thought they were still in a world where things were just going to get better and better. Sure, a few adjustments might be needed, but generally speaking, life was good. You might say that there was still a desirable normal to which one could return. What was clear from the work I was doing here last year is that there were already massive shifts taking place. The change in political leadership here, after a 50+ year dominance by the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) was one surface manifestation of this desire for change — but it was clear it ran much deeper and that many people were in questions about what kind of life they wanted — because they didn’t like the one they had.

This series of disasters has dropped in on top of a wide-spread sense that deep change is needed. So it ends up being experienced in multiple ways — as a horrific disaster, as a release from a future people didn’t want anymore, as a huge set of uncertainties about how to move forward. It bears little resemblance to the world of 16 years ago.



Other news from Japan

Friday, April 15th, 2011
Bob Stilger (picture taken by Tenneson Woolf)

What follows are two messages I received from Bob Stilger, who is related with Berkana Institute and with the Art of Hosting community. He has a life long relationship with Japan, knows a lot of people there and has been introducing Art of Hosting practice there since last year. Of course he was and is very much touched by what is going on there, and has recently shared some stories in an attempt to get some clarity for himself, and also to let others know what is going on there. He actually loves it that we spread this news, as he hasn’t much time to blog himself. Here he is:

April 12, 2011:
I’ve been in Japan for a week. I’ve worked with about five different groups and been a witness to what’s unfolding here. I’ve been writing e-mails, at different times, almost as a journal of my experience here. In being here, I am working on behalf of The Berkana Institute, New Stories and the ALIA Institute. Soon we will launch a small website to host these e-mails and invite response. I’ll appreciate your reflections and responses to what I write – you help me find my own center here, day-by-day. Your thoughts will help us all in our learning.

Mount Fuji

Mt. Fuji revealed itself today, for the first time since I’ve been in Kiyosato, a small town in the mountains a couple of hours south and west of Tokyo. This silent sentinel is always on the rim, hosting Japan. Often hidden by many layers of clouds, it is always there. Sometimes just a glimmer… I love it when Fuji-san shows itself. It helps me to quiet my spirit and simply be present. Again and again, that is what many of you have said in these days: Stay present. Be where you are. Notice what calls your attention. Act with respect, compassion and dignity. Stay clear while staying unattached. Be prepared to be surprised. Stay connected.

Yesterday we met for a day to sense why might want to happen. Let me give a little background. The KEEP at Kiyosato was started in the 1930s by an American named Paul Rusch who brought modern farming practices to Japan. He helped people here transform their mountainside into a demonstration center for new ways to raise cattle. Along the way he helped to build a hospital here, another in Tokyo and founded a University in Tokyo. Quite a guy, to say the least. His spirit is deeply present here, although he died in his early eighties more than 30 years ago. There never was a grand plan for the KEEP, it simply evolved over time, working with the people and possibilities present in this one small area in Japan.

Among other things, it is a lovely space now where groups come to meet and people arrive for quiet retreats. Last year we held two major training events for Art of Hosting here. While the Tohoku region where the disasters struck on 3/11 is some 250 miles to the north, the disasters struck here as well. First, and most powerful, it shows up in the subtle field. The deep connections which hold people together in Japan also mean that the grief in one part is felt throughout. So there is a deep collective grieving here. People say time and time again is that the future for all of Japan is different now. Some things may stay the same, but everything needs to be re-imagined. The new Japan that emerges will be grounded in traditional values and beliefs, they say, and the future is different now. Secondly, on a more material level, everyone is affected as well. Occupancy at the KEEP is down to 30%. Most young people have lost their part-time jobs. Rolling power black-outs have hit all of Japan, including here. Quakes have happened here in the last month as well. People know their lives have changed. They’re not sure how.

The week after 3/11, Yamamoto-san, a wonderful deeply present man who has been here for many years, got in the KEEP’s bus and drove to Fukushima, the area where the power plants are. He had to do something. Somehow he found his way to one shelter among many. A sports complex, it has some of the best conditions around. 2000 people — mostly in their 60s and 70s — now live there. Only a small portion of the total number displaced by the disasters. Only a small portion and totally overwhelming as well. He brought 43 people back to the KEEP to stay in better conditions for a while. A small drop in the bucket, but it was what he could do. 43 people who could sleep in real beds, have real baths, eat real food. 43 people who could be warm even while they still shivered with their grief. Yamamoto-san took this small step, not knowing what was next — but trusting this beginning.

So yesterday we met: What is next? What can this small place do that might make a difference? A difference in the lives of people who live near here, those from Fukushima, those from other parts of Japan. A difference in the lives of those who work here are have seen the future they know disappear. It is easy to get overwhelmed. I know I did when I first heard Yamamoto-san’s story. 2000 people living with almost no privacy in a sports complex; for four weeks each day the government has brought them rice balls to eat. Four weeks in which life as they know it is gone — and nothing in sight. What can make a difference?

Kato-san had just returned from Sendai, a region he has been many times before. When he got off the train, he knew the difference. Not just the broken buildings — but what was in the air. It just felt different. Subdued, almost glazed over. He saw some young people and talked with them. Wandering aimlessly in the rubble they wanted to know — what can we do? He had no answers of course. Almost overwhelmed by his own sense of grief and loss, he could only stand with theirs. Devastation, devastation, overwhleming devastation made even more real by the many pockets where life looks like normal. Stores destroyed. Stores shuttered. Stores opened. Side-by-side.

We spent the morning just dwelling in our confusion. Sharing impressions. Letting the grief flow. Bewildered. 2000 people. What could the KEEP do. And what about the people here, and elsewhere in Japan, with their own grief. We went on a trip to visit to the Paul Rusch Museum here to see what inspiration it might provide. Paul’s story is quite inspiring. By the end of his life, his motto of “do your best, and make it first class” was well know here. It reminds me of the principle “get a clear sense of direction and then find the minimum elegant next step,” something Berkana has learned from the World Cafe Community.

What’s the direction? Where are the starting points? What resources does the KEEP have and how can they be used? What can be done to invite people into their wholeness? What might make a difference. Many of us started drawing concentric circles KEEP in the middle, then Kiyosato, then Fukushima, then all of Japan, then all of the World. It’s all connected. AND, one of the things Paul Rusch did was he connected people.

By the end of the day, there was still no clarity. What’s the stone to drop in the middle of the concentric circles so they become ripples, leading outward to a newness? A sense was present that some of what the KEEP might do is around youth and youth leading. A sense that this facility has a new purpose. A wondering if it might be one of the Future Centers — places of innovation to discover the future — needed now in Japan.

This morning an idea began to crystalize. Yamamoto-san leaves tomorrow for Fukushima for three days. He goes to discover what they have — not what they need. He goes to look for several youth who have dealt with their grief enough to be ready to stand with each other to discover a next step. Contours of a possibility began to be visible. We will host an 3 day event at the KEEP in the middle of May. It will be for around 100 people. Most of them will be youth. The majority will come from Fukushima and they will come from three sources — youth living inside the sports complex shelter who are starting to come back to life, youth serving in the shelter, and youth from the “normal area” around the shelter. They’ll be joined by 25 or so youth from the Kiyosato area and 25 or so from Tokyo. Purposes envisioned for this gathering include:

1. Be in our grief together. Be in all the different griefs surfaced by these disasters.
2. Enjoy and breathe in this beauty.
3. Connecting youth of different ages with each other as well as with other generations.
4. Begin to see the resources we have and how to use them. What strengths, what assets, what dreams, what skills, what muscles?
5. Learn some about how to host dialogues that matter, which surface grief and joy and possibilities and actions
6. Begin to support each other in making the changes we need ourselves, while visible to and connected with each other.
7. Sensing into what else is possible in each of our lives and in each of our regions.

Of course, this will emerge and shift and change. It may be something entirely different when Yamamoto-san returns. But I think the core will remain: releasing grief while continuing to stand with it. Connecting with each other. Regaining some measure of authority over our own lives. Discovering the minimum elegant steps which will allow self-organizing to emerge everywhere, and especially in the Tohoku Region, in Fukushima, at this one shelter for 2000 people whose lives have shifted so dramatically.

Honored to be here in these conversations. Providing a listening presence and occasionally being able to speak in stories and ideas from Berkana’s work around the world.



Bob Stilger
A next email in the following blogpost.

Perspectives on Europe – and work

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

One of my dearest friends visiting here in Belgium, Mary-Alice Arthur (American from birth, spend years in Europe and living half of her life in New Zealand) wrote this to a couple of friends:

Been sitting here in Brussels percolating away. Last night a beautiful and powerful conversation around Europe as a force for good in the world, really embracing, living and demonstrating peace. I was with 3 mid-thirties French transplants who expressed such a deep love for their country and this region, but also a very conscious awareness of what needs to be healed.

Over lunch with another woman yesterday (oh yes, my favourite meal is the one with the good conversation!), we talked about the energetics of this place, for centuries a battleground — what happens when you base the capital of Europe here? What does that mean for the dynamics of what is manifesting within the European Commission?

This she wrote somewhere in Autumn. Now we are getting slowly into Spring and next week I will have a first conversation with Mickael around calling an Art of Hosting training exactly around this question and opportunity that is Europe. I have been sensing this question and opportunity since many years, and have held this possible potential, that now may find its manifestation in an Art of Hosting training. I’m so curious what will unfold.

Recently I also came across an interesting perspective on Europe; by Franco Berardi Bifo (didn’t look up yet who that is or what he stands for): Exhaustion and Senile Utopia of the Coming European Insurrection. It is hardly ever that I read any from this kind of perspective, outside of the box of how it is right now. Here follow some quotes…

The EU entity has been subjected to a sort of political directorate that has unfortunately only served to reveal that financial interests lie at the heart of the Union’s priorities. The early stage of the European tragedy has manifested itself as a political enforcement of the financial domination of European society.

A deep change in social perception and social lifestyle will compel a growing part of society to withdraw from the economic field, from the game of work and consumption. These people will abandon individual consumption to create new, enhanced forms of co-habitation, a village economy within the metropolis.

Our main prospect is to shift to a new paradigm not centered on product growth, profit, and accumulation, but on the full unfolding of the power of collective intelligence.

The destiny of Europe will be played out in the biopolitical sphere, at the border between consumerism, techno-sanitarian youth-styled aggressiveness, and possible collective consciousness of the limits of the biological (sensitive) organism. The age of senilization is here, and Europe is the place where this experience will first find its voice.
Exhaustion has no place in Western culture, and this has become a problem, for exhaustion now needs to be understood and accepted as a new paradigm for social life. Its cultural and psychic articulation will open the door to a new conception of prosperity and happiness. The coming European insurrection will not be driven by energy, but by slowness, withdrawal, and exhaustion. It will be the autonomization of the collective body and soul from exploitation by means of speed and competition.

A radical passivity would dispel the ethos of relentless productivity that neoliberal politics has imposed. The mother of all the bubbles, the bubble of work, would finally deflate. We have been working too much over the past three or four centuries, and outrageously too much over the last thirty years. If a creative consciousness of exhaustion could arise, the current depression may mark the beginning of a massive abandonment of competition, consumerist drive, and dependence on work.

As it happens, my dear friend Helen, just posted What if we fail? So what if we fail?

Open Leerdag Leven in Transitie

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

This is a blog post – In Dutch – from a few weeks ago, first published on the Dutch blog Levend Vlaanderen.


Iets schrijven over de Open Leerdag Leven in Transitie staat op mijn lijstje van dingen te doen… maar ik heb geen goed overzicht lijkt me, want er gebeurde zo veel die dag…

veel interessante ideeën…
mensen uit veel verschillende contexten…
veel conversaties die te kort waren en wegens tijdsgebrek moesten stoppen terwijl het net interessant werd…

Ons team van vorige keer was lichtjes gewijzigd. Dirk en Stien voelden niet de passie of hadden niet de energie om de voorbereiding van het hosting proces mee te maken; maar anderzijds vroegen we Rik – wegens zijn interesse in transitie – om aan te haken. Het was duidelijk dat de tijd en energie die we in het voorjaar hadden besteed aan het bouwen van ons gezamenlijke veld nu zijn vruchten afwierp. We kennen mekaars deskundigheden én leerpunten, we weten waar we mekaar moeten aanporren en waar we soms uit de bocht gaan…

AoH Open leerdag transitie voorb

Het ging dus vrij vlot in de voorbereiding, hoewel we pas aan het eind van de zomervakantie op dreef kwamen en het effe duurde voor iedereen een overzicht had van wie en wat in het Vlaamse transitiewereldje. Het was een beetje spannend toen we begonnen met uitnodigen, maar de eerste 8 à 9 mensen waren er vlug. Inschrijvingen bleven binnen druppelen tot de laatste dag. Uiteindelijk zaten we met 34 in de kring.

Het was voor ons duidelijk dat Erik zou openen omdat het zijn passie en zijn verlangen was om al deze mensen samen te brengen. Hij gaf het kader mee van zowel de spelers in het Vlaamse transitieveld als van Art of Hosting, in zijn eigen vertellende stijl. We waren vertrokken!


Dan een kennismaking: zowel met elkaar als met de vier kwadranten (bouwend op Ken Wilber) die altijd en overal tegelijk aanwezig zijn. ’t Was tof om er op deze manier – letterlijk – in te stappen en nieuwe mensen te leren kennen. Rik en Ivo hadden er hun werk van gemaakt en het nuttige aan het aangename gepaard. Fascinerend ook om te zien dat er een vrij gelijke verdeling van mensen was verspreid over het hele veld; èn heel wat mannen in het van van Ik-Innerlijk! Trouwens dat was ons al opgevallen van in het begin: veel meer mannen dan vrouwen onder de deelnemers; net andersom dan in de vorige Open Leerdag rond Participatie.


Dan was het tijd om het diepere en ruimere gesprek te openen om te kunnen starten vanuit een gezamenlijke basis. World Café is hiervoor een zeer geschikt instrument. De techniek en de principes zijn helemaal in lijn met de wereldvisie van levende systemen. Het brengt ons – door het wisselen van gesprekspartners doorheen de drie rondes – in een soort van chaos. In ieder geval is voor even het overzicht op het geheel kwijt, maar de minimale structuur die ook de dingen weer samenbrengt, biedt de kans dat er iets wezenlijk nieuws ontstaat. Het chaordische (op de grens tussen chaos en orde) laat ruimte voor een grote diversiteit, brengt ons vaak in een weerstand of een ‘kreukzone’, maar dan kan de emergentie zijn werk doen. Dan kunnen we van een Groots Gemene Deler –die altijd klein is – naar het Kleinst Gemeen Veelvoud – wat dus groter is én alles omvat.

Julie had het allemaal mooi uitgetekend de dag voordien en loodste iedereen hierdoor. Ze benadrukte nogmaals dat dialoog pas lukt als we het gevecht, de discussie achterwege laten, maar denken in “én – én”, diep luisteren en de verschillende draadjes door mekaar weven.


Dit weven – het weven van een web zonder voorafgaand plan – was een metafoor die we in onze voorbereiding veel hadden gebruikt. Er zijn zo veel mensen op één of andere manier bezig met transitie; wat kan er niet ontstaan als we meer bedacht zijn om de andere velden mee te betrekken in onze projecten? Ergens was dat onze hoop voor deze dag, en zowel het World Café als de Open Space was een aanzet in deze richting. We sturen niet in de richting van het ontstaan van een bepaald soort initiatief, wij willen vooral ruimte en tijd creëren die de


zelforganisatie kan bevorderen. Ruimte waar passie, verantwoordelijkheid, initiatief en engagement optimaal tot hun recht kunnen komen.

Het leuke vond ik dat het belang van goede vragen werd onderkend. Dat is inderdaad iets waar elke hosting team – van eender welk project of initiatief – veel tijd aan besteed. Het is één van de pijlers van hosting, en ook wat het vaak verschillend maakt van begeleiding (of faciliteren). Hosts zijn geen experten in antwoorden, maar verstaan de kunst om (grote) groepen van mensen door ‘conversations that matter’ in betekenisvolle dialoog te laten evolueren tot het opnemen van initiatief en zinvolle actie. De vraag/vragen waarrond je mensen laat praten, en hoe de vraag is geformuleerd maakt of kraakt zo’n dialoog, omdat het een smal of ruim kader biedt, al of niet beperkende vooronderstellingen aan het licht brengt.

In het oogsten van het proces van het World Café – niet het oogsten van de inhoud dus – was een opmerkelijk moment. In het vuur van zo veel goede ideeën en veel gepraat stelde één tafeltje voor om 1 minuut stilte toe te laten. Wat we prompt deden en velen van ons weer/meer in ons lichaam bracht. Het was voor mij een aanduiding dat we misschien te veel in ons programma wilden stoppen… dat we te weinig het eerste principe van Art of Hosting hadden ingebouwd: Wees aanwezig. Ik moet mezelf er altijd aan herinneren dat voor vele mensen aanwezig zijn in hoofd, lichaam en gevoel niet gewoon of evident is… We hadden gerust enkele korten stukjes hier rond kunnen inlassen… volgende keer beter!

Voor mij was de stilte voelbaar, niet alleen de afwezigheid van praten, maar wel de collectieve aandacht voor de kwaliteit van stilte en rust… Wat als we die kwaliteit zouden kunnen vasthouden als we gesprekken voeren en de dingen kunnen uitspreken die dan opborrelen, ook al hebben we ze nooit eerder zo gedacht of uitgesproken? Rik nam over en bracht ons weer in een cirkel.


Bijna middag. Tijd voor Open Space. De overkoepelende vraag was: Transitie is bezig, hoe kan ik mee het verschil maken om het in een goede/betere/gewenste richting te sturen? Een oproep weer tot het volgen van je eigen passie en het zelf verantwoordelijkheid nemen daarvoor. En die passie was duidelijk aanwezig! Op vrij korte tijd werden 1à à 12 sessies aangekondigd; en zoals meestal: moeilijk kiezen want zo veel interessants! Wat ik mij nog herinner uit het hoofd:


– vraag en aanbod samenbrengen
– transitie en scholen
– begeleiden van transitie en geld verdienen
– een sessie buiten die in de gang eindigde
– ikzelf bood een leermoment aan rond Chaordisch Pad
– …….

Broodjes werden vlug verorberd tijdens een half uurtje pauze en meteen ging een eerste


ronde sessies van start. Een uurtje later de tweede ronde. Intense gesprekken, iemand rustig op zichzelf… iedereen haar/zijn eigen energie volgend… de wet van de twee voeten: leren of bijdragen, anders weg!

Het samenbrengen van de vele sessies is altijd een moeilijke opgave in een kort tijdsbestek. Toch vond ik de korten 1 minuut aankondigingen én de extra tijd voor het gallerijbezoek wel geslaagd. Alleen weer te kort. Ik voelde me als een schooljuf om onze tijdsplanning toch min of meer aan te houden.


Langzaamaan gingen we uitbollen. Tijdens de voorbereiding hadden we ervoor gekozen op ruim tijd te nemen om terug te kijken op de dag en te kijken naar het grotere geheel. Het grotere verhaal hadden we het genoemd. Eerst even individuele tijd voor persoonlijke reflectie: Wat wordt duidelijk van het grotere verhaal en hoe zal dat je acties beïnvloeden? Delen in groepjes van drie en dan een gezamenlijke oogstronde. Zeer veel, mooie, diepe, inspirerende punten werden verwoord…
… het transitie-concept werkt blijkbaar verbindend (ook al hebben we het niet gedefiniëerd!)
… we zijn blijkbaar – als beweging/stroming – volwassen geworden en hoeven geen gelijke meer te halen of ons te verdedigen.
… de vele perspectieven en experimenten kunnen daardoor naast mekaar bestaan en mekaar bevruchten: de vrucht van diversiteit én het advies: werk nooit alleen!
… de draadjes – het mycelium – tussen de paddestoelen zijn voelbaar
… en iedere paddestoel is zijn eigen klein verhaal
… vanuit goesting!!!
… het geheel is zichtbaar, maar niet overzichtbaar
… proces en inhoud; structuur en cultuur gaan hand in hand
… het ‘is’ geen verhaal, maar het verhaal ontvouwt zich en het pad vormt zich
… wat zou goede voeding zijn voor dit mycelium?


Goede verhalen zijn een ongemeen sterk middel om dingen los te zetten, ze zijn een bijl om het bevroren meer in onszelf te lijf te gaan. (Franz Kafka)

Tijd om af te ronden…
ieder nog één woord…
met de tonen van Rik op de handpiano…

Het smaakte naar meer en langer.
(nog meer foto’s hier)


Monday, September 6th, 2010

Recently, I have been for two weeks ‘on the road’. I put it into brackets as I haven’t been driving a lot, as I was mainly hosted in two places. One place was with my friend Judy, in Gloucester, near Boston, and the other place was at Chris and Caitlin’s house on Bowen Island near Vancouver.


What I appreciate so much is how my friends open their house in a most natural way. It really makes me feel at home to know that I am trusted that I can make my own tea whenever I want it. It is both nice that at one time they prepare a meal for me to join and at other times they trust that I find the food and the snacks myself. The most fun is that I am allowed to do some little tending in the garden. In Judy’s place I made sure that her big geranium (right name is Pelargonium) will look beautiful again, with lots of flowers, in a few weeks time. Being with Chris in their garden I told him how to prune his outdoor tomatoes. Most of this I learned from my dad and through my own experience. It is so rewarding to pass some of the knowledge on to others.


I made this trip to join in two different gatherings, one was named the Art of Humans Being and the second one was a gathering of stewards of the Art of Hosting. Many times it is named that the work we do through this network is build on friendship. Maybe it is even bigger than friendship. Of course a deep trust in each other is part of it, but it has also to do with the recognition of a certain resonance. It feels to me that this shared vibration includes more than a ‘normal’ friendship, because there is also a deep trust in the unfolding of our future story. There is an inner knowing that we are in deep transition time on the globe and we all want to spread the essential skills of hosting conversations that matter. It was amazing to see the long and inspiring list of all the projects we are all involved with.

The resonance is also about being constant learners and constantly reflecting on where our actions and thoughts originate. This makes for open minds and big open hearts. Sensing, seeing this resonance is always assuring to me and it nurtures my soul! My guess is that if our souls come even into deeper resonance amazing, unexpected and wonderful things will happen.

First picture taken on Bowen Island, where I was hosted by Caitlin and Chris. It is part of quite a big statue, righ there when you enter the island. It is named; Embracing the Spirit of the Flame. The second picture is of Judy, during an exercise outside, in pairs. I found the expression of both speaking of friendship, and maybe or resonance?

What if…

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

“The European Consumer Summit is a multi-stakeholder event organised every year by DG SANCO (Directorate General Health and Consumers). It gathers more than 400 participants in Brussels for 1,5 days. This event was previously organised as a ‘classical conference’: with lots of plenary presentations but not enough opportunities for participants to contribute and network. Not this year…

Our vision for the 2010 Summit was to get real policy output, including deliverables directly from participants and therefore much more interaction. The 2010 theme was “Services: access, fairness and choice” and the 6 workshops had quite different scopes:
• How can we help consumers to choose the right service provider?
• Web 3.0 – Challenges and Opportunities for Consumers in the internet of the future
• Bank Account Fees – How to ensure transparency and choice?
• The Adventure of Car Hire – Enforcement challenges
• The Green Energy challenge
• Going around in circles. How to improve urban sustainable mobility”

Consumer summit ik

This report is written by Carina Törnblom, official in the European Commission. I don’t know the right term for her function – sorry Carina. She has been part of the Art of Participatory Leadership training, offered by some of our Art of Hosting colleagues. Six other colleagues, of which I was one, were asked to host one of these six interactive workshops.

Her report continues:

Designing a successful event

In order to prepare the event, we set up an internal task force and connected this to a team of facilitators, practitioners of the Art of Participatory Leadership from inside and outside the Commission. Some of the workshops had more difficult starting conditions than others, e.g. high potential conflict due to very different opinions between participating stakeholder groups (industry and consumer organisations). Therefore facilitators were challenged to be very flexible and on the other hand to be enough convincing to ensure the interactivity in the workshops.

The outcome

On the D-day, each workshop was asked to address the challenges in the morning, the solutions in the afternoon and prepare 3 findings and 3 things for the Commission to do. This was reported on the second day (half day) in plenary followed by questions and answers session. In the Car Hire workshop industry agreed to involve consumer representatives and representatives of the European Consumer Centres network in the upcoming Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism. In the Green Energy and Urban Transport workshops there was a call for more studies on consumer behaviour and multi-stakeholder working groups. In the area of Bank Account fees, the Commission will further explore how to improve transparency, including, for example, the idea of an independent on-line comparison tool, as well as financial education. The discussion on the internet of the future highlighted issues to be monitored closely, such as consumer friendly online contracts, privacy and data protection.


During the day, we could already feel from the buzz in the building that participants were in a great mood and the feedback was very positive. 95% of the participants were satisfied with the interactivity, the opportunity to voice their opinion and the increased understanding of other stakeholders’ position. One of the participants told us spontaneously that in nearly 12 years of being on the consumer circuit, this was by far the best conference he had ever attended.



In SANCO we are also very satisfied with the output, the willingness of our stakeholders to commit themselves in the suggested directions. This was not only an efficient and effective way of working but it represents what the European project is about: close cooperation and real dialogue.

This success was a truly collaborative effort, thanks also to our colleagues from other services. This was the first time that a more participatory approach was taken by the Commission in such a large conference with external stakeholders. It has not gone unnoticed and has been a real chance for the Commission to be looked at differently. Let’s hope this will inspire others so that it is just a start… What if the Commission would use this approach as a rule and not an exception? Would that not change how the citizens see us?

Co-creëren en je laten dragen

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Ik kom net terug van ongeveer anderhalf uur samen voorbereiden. (is ondertussen wel een weekje geleden!) Het is een opdracht die alleen aan mij was gevraagd, maar aangezien het thema Co-creatie is, wou ik de daad bij het woord voegen en het co-creëren samen met iemand anders.

In onze afsluiting zei Stien dat een klein stemmetje in haar zich afvroeg of ze nu echt niks unieks had bijgedragen. Eigenlijk niet, neen. En mijn kleine stemmetje zou dan kunnen besluiten: Zie je wel, ik kan het ook alleen! Maar met kleine stemmetjes kan je niet co-creëren, alleen maar iets herhalen van het verleden.

Toch was dit waardevol, ook al om mekaar beter te leren kennen, tijdens de lunch wat bij te praten en zo de vriendschap te laten verdiepen. Wat er ook goed was, is het samen invoelen van wat er werkelijk gaande is. Invoelen, aanvoelen van het energetische veld – subtiel waarnemen noem ik dat tegenwoordig. En dan is het mooi om vast te stellen dat we dezelfde dingen waarnemen. Ook betreft de aanpak ging ons aanvoelen in dezelfde richting en voel ik me gesterkt in het idee om zeker geen expert-die-het-allemaal-weet te spelen; wat misschien wel verwacht wordt; en ook niet om de hele dag te faciliteren. Het zal erom gaan hun gezamenlijke proces zodanig te hosten (we hebben het opgegeven om naar een Nederlandse vertaling van dit woord te zoeken, maar we wachten gewoon tot dat hosten in de dikke Van Dale wordt opgenomen!) dat ze in de ervaring leren wat co-creatie werkelijk kan zijn en wat de rol van de leider/host hierin kan zijn.

In een boek dat stilaan gestalte krijgt, noem ik ‘je laten dragen door een groep’ als één van de noodzakelijke voorwaarden om tot een diepgaande co-creatie te komen. Mijn collega vragen om in deze voorbereiding mee te kijken, is persoonlijk weer een stapje in de goeie richting…

In de toekomst wil ik een aparte blog maken voor de Nederlandstalige verhalen… nog even wachten…