NouLAB Brings Art of Hosting Training to Fredericton, New Brunswick.

February 12, 2019 | by: Heather Boyd-Kinnie

The work of connecting and working with opposing viewpoints — a weighty subject, and one worth tackling! This was the theme of the Art of Hosting training held between January 30th and February 1st, 2019 and was chosen in light of today’s divisive issues, spanning from the individual to the transnational. The event based on the Art of Hosting practice was strategically designed to be inclusive and to invite transformational conversation around challenging and difficult issues.

In New Brunswick, language issues can sometimes divide and challenge us. It was our lofty ambition for this event to see how we might do something different to address these issues and inspire inclusive and deep communication.

Rather than wearing headsets to hear a translator, which is a traditional approach in the province where both languages are spoken, what if we were to host a bilingual event but with a participatory twist? With a nudge from Samantha Slade, one of the guest facilitators, we invited the participants to play the role of whisper translators. In practice this meant all participants self-identified their need or their offer for translation services in real time. The effect of this was a very enjoyable and expansive experience. The onus for understanding language was placed on the participants and required reaching out and making a real connection with someone you were not necessarily familiar with. By the end of the three days it became natural and you could see the whispers happening throughout the room while both English and French were spoken, and this helped enable deep connections and build community.

A strength of Art of Hosting is unique in that workshops are not planned until all the facilitators are in the same room the day before the event. This allows the design to be responsive to the needs of the participants, the theme, and the capacity of the facilitators. This is also not where the emergent qualities end because the participants themselves are intimately involved in the creation of the event. On the first morning, the schedule is opened up to allow anyone to sign up and host/support the teaching workshops known as “the teaches.” This immediately flips the energy of the event. A philosophy that runs deep in the Art of Hosting is the balance of what you need and what you can offer; that is making sure that you ask for what you need, but also offering support and stepping up to fill those needs from the group. The offerings that came through this process really build the experience and the community that will continue on past the three days that this unique group of people are together in the same room.

In order to prepare for an event that attempts to get to the heart of the divides we all hold, the facilitators began with prompting conversations amongst ourselves about what divides we personally hold. The question we chose was one conceived by Toke Moeller, a co-founder of The Art of Hosting practice; What makes you tremble? It is a question that requires participants to delve deep and be honest with themselves, and trust the person with whom they’re sharing. It was from these open conversations that the hosting team could plan how the workshop might unfold.

The group that attended the training in Fredericton consisted of people working within many sectors but primarily in government and non-profit. Putting people together and asking them powerful questions such as What divides exist in you? What are your reflection practices? allowed them to connect and understand each other on a different level than would likely be experienced in a training

session. A very powerful tool that Chris Corrigan, another guest facilitator, provided and demonstrated is called ‘The Work’. It is a tool by social innovator, Byron Katie that can transform your perspective in opinionated situations you may find yourself. Working with another participant the entire group paired off and took time to identify how we could take another angle on a deeply felt opinion on an interpersonal issue. Coming together and dissecting our viewpoint felt like something we should all do on a more regular basis.

The 3 days were packed – many new connections, and many new tools for bridging divides. Chris Corrigan, early on in the planning, shared a memorable quote “Differences are real; divisiveness is a choice.” (You can read more in Chris’ Article found here). Differences are what make us who we are, and that is an important and beautiful fact of life. It’s being proud and aware of our differences that allow us to stand out and make an impact on the world around us. It is when we separate and divide from each other that communication and understanding break down. Take for example the multiculturalism that exists in Canada. We are stronger as a nation because different cultures and beliefs are encouraged and supported.

With this in mind, we ask our readers: How do you leverage your own differences into strengths?

 Written by Lewis Muirhead, NouLAB Knowledge Manager.



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