Tag Archives: art of hosting

Recap on “Crossing Boundaries” conference in Netherlands (education for sustainable development)

CROSSING BOUNDARIES in Netherlands (put on by Dutch UNESCO Chairs for Education for Sustainable Development)

This was a very interesting and fruitful conference for gaining a better understanding of sustainable development in higher education. The conference was done in a participatory style (World Cafe, Fishbowl, Open Space, etc.), so I had a chance to gauge the interest in some of my ideas and hear from many leading academics in the field, educators, and international org representatives.


(Brace yourself… this is academic jargon… but very useful for those who are studying in this field!)

Transition management –  (a concept I’ve worked with before in my papers) the idea that we must transition our society and technical systems towards sustainable development

  • All relevant stakeholders needed
  • Macro-meso-micro level
  • Long term vision with short term action
  • Learning and adaptation

Social learning the process in which we can learn from our experience to be more sustainable (can we unlearn our way out of unsustainability?) What are the appropriate learning and instruction theories, methods and techniques for enabling learners to contribute to sustainability-oriented social learning?

Transdisciplinaryscience with a purpose”, unity of knowledge beyond disciplines


UNESCO (ESD) it is currently the decade for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) 2005-2014

GUNI – Global University Network for Innovation – conference on how to transition universities towards sustainability 2010  Nov. 23-26 in barcelona

AASHE (Association for the advancement of sustainability in higher education)

Key Discussions:

–        “Minding the gap” (Glasser) – of where we currently are (and our associated behaviours, lifestyles) and to where we need to be in order to be sustainable

–        ICT as an enabler

–        Sustainability in Africa and including the developing countries into the process of SD

–        Reflections – how to do it? (method used in Action Research), intervisions

–        Social entrepreneurship  (putting SE into the curriculum in developing countries, linking it with the trades to stimulate sustainable development)

–        Innovation for sustainability

I have a longer debrief that I have shared with my colleagues so if this interests you, contact me directly.

LOTS AND LOTS OF INTEREST IN ART OF HOSTING (conference i attended in Feb in Sweden)!  As there were some challenges in the world cafe, fishbowl .. many wanted to know how to improve the method – I sent them to Art of Hosting pages. It’s amazing how powerful these methods can be when done properly.

On a personal note, I leave Finland soon… but that on its own deserves a new post 🙂

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When is it OK to not be committed? (part 3 of 3)

This is the last of  3 part post on my reflections/lessons learned from my time at the Art of Hosting conference in Karlskrona Sweden last month.  See Part 1 & Part 2

During the Open Space, I brought up a session on “breaking down barriers between faculties to bring forth sustainable change” – a project/idea close to my heart. This was my reason for doing JYU Talks last year and why I started to continue it with my course this year.

I was nervous about bringing it up because it was a strong passion last year and I sadly, haven’t had the motivation to keep it going.

It reminds me a lot of what Margaret Wheatley said on our first day:

You can begin with passion, but that does not keep you motivated. You need perseverance. The sense of urgency can become a trap – it pushes people away and scares them. Anger can burn out. You need discipline. “Everyday I have to decide not to give up”.

But, this idea was something “burning on the inside” that I felt compelled to share. I wanted to talk about it with these leaders.

During the session, I told them that I wasn’t sure about my commitment to the idea of moving forward with a project on ‘breaking down faculty barriers’ but we ended up having a great discussion with a goal to have some open spaces at our universities in the near future on this topic. I said I’d get back to them asap so that we could plan something.

I didn’t do what I said I would. It took me until now to send my group an email – offering them an apology for not following through.

Toke (an amazing Host) said something at the conference that I’ll never forget – he said he’d “rather follow a committed person without a plan, than a person with a plan but not committed”. It really stuck. To my horror almost… it’s the realization that I’m the second person.

When I say that this idea is something close to my heart, I wasn’t lying. And I mentioned it to my group that my commitment was shaky, and it still is. I’m afraid of committing to it. It’s something that I will likely face one day, but I can’t give it the attention it deserves right now. (There’s the time factor – how much time left in Europe, and just mentally – if I do this, I need to have the perseverance to keep it through).  I feel like if I was to start on the project again right now, I’d end up half way and leave people wondering… (which is essentially what I did last time).

But, this raises a good question:

When is it ok to not be committed? When can you just raise an idea and “host” with the intention of just feeling comfortable with the idea yourself?

It’s one thing to have the power to say NO to other projects. But when the idea is your own, and you’re even honest with your commitment, people still look to you if they’re interested in making a go of it. I guess I just shouldn’t have accepted “action” on it – but the group nicely infused me with passion again – just not enough in myself to persevere…

So, going back to that first statement of not quite feeling the same vibe as everyone else in the room, I felt like I let people down. I brought up a cool idea, got people motivated, took in their ideas, and then left them hanging… something you should never do. I apologized to my group and hope that they understand. If anyone else wants to run with it, by all means, please do. I’m happy to support, and I’ll join in, whole heartedly, when I’m ready…tjane

This is part 2 of a 3 part reflection/lessons learned from my time at the Art of Hosting conference in Karlskrona Sweden last month.  See Part 1

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The art of leadership, and a reflection of my own (Part 2 of 3)

This is part 2 of a 3 part reflection/lessons learned from my time at the Art of Hosting conference in Karlskrona Sweden last month.  See Part 1

Who was a great leader in your life? Why did you want to follow that person? What characteristics/qualities did he or she have?



think hard… who? A teacher? A boss? Your mom or dad?



Margaret Wheatley, a leadership guru asked that question to us at the conference. Surprisingly, I (and the people around me) were really hardpressed to think of anyone.  Likely meaning, there aren’t too many great leaders out there.  Everyone has mistakes.  And, having been “the leader” myself, it’s freaking hard, and frankly, as a friend (who I’d also call a leader) told me later, pretty overrated. Think about it, as leaders, you’re quite often placed on a pedestal, ready to be shot down…

This post is a reflection on my own leadership style.


I held a special task during the Art of Hosting conference. I was part of the “Meta-harvesting Team” – our job was to collect the important takeaways throughout each day and stream it back in the following day so that all could see the important thread that we were creating. The final job was to sum up the whole conference in meaningful ways that could be used later on.  This Prezi created by one creative girl on our team is just one example – beautiful:)

The job of harvesting is so important, yet really, quite difficult in practice as everyone is experiencing so much. Also, as a team, our group didn’t quite get off on the right start.  There was some confusion in what were doing (we didn’t collectively decide on our purpose) and consequently, found it really hard to come up with a strategy that worked.

Also, there was a question about leadership. In this group of leaders, who was going to lead?

I tend to lead often. Sometimes I want to, sometimes I don’t. This time I guess I just kind of fell into it.

I won’t explain the whole situation, but there was some tension in the group by the end of it. We were frustrated on the last night as we worked endlessly to come up with our final harvests.

On the last day, sensing the tension between me and one person in the group, I decided to “call-it” (part of the Art of sensing the room).  She, thankfully, was honest enough with herself, and me, to not just let it slip. She took a deep breath and told me flat out that she had a problem with my leadership style. First of all, ouch… Second of all, I said, “let’s talk”. I knew myself well enough that this was a needed conversation and that I should take in as much as possible to learn from my mistakes.

Now, I should say that some people in the group were really happy with my leadership style and complimented and thanked me for jumping in to take the lead. So, don’t read this and think I’m an awful leader… But most definitely, like everyone,  I have room for improvement.

But, going back to my conversation with my teammate who confronted me, the result was an hour and half long conversation that mattered.

I found out a few things about myself that I knew, but that I hadn’t quite brought to the surface.

–         LET GO.

  • I don’t always let go of my ideas. Won’t lie, I have some pretty awesome ideas 🙂  but, I all too often share them with people, without the intention of changing it. Problemo # uno.)
  • This would make sense why I sometimes end up working alone when I start on projects (never a good feeling)
  • I need to let go of my ideas so that others can join in, take ownership in it and give it the space to grow and become an even greater idea.

–         PURPOSE

  • Sometimes I can get excited about a vision and just start acting – without understanding the purpose myself and without portraying it clearly to others.
  • I can speed off into the distance – and leave others just watching me run, for no apparent reason. (Pretty funny visual, but have been told this analogy before by different people…so obviously something there)
  • I need to understand where others are – what’s driving them so that I can understand their purpose.
  • I need to just chill sometimes in the moment – gain a better understanding of the purpose for me and others – and from there, I can start moving towards a goal – with others.

–         TRUST

  • Goes with the first one. I need to trust that the people I work with are intelligent people that know what they’re doing. I don’t need to repeat myself with hopes that they get my idea.

–         BREATHE

  • Just relax… I can get so anxious about what I want to accomplish in life. (Like many twenty-something year olds that I know). I forget to just breathe, and remember, that “it’s just life!”
  • It’s the journey, not the destination…

So, there you have it.  A very open, honest, harvest on my own leadership skills.

I said in Part 1 that I left the conference not feeling the renewed sense of passion like most people. This is one of the reasons why.

I left feeling confused and vulnerable…

All said and done though, I think the confrontation, so to speak, was a great experience for me. I have had lots of great feedback in my life – so many encouragements from people that I greatly admire. I’m blessed to have had lots of wonderful conversations with people telling me “not to worry so much” that “I’ll go far”… it was about time that someone gave me an honest check. It was well called for.

We ended our confrontation with a giant hug and a deeper feeling of connection. You know who you are, but thank you.  😉


Margaret Wheatley’s talk was on the art of collaborative leadership not heroic leadership.

I learned am learning that to become a collaborative leader is a challenge (I still catch myself in my old ways sometimes…), but it is truly the best approach for moving our society onto a sustainable path.

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My “harvest” from Art of Hosting conference (Part 1 of 3)

It was exactly one month ago I attended the Art of Hosting conference.

The next three blog posts are about my “harvests” – a term used to describe your takeaways. It’s more than just that though.  Think of all the work a farmer puts into the field before he can harvest the food – The Art of Harvesting is a way to bring the Art of Hosting into its fruition.

With a lot of conferences, the vibe and feelings from the conference last only so long… but this one (as you can tell by the number of posts dedicated to it) is still fresh.

For most people, the Art of Hosting conference is a deep, almost soul-searching experience. All of us who went to Karlskrona entered into a creative space with amazing intelligent young leaders from all over Europe, authentic mentors, and a feeling of openness that you just can’t find in most places.  And most of us left with in high spirits, a feeling of renewed passion, deep connections, and a clearer vision for a way forward.

I wasn’t quite the same.

I’m going to break this “harvest” down into 3 posts as it would make for an extremely loooong post. #2 & #3 will focus more on the statement above.

As I mentioned earlier, I attended the conference so that I could better understand the tools needed to properly “host”.   Making people feel comfortable in opening up and discussing topics that are important to them is no easy feat – I’ve tried.  From how you organize the tables, to what voice you use,  to the way you give the instructions and the timing of it all…. it truly is an art.

My harvest on the “Art”

This was my harvest at the end of the conference which we presented to the whole group:

I want you to look into this space in front of you. Look into it, look up, look around, on the walls. This is our learning space. It was co-created for us, and by us. You came here, likely, because you want to create this space for others.

We walk away with many tools (world café, open space technology, etc.) But these “tools” can be damaged if used in the wrong way. There’s a reason it’s called “the art of hosting”

    • The conference was held in a large round room with plenty of windows overlooking the water in Karlskrona (tip of Sweden). Lots of sunshine, space for decorating with papers, and the fact that we could easily do a giant circle played a big factor in making this space work for us.
    • We had lots of paper (coloured, giant rolls, scrap), huge markers, charcoal, tape – everything we needed so that when we had a thought, idea, we could display it.
    • Music, instruments, all added to the creative environment
    • We had a gentle bell that rang and a xylophone when time was up.  (I once used a whistle to do this. Big mistake. That pisses people off 😉
    • The hosts would also allow for silence. If we just discussed something heavy, Toke (a founder of AoH) would say “Let’s just take a minute of silence here” to allow us to distil the flow of info
    • In reverse, we’d also be given “1 minute to present your idea”
    • Slow down to go fast…
    • The calm voices of the hosts, the bells/xylophones, the flexibility in the agenda – all allowed us to just breathe – and not feel the anxiety of go go go (although, I’ll touch on this in the next post.)
    • Suspending judgment, listening with an open heart … there were times when I’d forget that I was lost in my thoughts – the art of listening keeps you present
    • What are the people feeling? If there’s a negative vibe going on in the room, call it.
    • Ex. Sometimes people can feel awkward doing this stuff. It can be too “hippy”, or “not for real business”. If that’s the case, the host should just say “ I know you may be feeling like XYZ, and that this won’t work etc. I get it. I know how you feel… but, this has worked with companies, European Commission (and state your ground).
    • Most importantly, you can’t “host” if you’re not fully present. “Be” there 100%.
    • Understand yourself. How can you engage people in having meaningful conversations if you’re not meaningful to yourself?
    • There’s no room for fakeness.

Next up…

Part 2: My harvests on my own leadership

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The Art of Hosting conversations that matter – a needed tool

I’ve learned (or learning) from the Finns that silence is golden. So, no need to apologize (again) for the long pause on this end then;)

I was lucky to attend the Art of Hosting workshop a couple weeks ago in Karlskrona Sweden, hosted by three of the most innovative and forward thinking education programs in Europe –Masters in Strategic Leadership for Sustainability (Sweden), KaosPilot (Denmark), and Team Academy (Finland/Spain). I came as an independent from Global Venture Lab (and as a  friend of Team Academy:)

The Art of Hosting is about hosting conversations that matter. Do you know when you go to conferences and practically fall asleep during “the program” and get what you really need during the coffee breaks and cocktail hour? Well, the Art of Hosting is almost all about the cocktail hour 🙂   Well, sort of, it gets a lot deeper than that…

There we learned about how to hold “the space”.  This was really like an unconference where the participants can hold the show – we signed up for “hosting”, “harvesting”, “organizing” and making it beautiful (yes, making the space “beautiful” is really important”). So you’re not only being taught, but you’re doing it as you go.

But back to this – how can you actually get people (up to thousands) have meaningful conversations? And the, how do you inspire people and give them space to act on passions/interests that arise? (Using these tools would have been extraordinarily useful when I planned my JYU Talks last year!)

In short, here are the core methodologies we were taught:

1. WORLD CAFE (quick, intimate way of collecting different perspectives in room)

2. OPEN SPACE TECH (quickest way of self-organizing a number of projects)

3. CIRCLE (we all know this one – but oldest, quickest and best way to enable people to open up – think of closeness you feel to someone just being around a campfire)

4. APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY (getting out of organizational slumps by focusing on positive, not the problems that need to be solved)

5. PRO-ACTION CAFE (combo of world cafe & open space tech to get clearer ideas and collaboration from many)

(For a very cool visual of this, check out my friend Ece’s work on Prezi – another new favourite tool!)


Think about the importance of what a good conversation can do.

Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

Next up, my harvestings. (Not a word I used before, but actually quite a nice way to describe your key takeaways:)

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