February 2017

On Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd of March a group of people from Morecambe from health and wellbeing services, local authority and police services, local citizens and voluntary and community groups came together to train in the art of hosting and harvesting conversations that matter.  The aim of this was to catalyse a social movement around health and wellbeing in the town.  To come together in conversation around some of the tough questions morecambe faces in getting to grips with its community health challenges and to learn some tools and practices for how to take this conversation out into communities. 

"I would love to see a huge conversation explode right across Morecambe where the community is set on fire with a renewed sense of purpose that together we really can create the future that in our hearts we would really love to see"

This is what happened........

​Check in Circle  Why am I here? ​Why am I really here ? 

We Began by hearing a little about the reason and the call for this 2 day training

" Its about bringing together people from many different places to talk about what it means to be healthy in Morecambe. We are training in the Art of Hosting because it holds a space for us to see things from many different perspective, that might not always be comfortable, but it is a real conversation.  We also want to learn the tools and practices so that we can take these conversations out across the whole of Morecambe"

We learnt about the importance of starting meetings and coversations well with a chance for everyone to speak something about themselves to become present together.  We used Circle Practice for this, an invitation to speak with intention and listen with attention and to tend to the well being of the group.  We used a talking piece and a good question and harvested the reasons why people had come to this training space and the deeper reasons why really this was important to them 

"Because I love this place - I want to break down the barriers and walls and make a difference - this is about future generations - I want to see and increase the connections here - I love people - I want to put the heart back into the NHS"  were some of the things spoken 

Appreciative Inquiry 

We moved on to have a conversation in small groups threes, using a process called appreciative inquiry which identifies the best of "what already is" in order to think about what might "be possible." Sue introduced the difference between listening out for when its my turn to speak, or to relate to our own experiences or solve problems, which can easily close other people down. And listening with intention to really hear and understand each other.  Mike encouraged us to do some deep listening and to go on a journey together into our stories and experiences with these questions

  • When have I been at my healthiest and most well ? 
  • When have I been in a group that was healthy? 
  • What made that possible?
  • What do we need more of here in Morecambe? ​

We came back and harvested on post it notes what we had heard in the stories and what we need more of in Morecambe

TRUST AND LOVE - connection, people being connected to each other and to the environment, stronger relationships, living examples, beacons in the community, a way of passing on skills to the next generation, more community engagement and neighbourhood events, sharing more stuff and encouraging people to be an active part of everyday life, developing a sense of self, meaning and purpose, self belief and worth .........were some of the themes that came out 

​Harvesting Practice  and sign up for coaching 

Jon introduced us to the importance of harvesting conversations, more than just taking notes but really taking the time to make sense of  the patterns and themes are that are coming out of the group's collective intelligence.  Its important to think about the harvest in the beginning not just at the end when you have a whole load of material.  He also spoke about the different things that can be harvested, both tangible and intangible and the different methods you can use. 

Helen and Bronagh explained the various sign up options for us to get some 'hands on' practice to be coached to host the whole of tomorrow.  This is real learning by doing, by being in the practice of hosting and harvesting together.  The board got full really quickly and we had a wonderful lunch with all the delicious food people had brought to share.  

Living systems 

After lunch Linda offered a teaching perspective on Living Systems - a natural approach to organising life. She spoke about how for many years our thinking has been influenced by being rational or thinking we can think things out and be in control.  

​What would we do differently if we  saw our communities teams and organisations as living systems.  Could there be a simpler way of organising that opens up the possibility for emergence? 

​World Cafe  Creating a map of potential in Morecambe  

We created a beautiful hospitable space to host a world cafe. Small tables where 4 - 5 people met in conversation around the question

How might we collaborate to create a health care/wellness system that works for all the citizens of Morecambe?

We were encouraged to connect the themes and patterns that came out and to listen out for where there was potential or openings to start our work.  To start anywhere, follow it everywhere and keep listening for good questions and ideas. There were two rounds of conversation with a move round ( and one person staying at the table to welcome in newcomers ) and finally a harvest question 

Where can we start to get to work ?

Where are the openings for more conversations in Morecambe? 

These were harvested onto a beautiful map of the town specially created to map out all the potential opportunities

These were all the places identified with potential for having more conversations around health and wellbeing

VCS consortium: Peer led services: Maternity groups: Listening event for the 3rd sector: Faith and interfaith forums: The well: Neighbour day Parade: Health and Wellbeing partnership: Schools and with young people: Social groups: Music groups: Stanleys youth and community centre: The Allotments: History Societies: Friends of Regents Park: Photography groups: Traders: West End Impact: Time Banking: Morecambe West End Integration Group and West End Municipal Partnership. 

​Check out  

We closed our day with some reflection about what was new and valuable in our learnings together and what questions were still bubbling up for tomorrow.

Fish and Chips followed the coaching session and an open mic night with poems, songs and stories ( and a beer or two )


​We began day two with a feed forward from Mel reminding us of what had happened yesterday and sharing a story about how in her work as a doula she had been struggling with a strategic manager in the health service who she felt wasn't really listening to the women and what they needed.  She realised she herself hadn't been listening to the manager and when she began to do so, something changed in their relationship and they were both able to really hear each other.  This was a fundamental change in being able to communicate well and know what to do together to improve things for women giving birth.  The power of good listening ​

Check in 

We checked into our day by silently self organising ourselves by our height.  

Diamond of participation 

Then Bronagh offered a model of how groups all go through a process of Divergence: where many diverse ideas and perspectives come forward.  Then Emergence where newness happens and then Convergence where we begin to make a plan and come together for action.  She spoke about how often we avoid the emergent phase also know as the Groan zone as it feels uncomfortable.  But this is also the Grown zone where we really feel the edges of what we know and a much needed place to learn to host and hold well, as its often here where innovation and new possibilities lie. You don't want to stay here forever though, its important to design meetings so that they can come to some conclusion and find a way forward.  This is the real art of hosting, how and when to move though these phases and sensing what's ready to conclude or not.




Open Space  

Andy Steve Chris Nick and Jed opened the space for us to call and be in the conversations and questions we now wanted to explore  

The following groups met and reported back their key findings 

How do we keep in the loop and gain momentum?

  • work from purpose and shift the paradigm from health to wellness
  • develop a core question and core teams
  • ​keep connecting and harvesting 
  • hold a big assembly 

How to start a conversation on health and wellbeing in my organisation and make it a priority?

  • Recognise the importance of culture and vulnerability
  • Create space to talk to other managers
  • Importance of team building 

How to show impact of current deprivation in Morecambe?

  • Structural problems lead to inflexibility 
  • How much do people in the West End understand people in Bare?
  • Hold a forum in all parts of Morecambe

How important is broad representation and how do we achieve it?

  • Better invitations and develop more networks and relationships
  • recognise the importance of peoples stories
  • Focus on who is here as much as who isn't here

What is it that we want?

  • An intergenerational Morecambe
  • A unified vision
  • ​Trees and more open spaces
  • A big open conversation 

How do we involve different cultural groups?

  • Rise in hate crimes and fear - struggle to get stories from Polish women
  • Involve perpretrators - need to meet people where they are 
  • Have a fun day building relationships, understanding culture 

Getting parents into conversation around experiences of maternity services

  • You have a voice we want to hear it 
  • Find out about red book inserts
  • Plan to visit drop ins

How do we harvest all the conversations that will happen?

  • ​Need for some co ordination, strategically good to know whats happening
  • Mapping out whats going on where 
  • ​Number of forums and conversations at partnership board
  • Commitment to share information 

Who is having the uncomfortable conversations? 

  • History of competition hinders us
  • Good listening to provide uncomfortable space for change to happen
  • How do we harvest this? 

8 breaths of design

After another delicious shared lunch, Linda offered a teaching pattern on what makes for good process design.  What are all the things you need to think about when designing and hosting conversations.  Getting really clear on the need and the purpose and also the team who you might work with ( don't go alone ) Finding a good question takes time and is a great measure of how well you are reading what's at stake.  Invitation is an art, how do we invite well and then let go of our need for certain people to participate.  You can use any of the tools for your meeting, but they are just tools. Your questions, purpose and what you want to harvest will guide the design of the meeting.  Take time to harvest and make sense of the patterns and themes that come out.  Follow up actions and take time to reflect and learn.  What, so what and now what are useful questions here.  Finally pay attention to holding the whole of the process, seeing it beyond a single event and take a birds eye perspective.  Who is tending to the well being of everyone in the system?

​Design Lab 

Finally Gaz Austin and Paul hosted us into a design lab.  Inviting people to  put forward real projects that they were working on and that they wanted some help with.  A template to help everyone think though the design principles was provided and we spent an hour in small groups developing the projects and asking some questions to help the project holders get clear on what they were trying to do.  Some peer coaching followed, everyone moved to a new table and heard a quick summary, then the project holders turned their backs and listened in to the new groups response.  Not being able to respond allowed some strong feedback to come forward.  Finally the project holders returned to their groups and spent some time in summarising where they had got to and what their next steps were 

These were the projects and next steps 

  • A community  conversation in Grange and Lakes community centre on health and wellbeing
  • Get my team on board, include the community connectors, relationship is the mechanism for change
  • Helping the elderly to become more active
  •  Find out whats happening already, talk to more people
  • Co stewarding a social movement for the wellbeing of Morecambe and the Bay 
  • Work with the health and wellbeing partnership to become the change we want to see : Find a good question and make the language more accesible
  • A new fringe arts festival for social empowerment and change
  • Assemble a team, find finance - its gonna happen 
  • VCS Faith and social empowerment sector involvement in the social movement 
  • Start small and continue to help people to be involved.  Its organic not planed
  • Getting the community to think  
  • Look forward not back, ask for help, celebrate, invite change don't push it.  How do you eat an elephant ? One bite at a time.

Thank you for: 

  • All the advice and questions
  • Critical friends
  • All the support and encouragement
  • Life
  • Helping me make it happen
  • Challenging me

Design lab and peer coaching


Check Out Words Spoken

Connected: People: Place: Re energising energy 

Joy: Change: More Joy

Hope : Support :Possibilities

Connected: Hunger

Focus: Kindness: Passion

Vulnerability: Sharing: The Well

Coming home together

Watch our video of the whole event



Day 3 - Coming back together to build a community of practice 

​2nd May 2017

The aim of the follow up day was to give space to people to share some of their experiences of hosting conversations and working with some of the tools and practices that had been learnt in the 2 day workshop.   

How have you been getting on with hosting conversations out there 'in the real world"?  

How have you been developing the projects you brought to the design lab? 

Have a look at  this short video that captures some experiences and learnings about how things are already beginning to change, 

then have a read about the whole day below  

Andy and Linda welcomed us all back into this follow up day the purpose of which was to share our experiences since being together last time and to talk more about how to develop our practice and the social movement around health and wellbeing in Morecambe Bay.  We checked in with some images of our journeys over the last couple of months and words of what was present for today :  Hope, contemplation, audacity, care, excitement, focus, heart, joy, purpose, me, snowballs, education, relationships, dedication, support, impatience, love and contentment.  

Jon offered a mini teach on harvesting - it should always be participatory, inviting everyone in the conversations into making sense together and recording results rather than it being the facilitator who does this.  Harvesting should serve learning, is the harvesting we are doing contributing to the collective learning about the topic we are exploring?  Another good question is how do we make it useful for the people who are using it? Choosing the right vehicle for the harvest is important, from paper to social media that can record both tangible and intangible results of the process.  Finally its good to be aware of when we are overly controlling things and not allowing for emergence to come through 





Story telling harvesting 

4 stories of real application of hosting practice and how it had gone to work in different context were offered by the hosting team.  Everyone choose one story to listen to and one listening thread to listen out for and to harvest as a way of really focussing the listening and getting to some of the gold nuggets of learning. Working with stories is a great way to bring to life more information about a community or a project.  " if you want to learn about a place listen to the story, if you want to change a place change the story" 

  • Local conversations on health and wellbeing in Morecambe
  • A large scale assembly gathering that made a collective decision
  • How AOH practices has spread across Scotland and what it takes to build a community of practice 
  • Poverty Truth Commission in Leeds - using hosting and dialogue to work on big stuck issues 

Listening and Harvesting Themes 

What challenges did you hear and how did they get round them?

Working with resistance

Dealing with formality and toxic atmosphesres

Fear of handing over decisions 

What worked well ?

Having a good sense of timing- time was right

Relationships, building shared trust and passion

Building a common interst- sharing and recognising when you need support or training 

How did harvesting show up?

You need to enable individuals to input together to the harvest

Like tributaries falling into a river

We need to develop practice and tools for this

What did you learn that you can apply to your context ? 

Identify the key assets in common 

Don’t try to do it all yourself – build relationships' and share experience

Stick to your values, don’t change or compromise

To close the morning session we heard stories of peoples experience in hosting their own conversations and meetings or where they had been introducing new ways of working into their communities, asking good questions or beginning to experiment with some of the things they had been learning.  Small groups met and came back with a harvest


You have to be prepared to work to get the right question, sometimes its better to let the group come up woth the question

Its often necessary to be willing to be awkward – you need courage to be awkward

You need really good prep – what can you play with?

Ask a few questions to get to the real question

This disorentates people, how much should I explain or just let them experience it?

It takes time, lots of time

Don’t do too much, you can start really small 

Don’t go alone

Risk small and fail early 

Hold the discomfort 


A deeper dive to really get comfortable – how do you take stories to places of power?

Time bank – sharing space and time

Support with design, developing questions for real events

Making films of real stories

Getting feedback on how we are doing

To grow our community 

More opportunities to grow our network

Involve more young people – use the well

Coaching support

Platform to bring people together

After a delicious lunch Bronagh offered a short body work session, explaining that every interaction you have with someone is an exchange of energy.  

How do you work with energy that comes at you and sweeps you off your feet?  - an energetic attack for example.  She showed us how to centre ourselves and then move out of the way to allow the attack to pass through, then to come alongside the person and work with them to help them see another point of view.  

​This is about holding a perspective of " I won't fight you and you can't knock me down"  It comes from the practice of Aikido - which means harmony, spirit path

Knowledge expeditions 

The hosting team offered 4 knowledge sessions, an opportunity to dive into some hot topics to explore a bit more in depth.  Everyone choose to go to one group or the other. 

7 little helpers for a simple start  - Bronagh

Recap on the tools and how they blend together - Linda

Working with powerful questions - Mike 

Harvesting and developmental evaluation - Jon and Sue

The four fold practice 

Mike explained that hosting is a practice, something you learn to do by continually doing it.  He spoke about how you can learn a lot about a cafe or hotel by the way it is hosted, so it is with hosting conversation spaces.  All you can do is create good space where something might happen but you cant control it.

He talked about how when you begin to learn you learn fast then you usually forget what you learnt and return to old habits but eventually with practice you get so that it becomes a part of you.  He introduced the 4 fold practice - Host yourself, you are the tool you cannot host others if you cannot be present and show up yourself.  How do you welcome yourself, how can you be present and feel like you are not in a rush or distracted.  How well do you sit in the middle of the fire? Be hosted, your can't broker this if you yourself cant do it this is about learning the art of conversation, remaining open, asking questions and not rushing to judgement.  Host others this is the scary bit, stepping up to create the space for good conversations and actions by other people.  Having the clarity of purpose, preparing the space well.  Co creating communities of practice, becoming a community that learns together and continues to meet and support each other 

Sue and Bronagh invited everyone to walk round  the four practices, really to experience them  and talk about what this practice could be for them ​

The journey round the 4 practices proved to be revealing and some reflections were shared from the small groups.  Some of us don't have the experience of being hosted, we are so busy hosting others.  "Where are the opportunities to be hosted"?   Some felt that co creating was the only way to sustainability, that putting our resources together makes us stronger. "The time of the lone heroic activist is over".  "Co creation is more exciting, self hosting is hard".  Some asked  "Am i giving too much of myself, what's left over for me"?  "Being hosted might be exciting if I'm in the right frame of mind".  "Hosting others takes a lot of work".  "Hosting others is exciting but makes me anxious".  "Hosting myself means loving myself and being kind".  "Hosting ourselves is the basis for all the other three, how do you host yourself when you don't know who you are"?  The reflective nature of this session was felt to be really useful and something we rarely get the opportunity to practice, being in good reflective time. 

Check out : Some final reflections and next steps as we leave 

  • Being brave – all here are.  I Will talk with my team about building what now.
  • Lovely bunch to work with,  we are building the path as we walk it.
  • Nice to be in the room. Lots of going in the same direction. Ill find my next step to put into practice.
  • How important storytelling is. Being asked is a real gift. Next step – wait to be asked.
  • I realise I've lacked opportunities to be hosted, Im going to find opportunities.
  • This is doing the right thing. AoH is right. Next step is to keep going and advocate this way of working.
  • Im very pleased to come back to this group. Value the sharing. Not sure of next steps.
  • You’ve got it! Next step is to connect this up to other places.
  • Felt Ive stretched myself too thinly today, attempting too much. I want to find ways work better with others on harvesting.
  • Connecting. Next step connecting in with CCG.
  • I feel I have a working community that practices. Next step is to enable more 
  • Reviving ideas, next step is to put theory into practice
  • Excitement – Didn’t know this group of people well 6 month ago, now feel like a group with the same drive and goal. My next step is to start the movement in our own places.
  • Reflection – stand still – not going in with a set agenda
  • Common purpose – sense of belonging – Get on Facebook and stay connected.
  • Left 2 days trained, felt like that came out today. Want to see a shared resource of people’s time to make this happen, in a structured way.
  • Hopefull that things will change. Small movement is good. Good to speak to people who are willing to share their stories.
  • Concern for burn out. Make sure there for others, and Im in for the theme of aging well!
  • Easy to let the harvester be sidelined. How to incorporate harvesting more so that all can get involved. I will draw up timeline for how this can roll out.
  • Here there is a common purpose. Long journey, take time, keep connected and sharing.
  • Struck by the 3% statistic – and the research about the importance of Joy. Fascinated that researchers and scientists are backing up what known intuitively for years. Wanting to open up space for more of this 

We closed our time together with a conversation about what now - how do we stay connected and build this social movement of people who care about health and wellbeing in Morecambe Bay?  How do we begin to host more conversations across the town and invite more people into thinking about how things might change?  Andy explained that we were looking for have 5 themed conversations around the Bay asking the following questions  

  • How to we begin well?
  • How do we live well?
  • How do we work well?
  • How do we age well?
  • How do we die with dignity?

He invited everyone to be involved in planning and hosting these and realised how important it would be to create a strong community of practice and support for everyone. 

Elham offered to set up a further meeting for this group and there will be some future training opportunities as well.  

Matt explained he would be looking for some collaboration around the theatre project that had been born in this group last time. 

Linda offered some one to one coaching for people who were trying out new things and wanted some support 

Community Day 20th July 2017

20th of July saw us all coming back together again to talk about how we were getting on, who we were talking to.  To think about the conversations we wanted to have with each other and with our varied  and very different  communities and to find out what support was needed for people to keep practicing dialogue and conversations in the community.   We also hosted 10 new people who came along to find out more about what was happening and to have a " taster"  to see if they wanted to sign up for the next training in October.

Jacqui spoke about where this idea for building a social movement on health had come from and Andy spoke about how we were always trying to catch up with ourselves and how little space there was to really talk about homelessness, poverty, isolation.  How our current systems were overloaded and not dealing with many of the root causes of ill health.  "We can't  begin to tackle this alone, it will take all of us in a collaborative effort. " we have to learn to listen to those with the real lived experience, people who have expertise.  It only takes 3% to build a movement and we need begin, there is 15 years difference in life expectancy between Westgate and Silverdale and thats not good enough".   He explained that Art of Hosting was not the moment itself, it is a bunch of practices and tools that open space for good conversations and solid connection between people so that ideas and collaborative projects can emerge.  "Are we willing to have a relationship of co designing  with our communities?  Are we willing to be changed ourselves?  How do we begin"?  

We checked in with everyone introducing themselves and speaking about something that was going well for them, something they were grateful for.  Many spoke about their families but some spoke about how their meeting spaces had been transformed by using some of these new practices 

Then we shared some of our challenges and the connections between us, sharing in pairs what we were learning and struggling with.  

Finally we had a pro action cafe on 4 projects, each round of conversation offering advice, questions and support to 4 project holders who each brought a question they were working on.

  1. How do we raise happy healthy children?
  2. How do we deal with issues in our food club?
  3. How to involved the entire community in health and wellbeing?
  4. How do we decide priorities for health and well being? 

Each round of conversation had a question and people moved twice between the tables and projects,  listening and offering new perspectives.

Whats the quest behind this question?

Whats missing, what are they not seeing?

What are the next steps? 

Project holders finally fed back some of the things they had found helpful in this collective experience and shared their next steps. 

We checked out with a question - who or what have you connected with today.  "This reaffirms my relationship with the police and with this place"  Ive connected with the simplicity of good conversation" Ive connected with Robyn and Gill, I think I can help out"  " I feel more positive and realise how much I care about this place"  "I've reconnected to confidence and have been inspired by the energy" were some of the things spoken 

Finally there was an invitation for people to join us for the next training on the 4th - 6th October and to help us spread the invite far and wide so we continue to build this community of conversation hosts and this social movement for a more healthy Morecambe.




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