So, I rarely get all participatory minded in my life here on the blog, but participatory processes and specifically the methodologies used in the Art of Hosting (AoH) are a strong through line in my family. Participatory processes are very important in my fam, because my wife has been a practitioner and host for participatory processes for over 7 years. Her job is what has allowed me to live the extravagant lifestyle I am now accustomed to. We eat Earth Balance Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter now. Not Jif, like peasants. I have not been able to employ participatory processes in my professional life yet, but I can see significant opportunities to use those processes in my next chapter of my life dealing with user experience design and usability… “What are participatory practices?” you ask… well, participatory practices are a set of methods to get individual participation in groups to help mine or harvest collective wisdom around touchy and sticky group issues. For more information please check out my wife’s work here, here, here, and here. She did a 20 Questions not terribly long ago. Read it here.
Anyway… Tim, a friend of mine who is also a work colleague of my lovely wife, recently posted on Facebook a small slideshare video of “20 Questions from Registrations that Caught my Eye” for an event he and my wife are doing in Europe this summer. 20 Questions, Tim? Really? How non-random. I wish you would have simply emailed them to me so I did not have to transcribe them. (For purposes of full disclosure, Tim neither asked nor particularly wanted me to answer these questions, but I couldn’t resist the lure of 20 questions, whether they were posed to me or not.)
Regular readers, this is a departure from the normal… these are not the typical asinine jibber jabber questions I answer… but they should be interesting nonetheless. Onto the questions! Disclaimer… I have only been to one Art of Hosting training and, I am not an expert practitioner of AoH or participatory processes. I have been accused of being a jackass on occasion. These are of course, just my thoughts opinions and ideas and in no way reflect anything within the AoH community and especially should not influence any actions or thoughts for the AoH BtB in the UK in July.
1. How can we create safe spaces inside bureaucracies for people to stop ‘playing office’?
The problem with bureaucracies is their ponderous weight and glacial response times. No one can create a “safe” space for the entirety of a bureaucracy. You must start from within and work outward. Create a safe space within yourself for yourself. Create a safe space for you and your immediate co-workers/colleagues. Create a safe space within your group/division and do good work. Always do good work.
2. What do we need to practice in a large organization in order to be less professional and more human?
Fewer metrizable goals for starters. Make the goals and expectations more human and less machine. Change “must get x projects done in y amount of time” to goals and expectations like “create a work environment that is challenging and rewarding.” Automatons meet measurable goals.
3. How [do you] host a core team composed of activists coming from various backgrounds?
Typically people would say focus on the similarities and get buy in from the common points. That does not work, because commonalities are things that will be compared. Embrace the variety and focus on the purpose of the work and how the variation can address that common purpose. Every activist is a unique snowflake… an angry, frustrated ball-of-fire snowflake.
4. How [do you] host paradox and antagonist people?
Find the biggest guy in the yard and punch him in the throat… wait, that is how you deal with hierarchy in prison. Who run Bartertown? I run Bartertown.
5. How do we (AoH people) get professional and bring AoH to mainstream/business?
I have no idea. My wife has been doing this for 7 years now and she is not professional.…. Ha ha… I kid, Honey. I kid… Honey? Hello? Simple, really. Similar to the first question. Start smallscale and work larger. It is all about pilot projects. The important piece is to generate good work. Good work is unassailable.
6. Who holds power, and how can we change influence?
Old white guys hold power… I thought everyone knew that. How do you wrest control of power from old white guys? I will let you know as soon as I am old enough to be the old white guy with power. I’m the man… I mean the Man.
7. How can I apply AoH principles in the context of my fast paced and very action oriented company?
Find a particularly sticky problem that is not being addressed adequately in the traditional fast pace action mindset of your company and solve it collaboratively. Pilot projects and good work. Pilot projects and good work.
8. How do we really connect Scotland?
Ambitious much? I think better questions might be, “How does Scotland want to connect? and how can we collaboratively make that happen?”
9. How can we best evaluate and demonstrate the impact of this way of working?
Pilot projects and good work. Choose something difficult and make it good. Good difficult work is unassailable.
10. How can we connect political strategy with conversations that matter?
Have political strategy informed by those conversations that matter. The connection is that the conversations are generative.
11. How do I sustain and energise my individual efforts as a change practitioner?
Host yourself. The self is the oft neglected constellation in hosting. This takes different forms within every person. That and drink more water.
12. Where is the place of the subtle, the unmanifest, the spiritual, the feeling level in all of this?
Throughout. The unmanifest, the spiritual, and the feeling are in the ART of Art of Hosting. The whole of this practice is dancing with and within the field that encompasses the work. There is not a cubby hole that you can shoehorn the intangible. (<- t-shirt design forthcoming)
13. How do you constantly adapt to the changing environment?
How do you not? The only constant thing in the world is change.
14. What is it going to take for facilitators and trainers to start designing events for everyone, not just people comfortable in white middle class culture?
More practitioners who are not of the white middle class culture.
15. How [do you] explain AoH in laymen’s terms?
The elevator pitch for AoH is a difficult one to say the least. I will copy and paste from above and substitute “participatory practices” with “AoH.” The AoH is a set of methods to get individual participation in groups to help mine or harvest collective wisdom around touchy and sticky group issues.
16. How [do you] bridge the gap between “Europe” (EU institutions) and citizens?
Wow… I have no idea where to start with this one… So instead I will answer a question about cats. How does a cat purr? Cats most likely purr by engaging their larynx muscles and some kind of neural oscillator.
17. What would the would look like if women were empowered to realise their full potential?
Something feels wrong with this question. It seems a bit paternalistic. I cannot put my finger on it, but it seems to feel a bit marginalizing in all of its good intentions. Not sure how to address my unease with this question, but the world would be much better if women were not marginalized and were universally considered equal in all way shapes and forms.
18. How [do you] go beyond the typical participatory meeting?
Is there really a “typical” participatory meeting?
19. How do we have conversations around the economy that invites participation without playing down the complexity?
One cannot have broad reaching conversations about any complex subjects without playing down the complexity. When I was in my mathematical modeling class, my professor said it is better to have vague accurate answers than precise incorrect ones. I think he was right.
20. How [do you] harvest all the conversations (including the ones in the margins)?
You can’t. It is impossible. One cannot experience every conversation/side conversation, so there is not really a way to capture everything. Something to keep in mind is that some conversations that occur in the margins can only occur and be meaningful because they are are un harvested and in the margins.
FIFA?!... I know, right?
Next week we will be back to a regular programming
Me answering crap questions crappily
We are on vacation at the moment
Outer Banks, North Carolina for a full week
Yesterday we discovered Donutz on a Stick
By “we” I mean, my wife and boy ate amazing fresh donuts in from of me... like I was some kind of animal
I had a milkshake, but that isn’t what I wanted
I wanted to destroy some donuts
With my mouth
Tomorrow, maybe we will get to the Wright Brothers Memorial
Gots to get in my history, yo!
Thursday, my little girl turns 7… Holy Hell! my little girl turns 7?!?!?
Brunswick Stew from HIgh Cotton BBQ is the truth
I am using the evenings to get my website/resume/portfolio ready for primetime
That is not relaxing at all
Have a great week everyone