September 2018 South Lakes


Andy and Linda warmly welcomed everyone to the Phoenix Centre in Windermere, explaining that this was the 4th Art of Hosting training in the Morecambe Bay Area.  The aim of this is to build stronger connections between people living and working in the South Lakes. "people such as you who are passionate about improving health and wellbeing and us all living rich lives".  

"As well as building relationships and better understanding between us  of us, we will also provide you with some tools and skills for having and hosting better conversations.  "What kind of area do we want to live in, and what are we each ready to do to make that happen?" .  How can we bring people together in new ways where all can participate, where everyone gets heard and we move beyond the Bla Bla Bla and get to a place of collaboration?"  

​Following a mapping of the room to find out where everyone had come from and a line up of who is a talker and who is a listener.  Jon invited us all to check in to the 2 days by introducing ourselves and speaking a little about what we most cared about that had brought us here today. 


Checking In:  What do you care about that brings you here today?

​Giving back to the community

Being connected with everything

Really making a difference

Going against the grain

Care for the carers

Creativity and imagination 

Creating space for good mental health 

Hearing the unheard voices

Quality of public health services

How to get better, its about your attitude

​Walk the talk

Shoots of growth in Kendal 

Being more confident in having challenging conversations 

Voice of the homeless

Arts and Health 

Moving beyond right and wrong 

Nurturing space spaces

Rebuilding community


I care about what you care about 

I might care too much 

Donuts and goldfish economy and politics that are broken

the 366k people who live here

another way of seeing things

tapping into gut feelings 

Love nurture caring

supporting peoples wellbeing

Im here coz i felt it was just right

Raising awareness of substance misuse

Giving back

Overcoming type 2 diabetes

Love music nature

I care about myself, about belonging

good conversations that change things from inside


compassion and empathy 

Learning to listen 

The Questions life is asking of us now?

Mike introduced the 4 levels of listening, in a good conversation listening is often more important than speaking but what type of listener are you? ​ How can we move beyond the usual download and debate into dialogue where we really begin to hear each other, and then listen out for the new ideas and perspectives that are starting to come through.  Hannah and Sally invited us into practicing listening in 3's ( triads or tripods as they came to be known ) They asked us to each speak  about where we were in our lives and work at the moment and to listen out for the questions that life was asking of us.  Everyone had a turn at being a speaker, being an active listener and being a more reflective listener .  We then harvested our questions together and saw that some related to personal questions, some were about helping others, some about what time it was in the world, others about our ways of living and some related to specific topics of food, holistic health, environment, inequalities, power and systems change.  Andy then invited us to sign up for practice and to form small hosting teams to be coached to host the whole day tomorrow  

Working with emergence 

Following lunch and a chance for more informal conversations and connection, Sue offered a perspective on the diamond of participation - explaining that any time a group of people come together there are three natural stages we go through.  Firstly opening up to lots of diverse ideas, then being in a more emergent space of not knowing what to do or where to go ( this is often where innovation and new ideas come from ) and then converging into action and decisions. 

She explained that often we don't like the emergent phase as it feels uncomfortable and we try to get out of it by moving to action too quickly. The art of hosting a group is to develop the ability to stay in emergence for long enough, to learn how to hold space and stay present rather than rushing to solve or move things along.  We then stood in the place of most and least comfort with each phase and talked about where we had the most to learn and the most to offer.


After a quick room change Linda and Jose and Ali introduced us to world cafe.  A  great process for conversation where we need to explore many diverse views, looking for the connections and collective wisdom.  We discovered that important pointers for a good cafe is to have a really good question, to know the purpose of the conversation, to harvest it well.   There are 2 rounds of conversation on the same question but in between people change tables and carry their conversations to new places and people. The final round is a harvest round where we hear back the themes and patterns that have come through from the small groups.  For a great cafe, have really small groups (max 6 per table) and lots of pens and paper to doodle and capture ideas, a few sweets or candles, anything that creates an intimate and welcoming atmosphere also helps. ​​


The massive need - the mother of invention

A willingness to embrace change 

New understanding about what being well means

using stories of lived experince


Trust and safe spaces and more relationships

Giving up ownership and the right to be right

More ways IN

Beter social media connections

More human connections

More opportunities for people with lived experience to create solutions

More collaboration


Day 2

Check in 

We checked into our day by stepping forward in response to various questions about how long it had taken us to get here, whether we had come under our own steam or were being paid to be here and how comfortable we felt about checking in.  It was a great temperature check to find out how a group is feeling about something.  Then we had a mini meditation to help us all arrive well and settle into the programme of the day and each spoke a word about how we were feeling this morning.


Open Space 

What are the conversations you would like to have right here, right now? 

The newly formed hosting team team invited us into an Open Space.  A very simple, powerful way of holding highly productive and inspiring meetings, conferences, and other learning events for groups of 5 to 2,000 or more. This is a meeting with no prior set agenda. All who care (passionately) about the theme of the meeting show up and sit in a circle. The sponsor of the event may say a few welcoming words, after which the facilitator gives no more than 15 minutes of instructions, framing the invitation and explaining how the group is invited to work.

The host explains that anyone who cares to may announce a topic (or topics) to discuss in sessions. Participants are invited to go to the centre of the circle, write their session topic on a sheet of paper, write their name (indicating they are taking responsibility for convening the session and also take responsibility for some harvest or feedback from the session. Then the participants announces their topics to the group and post them on the Community Bulletin Board.  Together the group creates the agenda, the Community Bulletin Board, by posting the session topics on a wall  indicating the time and place of each session with a post-it. 

After that, the Board becomes the Village Marketplace, which is opened for participants to determine what they want to participate in. And then everyone gets to work in self-organizing concurrent groups. People manage their own time, space, and energy. They may choose to “bumblebee” from one concurrent session to another, cross-pollinating the conversations in the different groups. Or they might choose to be “butterflies” and just stand (or sit) at the tables with tea, coffee, and other refreshments that are available throughout the OST meeting, often described as a nonstop coffee break.  OST works on one Law, the Law of Two Feet:If you feel like you are neither learning nor contributing, you are responsible to use you your two feet and leave, perhaps move to another group..  Follow your passion and take responsibility for your participation.”

10 conversations were called and 2 lively rounds followed.  We then came back together to hear back a harvest and some tweets from each of the group hosts, with a beautiful graphic harvest from Melody.




After lunch Jose 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?


Finally Vic, Rob and Margaret  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.  Much appreciation for all the help and support. ​

7 projects were called 

  • ​Grange Over Sands community fair share lunch - Help with gathering volunteers, donors, funders etc 
  • Intergenerational project in Kendal - Bringing together older people to learn new stills, combat loneliness and improve mental health - how do I make this happen? 
  • The introduction of complementary therapies into Morecambe Bay NHS trust - who to approach, conversations, feasibility
  • Drug Related Deaths 
  • Conversations about the future
  • Whats the best way to bring a type 2 diabetes reversal course to South Lakeland ?

Design for Wiser Action Harvests

Check out: 

​What are you leaving with and what's your next step you want to take ? 

  • Start dancing        Use kindness and compassion       Use smaller groups for more results       Stay true to what I know works       Value holding rather than filling
  • Love not judge      Committed to make a difference       Shut up and listen more       Balance in life       Allow self to do more       Listen more speak less
  • Enjoy difference       Overcome stuckness with what I learnt       Energy and enthusiasm back in to group       Acknowledge others moods       Play at work
  • More conversations       More confidence in my ability       Slow down and listen       Take new found confidence and make a difference
  • Keep trying to do things differently       More comfortable with silence        Re-join the world a bit        Reflect on the 2 days, glad I came      Use more of these teachings
  • Use the resources personally to continue this       Participate more than facilitate       Good conversations and properly listen

See you on the 4th December for the follow up day 

Follow up Day


Andy opened by saying  " AOH has been foundational in shifting how I do my work as director of population health.  If you want to have well and healthy communities you need to build a social movement, people travelling together and changing culture"  He explained that one of his big questions  was  HOW DO WE PULL PEOPLE TOGETHER OF A SIMILAR MIND?  HOW CAN WE BUILD HEALTHY COMMUNITIES OUTSIDE OF THE HIERARCHICAL 'FIX IT ' STRUCTURE WE HAVE WITHIN THE NHS.  "We need to learn to work radically differently.  It's not OK that people who live in different postcodes have different life expectancies.  How do we live well and tackle social injustice?  it needs us all to step up to the plate. This is an opportunity to do leadership differently, not hero leadership but host leadership where the skill is to host spaces where all views matter and all experiences count". Andy welcomed the new people and the people returning from the last AOH and from other AOH trainings that had happened over the last 2 years,  inviting us all to connect both today and beyond and to build this social movement. 

Check in   When it's all going crazy, where is the deepest inspiration you go to, to settle yourself ?

Insignificant but nature-grounded

Small but potent, it’s not all in my hands

People and community, stories and conversations

From ostrich to active

While Istep back 

From bull in china shop to ten minutes stillness;

And Itry and figure me out, then

Turn to God by nipping in the toilet.

Modern life! Away to the hills for perspective;

I pray, unreligious, to God

Try to meditate and check in with others

Not insignificant but not forcing

I come to my breath,my sheltered space 

And Goddess Khali, perhaps.



Connections and 


By those unknown.

Step back and appreciate

Playing with my daughter because

I love her 


Straight to my Mum!


Let go

Pull back or

Laugh! Irreverent.

My feminine instinct and mothering

Making beds and food, I remind myself.

God is with us, everlasting arms underneath

So gratitude and laughter; sing!


Nature, finding ‘God’, if you want

Held, loved, bigger than me

Son; People; Love

Fire; solid earth; Kids

Open Space, wide open

All things connected

And good

Close the door, declutter the space.

Also, always, People

And the little things

The Shape of Toes.


Linda and Jon took us on a journey to remember the last training and to catch up on what had happened for people in the meantime.   Many people spoke about the conversations they had hosted as a result of the training, new projects that had started and new connections made - We mapped these out on a timeline

4 Faces of Hosting 

Stepping into experiences - where do you come alive, where are you most exhausted? 


"This is where i feel most alive.  This is about practice, recognising we need to take the time to do it.  Permission to say its valid to spend time nourishing oneself."  


"I like to create spaces where people can get on with each other.  It gives me joy to see people flower.  I love setting up spaces, giving it structure and letting it emerge."


"I'm naturally passive, I like it here, its my comfort zone, I don't need to take responsibility."


"This is the best and the worst spot, feel comfortable but you have to invest a lot, usually I host alone, how can we make more opportunities to host together, we need proper reflection and preparation time, it often gets lost". 


​The Pro Action Café is a space for creative and inspirational conversation where participants are invited to bring their project, ideas, questions, knowledge, experience - or whatever they feel inspired by to get help from others or ideas or new perspectives to help them move on. 

Darren:   Railway Bridges for communal spaces

Chris : Setting up a fun day at Eggerton Court

Margaret: Merger of 38 degrees NHS support and Mental Health Group 


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