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IONS — Hosting Conversations at Large Conferences

Last week Teresa Posakony and I hosted at the IONS conference in Tucson, Arizona. We were asked to support the desire for more participation in the event, a large scale conference. Many colleagues (Berkana, Art of Hosting, World Cafe…) joined us in direct support, offering ideas, and in standing with.

I want to share some of the gist of this – because it went really well! And because there is important learning for many of us, all of us, in pioneering engagement and deep community in large conference formats. And because it was beautiful learning and experience on activating a field, a resonance. And, and, and…

The gist of the how and what was four plenary weaves and two breakout sessions to meet in open space format (hosted with Sharon Joy Kleitsch, Jane Gignoux and others from the IONS Community Groups), as well as a conference table for Berkana / AoH materials. Each day we had between 25 and 50 minutes to work with the group at a plenary level. There were 400 – 600 in the room in basic theatre style seating in the conference ballroom. The basic framing we chose was one of “turning to one another.” Naming the kinds of learning that can occur, acknowledging amazing speakers, and inviting us to make sense, tell stories, get clear by turning to one another. Yes, Meg Wheatley’s book, Turning to One Another, was available at the bookstore. Yes, partner discussions. Yes, groups of 4 or 5. Yes, journaling… And yes, this was an audience where we could talk about wholeness, wellness, consciousness. We spoke it as “the wisdom we need is in the room, the wellness we need is in the room, the consciousness we need is in the room.” We could speak of the wholeness of the world wanting to be in communication with us and through us.

Day 1 we worked with experiences of shift in consciousness. Day 2 with images of the future being born in us. Day 3 with sense-making of a very powerful and dyer presentation from Edgar Mitchell on the state of sustainability and what we can begin to do with our two feet and hands – working with simplicity and first next steps that feed the whole. Day 4 with intention setting. And yes, we told stories. Of Berkana Exchange. Of our kids. Of whales thinking they can fly. Of blue footed boobies. Thanks Meg for the latter two. Yes, even offered a dialogue poem / rap in the moment which landed well. And yes, we invited – called out – ourselves and the group to be in deep questions. Held them with seriousness and with a lightness.

A representative story of appreciation…. We were done with all of our sessions. A participant handed us a note of deep appreciation. “You have shifted how this conference is run. You have hosted and held the kind of inclusive community that we so want and need.” It was a beautiful little offering from her and full of thanks. We had so many people share similarly. It was as if they couldn’t not share with us. People in the halls would stop and tell us deep, involved stories. They felt invitation to just open up and felt release and wellness in doing so. The energy field we intended had them well(er). Activated…

So, all of this to say, yes, a movement is afoot. Yes, a beautiful taste of being involved and sharing Berkana stories. Yes, a dive into the river of heart and soul. Yes, to the work that is beneath the words – working in energy fields. We held it that way, along with many, and it came to form that way.

Gratitude friends, in the turnings.

A few additional photos, including graphic recordings of Julie Gieseke are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tennesonwoolf/sets/72157620843375326/

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