Facilitation or hosting?

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Chris Corrigan writes about a distinction between facilitation and hosting.

Facilitation comes from a mechanistic view of organizations that they are machines that can be fixed. Facilitators typically take a neutral stand bring their tools and tool kits to help things run easier. The facilitator is the mechanic and the group is the machine.

Hosting, on the other hand, is a practice of leading from within a living system. It’s like entering the machine, becoming a part of it and changing it by being there. In a living system you cannot enter the field without affecting the field.

I think the distinction is important, and I’m very much drawn to the hosting model.

The notion of operating from within a living system resonates strongly. This relates fairly directly to the stuff Senge and Co have to say about presencing.

Here’s some more of Chris’ wisdom:

From a complexity stand point, facilitation is seen as a reductionist activity, reducing complexity to simple problems with simple outcomes and a simple path for getting there. Facilitators help groups to seek answers and end states. Hosting from within the field however is more aligned with the nature of complex systems, where there are no answers, but instead only choices to make around the next question, and the paths where those questions lead us. There are no end states. The idea of a healthy community is a vector, not a point. It is a direction to move, not something that can be acheived and then crossed off the list.

The only slight caution I have is the labelling as I’d quite like to use the word facilitation to describe what Chris calls hosting. Hosting as a word comes with its own potential for confusion.

This comes to mind if I think of a point I often like to make. I’m not David Dimbleby. (Celebrated UK anchorman type). This is not televison where the “host” hogs the mike, interrupts experts and purports to represent the audience. I think groups often have that notion of my job and sometimes get a lot of anxious eye contact during awkward silences where it seems that people want me to say something. On the whole, I want them to say it themselves. I don’t see myself as the pivot around which the group moves.

Dave Snowden picks up indirectly on the ideas Chris raises and talks about another important issue.

In effect most of the material I read in articles and the blogosphere, and most the presentations I witness at conferences fit within the dominant atomistic assumptions of anglo saxon tradition: the individual is seen as primary, with communities understood as aggregations of individual self-interest and needs.

I think Chris’s notion of hosting embodies a less atomistic and more connected worldview; we’re not separate from the group, we are part of it.

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