by Silvia di Blasio
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
The Art of Hosting (AoH) is a series of practices, ways of thinking and methodologies to facilitate addressing challenges and decisions collectively.
Social permaculture includes how we host ourselves and others, how we face challenges, make decisions and govern ourselves in non-hierarchical, non-oppressive ways. It shares the systems’ view of life that is central to permaculture design and includes ever-evolving practices, methodologies and ways of thinking that will stretch your edges and expand your sense of connection, compassion and belonging.
If you have had the opportunity to engage in community work, group work in any type of organization or even be part of a permablitz, project or gathering, you may have noticed that things may not always go as you expect: people are always at the center of any decision-making process, design, communication and governance processes and those processes are what represent the challenge.
In the introduction to the Art of Hosting, you will learn the roots, principles and practices and will begin to explore methods used to deal with people. In these times, we need different tools, as the old have proven to be sustaining an oppressive system created to perpetuate the privileges of a few. The Art of Hosting is an evolving toolbox that explores these new tools in a compassionate, caring yet courageous and sometimes risky way: “stay with the fire” is one of the AoH mottos, you’ll learn this and more in this exciting introductory module.
Social Permaculture and the Art of Hosting
The Art of Hosting, known as AoH, emerged from the perception of a shift that involved both the breaking down of many systems and simultaneously something else emerging, giving way to lots of uncertainty and chaos of values, beliefs, governance processes and many other dynamics: what in permaculture is called a growing edge.
This shift was also sensed at all levels: from individual to collective consciousness, to how structures and organizations work, govern themselves, make decisions and connect to each other and the natural world.
Suddenly, hierarchies, dynamics and beliefs that have sustained an entire civilization started to crumble. New and complex challenges emerged and the old ways to view and solve problems no longer worked.
Groups of community leaders from all around the world started to connect, first through email, then through mailing lists, then the first gathering was organized.
But, what exactly is the Art of Hosting?
The AoH is defined as “an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.”
The aim is to harness the collective wisdom and self-organization capacity of groups, a complete detachment from top-down, hierarchical leadership and organization patterns. It is an invitation to explore and embrace the paradoxes of chaos and order, leading and following, confusion and clarity, sacred and irreverent, content and process, and many more.
The emerging patterns of the AoH, like in permaculture, emerge from observing and understanding nature and specifically systems, as human systems are not different from those in nature.
The AoH starts with some assumptions:
In the AoH, people come through an invitation, and they respond as co-hosts themselves: they bring their projects, challenges and concerns. While learning or practicing new techniques, ways of thinking and methodologies, they connect deeper to themselves, each other and nature.
There are no leaders in the AoH, only hosts. As the name indicates, the AoH is an art that considers how each one of us host ourselves and how we host others. It covers how we show up, dress, behave, listen and respond, participate and contribute, and how we acknowledge, observe and respect the land, and the history and the peoples (human and non-human) who are hosting us.
In permaculture, we can say that the AoH is embedded in some of its principles and ethics: before we even start visioning, we need to observe and interact or be aware of not only who we are but also the land, the community and the systems we want to design for.
The AoH approach is organic, leads by trust and by hosting (yourself and others, including the land and other beings). It works through networks and seeks questions and navigates challenges. It makes decisions through consultations, while knowing that no solution is perfect or forever, but always a trial: the best solution is that which works for now. It motivates through engagement and ownership, and follows purpose and caring. Action and results may come later.
Now that are you are familiarized with the overall concept of the AoH to learn more about it you can visit the The Art of Hosting Official Website and browse through the different sub-page and resource areas to learn more about the different methodologies and techniques.
See if there is an AoH happening close to your community. Check for groups already practicing the diverse methods, such as The Circle Way, and consider joining them.
This material is excerpted from the Social Permaculture: The Art of Hosting module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Silvia Di Blasio.
Silvia Di Blasio is a permaculture practitioner, teacher and consultant and life and career coach. Silvia specializes in inner and social permaculture and is also a passionate practitioner, instructor and advocate for food sovereignty and disaster preparedness/planning as a starting point for building individual and community resilience. Silvia lives in Canada, where she works with immigrants and refugees, collaborates with the education and events of a local ecovillage, writes, blogs, facilitates workshops and co-coordinates the network of the Work that Reconnects. Silvia is also part of the local Art of Hosting and Art of Mentoring networks.
Further reading on this topic:
Baldwin, Christina, Linnea, Ann, The Circle Way—A Leader in Every Chair
Brown, Juanita, David Isaacs, The World Café—Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter
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