top of page

How could hosting conversations that matter support real inclusion in our communities?

The Art of Hosting & Harvesting Conversations That Matter
3 day training  |  1-3 June 2022

All of the participants of the Carers Queensland Art of Hosting training celebrating the end.

Reflections    |   Practices   |   Patterns   |   Processes

This training was a first for Carers Queensland, bringing 85 of us together from within the NDIS Local Area Coordinator Partner in the Community Program, to connect with each other and to build capacity in hosting and harvesting conversations that matter.


Our calling question: How could hosting conversations that matter support real inclusion in our communities? 


We are sharing here what we learned, to serve as a reminder and inspiration for  bringing this practice to our work and lives.


What did we learn from the training as a whole? Here are some of our reflections and insights, recorded by Romi:


What is the favourite part of the workshop for you?


“… being challenged to explore my open mind with the support of my colleagues around me.”  —Lauren

“… the whole thing is an invitation. It's all about inviting people to learn, to share, to grow.”  —Rebecca


What are you going to take away for your practice from Art of Hosting?

“The importance of taking time and space to have meaningful conversations.” —Chaz

“... it's those really important purposeful questions that can bring about so many positive outcomes. It's been really important to see that in action today and I can bring that to participants and my team.” —Helen


“I really loved the open agenda (Open Space) and I’m really looking forward to being able to do that with my team.” —Peter


“ … learning a new way of thinking, delivering and hosting which expands my horizons and ask myself many questions about how I can introduce this in our work.” —Craig


“I’m taking new skills back to my team to help them think about how they can host conversations more effectively in the future.” —Ash


“What I have realised or what I have been reminded of is the power of connection, how inspiring providing people with the opportunity of and the possibilities these activities can actually bring to communities, within CQ, within teams.”  —Nat


“Don’t be scared to try new ways and ask questions. We are not going to know what the answers are unless we have the courage to ask and really engage in conversations, especially with our participants.” —Mel

“How much I love connecting with people, being with my tribe and connecting with people is totally my jam, that’s my love. What I loved most about the last few days is being able to slow down and do that.”


“To be mindful of the questions I’m asking, the space I’m creating for people … the last few days has opened up a lot of reflective practice for me.” —Emma


A small group of us (Allison, Noeleen, Rachel, Jess & Nic) spent time across all 3 days ‘fossicking’ for the gems we heard. Here’s just some of what we unearthed:

  • Small changes can make big waves

  • Gives me hope that we’re so grounded – authentic

  • If I can’t care for me, I can’t care for anybody else

  • Hosting others is hosting myself

  • Work in the positives to find a solution

  • Be comfortable with conflict seeing it as a positive

  • You can’t always choose the music but you can always choose how you dance to it.

  • You get what you focus on

  • Show up with intention

  • Create the space to do the slow work
  • Practice requires practice

  • Give it a go

  • Embody inclusion

  • There’s a beautiful dance between chaos and order

  • Powerful questions - thinking in questions rather than in answers

  • The future is bright

  • You can do the hard things with kindness

What clarity do you have now?

Here’s some of what we shared as we checked out of day 2:

  • Working together is essential to inclusion.

  • Be present, not just show up.

  • The importance of questioning to learn and understand.

  • Take the time. 

  • The breath of talent, compassion, intelligence, experience and heart at CQ is incredible and under-utilised.

  • That there are lots of ways to create space for conversations that matter.

  • The chaordic path was a ‘light bulb’ moment.

  • It’s ok to be curious, this is not a negative thing.

  • No one thing rests solely with me.

  • The importance of encouraging connection.

  • True, full and authentic participation from all is key.

  • I can create change.

  • We are moving forward with optimism and connection.

  • Self care is ‘not’ optional and should not be made a ‘luxury’.

  • I feel empowered to have conversations with people in different ways.

  • The significant thirst for innovation, change and growth.


Over three days we were immersed in an experience for deepening competency and confidence in hosting participatory group processes, and our own personal leadership.


Everyone was invited to step up to practice hosting and harvesting for the training, with the support of the hosting team. Here’s an overview of the ground we covered. 

A visual agenda of the 3 day training, handdrawn in colour with words and picturesflow


The Art of Hosting is more than a suite of methods – it’s also a practice field for hosting conversations that matter and our learning comes from practice. We were introduced and invited into these foundational practices:

The Four Fold Practice

This is the underlying practice of the Art of Hosting - what's underneath it all, the DNA if you like. Exploring this, we identified where we thought our strengths and stretches in these practices may be.

For more information, see page 7 in the digital practice guide or watch the video below.


The Circle Way

Circle spans the three layers of Art of Hosting — practice, pattern and process. It helps us remember ancient ways of meeting and making wise decisions together. We experienced circles in a number of different ways (and sizes!). We checked in and out of each day in a circle, we held smaller circles to practice hosting this way of being in dialogue together and we reflected on how we might use circle (and circle principles and practices) in Carers Queensland. 

For more, see page 10 in the digital practice guide
and the links below:


The Circle Way website

The Circle Way guidelines

The Circle Way video

The Art of Harvesting

What if we’re not planning for a meeting, but we’re planning for a harvest? 


We design our  conversations around the ‘harvest’ we want to produce.  The results we are seeking help to determine what processes we use and how. 


Harvesting is a practice that begins well before the event, during the event and also continues afterwards. 

  • The harvesting metaphor and how it applies to hosting conversations and work that matters. 

  • The principles of harvesting - PLUME 


We also practiced using a matrix to map out the harvest of our training, as a way of understanding more about the intangible (outcomes) and tangible (outputs). 

For more information about the Art of Harvesting see page 71 in the digital practice guide.


Designing from harvest is a simple version of participatory design that we became familiar with during the training. The hosting team used it to support those of us stepping up to co-host during the training. We also use it  to think through, prepare and coach each other in our work.

Design from harvest template


Invitation is more than just how we invite people into conversations or work that matters. It’s a practice and attitude all of its own. The quality of the outcomes from participatory work is directly related to the quality, intention and active nature of invitation. 


We learned the useful mnemonic ‘VALUE’ which represents a set of principles for invitation practice.


For more, see page 11 in the digital practice guide and the links below:

The VALUE of Invitation

A little secret to participatory leadership: the art of invitation

The Four Fold Practice as a graphic - showing the 4 circles or folds with arrows linking them
A graphic of The Circle Way in colour, words and pictures
A graphic of the four harvest quadrants in colour, words and picturesHarvest Quadrants


Conversations that begin from the perspective of worldview exploration are a way to invite people into dialogue. It is also important to understand some of the underlying patterns, or worldviews, that support the Art of Hosting and participatory leadership:


The Breath Pattern

Every group meeting or larger initiative follows a repeating pattern. This pattern was named by Sam Kaner and his colleagues as "The Diamond of Participation". It's as natural as breathing, which is why it is known in the Art of Hosting community as "the Breath Pattern". As a host, it pays to know this pattern and how to navigate through it with your group for more meaningful results. 


For more information see page 15 in the
digital practice guide.


Living Systems

We are beginning to understand and treat organisations and communities more like living systems than static machines. 


Some reflections on what this means for Carers Queensland:

  • Acknowledge that all humans operate in both of these systems and there are multiple competing things and ideas

  • We are the human part of the living system

  • We are the living system and are overlaid by the NDIS system. 

  • To build relationships in the community, it is important to really get to know the person and then progress to solutions and outcomes.


See page 21 in the digital practice guide for more information.

The Chaordic Path

The Chaordic Path is another fundamental pattern underlying Art of Hosting practice. It was first described by founding CEO of Visa International, Dee Hock. “At the edge of chaos” is where life innovates, where things are not hard-wired, but are flexible enough for new connections and solutions to occur.  New levels of order become possible out of chaos. Hosting is a practice of walking this chaordic path, holding space and processes to allow emergence and innovation to happen.



See page 13 in the digital practice guide, and the Chaordic Stepping Stones below.

Cynefin framework

The Cynefin framework is used to identify appropriate decision making and responses to problems. The Art of Hosting practices and processes are used to address challenges in the complex domain. We looked at these patterns through our own experiences in work and life.





For more, see page 18 in the digital practice guide.

A graphic of The Breath Pattern using colour, words and images
The Chaordic Path drawn in colour, with words and shapes
The Cynefin Framework despicted using works and shapes
A simple coloured diagram of what a living system can look like


We learned, experienced and reflected on some of the core and best known participatory processes that are part of Art of Hosting.

The World Cafe

We participated in a World Cafe, a powerful conversation process for digging beneath and moving beyond opinion and position and moving to new and shared understanding. We explored the following questions:

  • Round 1: How is our work already contributing to real inclusion in our communities?

  • Round 2: What else can we do in our work with people and communities to create more inclusion?

  • Round 3: What else can we do in the way we work with each other to create more inclusive communities?


We spent each round experiencing and practicing deeper dialogue, harvesting our key insights at the end of each round. Here's a summary:





















Here’s our final insights and reflection on the process:

  • The last question: “... in the way we work with each other” This was the nitty gritty.  This is about what we do together, how we treat each other, rather than the participants.  

  • Grateful for this opportunity. Work I’ve done before (not in CQ) was fast paced and driven with no time to spend like this and grapple with each others’ viewpoints. Seen as a waste of time but valuable to do this in CQ.

  • Reflecting on working in rural and remote communities, this is an intimate, personal, practical way of connecting people and drawing out conversations.  

  • We may have ideas during our day to day but they get lost. This process captures it. Good way to remember what your strengths are.  

  • The exercise is a great chance for inclusivity; every voice was heard. pretty cool


A small group of us (Joce, Justin, Dan, Courtney and Maud) stepped up to do some collective sensemaking, a powerful way for people to see patterns in their own contributions, rather than outsiders doing it for them. We used the ‘data’ from the final question in the world cafe and shared it back at the end of the training.  Here’s what we came up with:

Appreciative Inquiry: Storytelling Trios

An introduction to Appreciative Inquiry as an approach to engaging stakeholders in self-determined change, and to storytelling trios as a process of storytelling, deepening connection and harvesting insights.


Sharing the roles of storyteller, listener and witness, we all had a chance to share a story of a time we stepped up with courage.

Listeners harvested the elements that supported that courage, collectively creating our own recipe for courage:

  • Drawing on emotions and feelings

  • Selflessness

  • Self belief 

  • Overcoming fear

  • Taking charge

  • Motivated by need

  • Seeing opportunities

For more, see page 41 in the digital practice guide.

Sensing Interviews

We were introduced to the 4 levels of listening and speaking and sensing interviews from The Presencing Institute (Theory U, U Lab.) This is a powerful way to deepen connection with an understanding of another person through deep listening and dialogue. We explored these questions: 


  1. Who was in your childhood family? Tell me about one of them and your relationship to them.

  2. Whom do you consider you belong to?

  3. At this stage of your life what are you learning? 

  4. What would you say is your highest aspiration in life? Why, and what could fulfilling this mean for you and others?

These were adapted from some example questions shared in the practice guide, see page 43. And here’s a diagram with more information about the four levels of speaking and listening. 

Open Space Technology

We were introduced to Open Space Technology, a powerful process to support conversations and work to happen, especially when there is diversity and great need. 


We created our own agenda, and self-organised in Open Space to consider the question: What are the conversations we need to have now?


Over two sessions, we hosted and participated in a wide range of conversations that covered topics such as: inclusive and compassionate leadership, cultural safety, achieving a better sense of community at CQ, including more visual processes in the work we do, working together to ensure our participants benefit from our services, working across cultures, embedding quality, addressing homelessness, under-utilisation of funds in the hearing impared community, and sitting in the discomfort of a system. 


A harvest of these conversations is available here. For more information about Open Space Technology, see page 36 in the digital practice guide.

A poster with words, shapes and colour, a harvest of all of the conversations during World Cafe

Round 1

  • We provide opportunities for people to lead their own lives

  • We listen to and amplify the voices of lived experience

  • We have a presence in community, and help connect people to their community

  • Inclusion starts with us. We “walk our talk” with our own diverse workforce

  • We are making sure that people with disability are included and can participate in their community

  • We are helping to change perceptions and expectations in the community

Round 2

  • Proactive engagement not reactive

  • Build capacity of people and organisations

  • More conversations and greater understanding of community 

  • Simplify processes

  • Continue to develop a service culture 

  • Team collaboration across the organisation

  • Get out in the community more.

Round 3

  • Consistent practices and processes

  • Create a culture that promotes hearing all voices

  • Continue to ‘walk the talk’

  • Focus on our strengths

  • Opportunities to connect and share knowledge

  • Be attuned - adapt and grow

  • Create opportunities for cultural appreciation

  • Self care - look after each other, slow down, strategically use time