What Is This Field?
Chatting with a friend over email and she asked about the Art of Hosting and the participatory methods of facilitation, conversation hosting etc. What would we call the field or methodology that this is part of? Are they design theory / social change?
I shared my thoughts and acknowledged that other people would likely have something different to add. I think of these participatory processes, methods and philosophies as being much bigger than design theory or social change, and it includes them. It has connections to the discovery of the ‘new science' – that shift from newtonian physics to quantum physics; and we also have other concepts like complex adaptive systems and chaos theory to wrap our heads around. And it is also goes back to when we first discovered fire and came together in circle and formed social systems. So as much as some of it is ‘new' it is also very very old. Christina Baldwin said “The circle was the paradigm shift at the foundations of our human evolution, and collaborative conversation is the paradigm shift again that will prevent our extinction.”
Or as Margaret Wheatley wrote in her book Leadership and the New Science:
To live in a quantum world, to weave here and there with ease and grace, we need to change what we do. We need fewer descriptions of tasks and instead learn how to facilitate process. We need to become savvy about how to foster relationships, how to nurture growth and development. All of us need to become better at listening, conversing, respecting one another’s uniqueness, because these are essential for strong relationships.
So alongside these discoveries of living in a quantum world people were experimenting with different group processes that worked with the whole system. The Change Handbook describes whole systems change beautifully:
This book is about effective change. It describes methods for changing “whole systems,” that is, change based on two powerful foundation assumptions: high involvement and a systemic approach to improvement. High involvement means engaging the people in changing their own system. It is systemic because there is a conscious choice to include the people, functions, and ideas that can affect or be affected by the work. Whole system change methods help you initiate high-leverage, sustainable improvements in organizations or communities. “High-leverage” is emphasized because in any improvement effort, we want the highest possible value for the effort invested. We believe that involving people in a systematic way is a key to high leverage and that the methods in this book can provide this leverage for you.
What's interesting is that in The Change Handbook they talk about what to call this, the field of what? And there isn't one answer. Which I kind of like.