This page collects the notes from one of FoAM's transiency conversations, focused on the question: How can we continue our hosting activities as a community of practice?

Context: Since its inception FoAM bxl has been developing a particular hosting culture. We have done this both formally as process facilitators for hands-on and discussion workshops, as coaches and mentors, as well as informally by hosting, guiding and supporting FoAM's guests, residents and audiences. Hosting culture, care and generosity has been repeatedly praised as one of FoAM's unique strenghts. We therefore wanted to explore hosting in general and process facilitation (in all its shapes and forms) in particular as a possible direction or spin-off from FoAM bxl post 2016.

Furthermore, in 2013-2014 FoAM organised hosting craft, a training and mentoring in process facilitation for the cultural proletariat. Since then, several participants began to co-facilitate workshops, guide rituals and other participatory processes. As the collaborations seemed to offer additional value for everyone involved, we thought that we should explore the potential to continue working as a loose community of practitioners with very diverse backgrounds, starting from a common ground of hosting culture. For now we'll call this community “The Hosts”, but we need to come up with a better name.

In the conversation in January 2016 we primarily focused on understanding what each of us can offer to the group and what we might need from it.

The uniqueness of the group lies in:

  • its' diversity,
  • depth and authenticity (it isn't just about knowing (branded) methods),
  • holistic perspective,
  • ability to improvise and adapt on the spot,
  • willingness to openly share successes and failures in a group;
  • we exist in the “interspace beyond flemishness”
  • a good mix of front-women and those who prefer to be behind the scenes, assisting (without the full weight of responsibility)
  • openness to being playful and bringing playfulness to 'adults' and professional contexts.
  • integration of multiple ways of knowing (analytical, synthetic, creative, bodily and energetic/spiritual, etc.); we dare to go where others fear to tread…
  • we all acknowledge and appreciate messiness
  • we all enjoy the “magic” of designing things together
  • access to widespread cross-sectorial and international networks
  • beyond process facilitation: the Hosts can mentor, coach, innovate, hold space, enable, empower, and are all experts in emotional labour

Three approaches

From a wide range of needs and offers we distilled three complementary approaches, all of which allow us to support, inspire and learn from each other, in different ways:

  • A chest of drawers (curatorial/free-lance approach, driven by needs of individual community members): This approach focuses on supporting our individual pursuits (things we're already doing) by being able to tap into a pool of people with a diverse repertoir of skills. Most of us occasionally get commissions that go beyond our individual knowledge and abilities and we could benefit from involving one or more of the other Hosts. The community in this case is a collection of people ('the drawers') with complementary skills. When needed each of us can call on one or more of the other Hosts to co-create and facilitate a process. In order for this approach to work we would need to know more about each others' skills and interests. The best way to do this is to experience all of our hosting styles in action (e.g. by assisting each other, or trying things out together). Another playful way to begin is to create a set of 'holistic index cards' (ref. 'goddess cards ;) for each of us, which can be browsed by us and maybe potential clients as well (somewhere down the line). While we realise that just reading a card won't in itself be enough to decide if you want to work with someone, by co-creating the cards together we'll get to know each other better (we also just enjoy doing this, so why not!).
  • A process design lab (design/engineering approach, case/client driven): A lab or experimental time/place where we can work on designing processes and testing/prototyping them with the other hosts. We can challenge each other and help each other tackle challenges, experiment with new techniques, connect or adapt existing ones. For example, when one of us gets a brief from a client, we can invite the group to help us design the process and/or function as lab-rats (aka test audiences). The benefit of this approach is that it can boost confidence, allow us to experiment with each others' (playful) approaches before doing 'the real thing' and get support in the research, creative and reflective processes. In some cases one or more of the Hosts could end up co-facilitating the real session, but in others the community is there primarily during the design, testing and/or reflection process. Any of the Hosts who have a client or commission who'd like to try out using this approach are invited to suggest a session with all or some of the others.
  • A hosting culture studio (artistic/(fundamental)scientific approach, community/collective driven): The Hosts is a unique community of creative people with diverse backgrounds and a keen sense of the connection between personal experience and wider societal patterns. As such we have an opportunity to pro-actively address burning issues, emerging trends, systemic changes that are deeply rooted in our (holistic) values and life experiences. We can co-create meaningful experiences that go beyond process facilitation, involve non-human entities or stretch our senses beyond consensus reality. While the creative process might be similar to the one used in the 'process design lab', in this case we are 'our own clients'. We create our own brief, based on the collective vision of the Hosts community, informed by our individual life experiences connected to observed societal needs, arising from our hopes and dreams. And then we celebrate. The studio is our playground, where we can be completely self-driven to explore things deeply care about. The results of our studio could be hosting packages, which can be adapted to different groups and contexts. For example, a “burn-out prevention clinic”, “rituals for everyday transitions”, “grow your own futures kit”, “botanic choir” or “flavour pairing” as team-building, etc. In the conversation in April we will begin co-creating one of these “packages” and in the mean time also investigate which “packages” we'd like to create from existing works like “Inner Garden”, “Food Futures” etc.

Next Steps

  • Online: Update and develop individual hosts index cards: Eva P., all
  • Next conversation: 9th February at 12h at Eva dG’s house in Gent. continue designing “Holistic profiles” (index cards) and discussing what binds us (values, principles, community name, common ground, joint communication…). Kathleen en Rasa to design and facilitate the conversation
  • Online: collect ideas for “packaging” existing works as “packages” we can offer to clients
  • Co-creation session 26 April at 10:30 at FoAM bxl, where we’ll begin conceptualising the first collective creation of The Hosts
  • Start the hosting subwiki and continue to develop things there…