a.k.a The Art of Convening
a.k.a. Authentic Engagement
We have experienced and observed, in our own work and lives, the power of authentic engagement to bring a shift of energy to a meeting or gathering. When authentically engaged, people tend to feel energized and connected, which leads to better outcomes. This shift in energy often generates meaningful conversation, an emergence of something new, and an alignment that leads to true commitment from those who participate.
The Convening Wheel model helps to bring the practices and principles needed for authentic engagement together as a whole—with a natural order and sequence that can be followed, or not.
At the foundation of the Art of Convening is a “technology of relationships.” If you hold as true that each interaction with another human being is an opportunity for authentic engagement or relationship, that interaction is enhanced. The Art of Convening is a guide to help us integrate our personal values into positive relationships that make possible the best outcomes for our gatherings, whether for communities, organizations, or the world.
We use a Convening Wheel model to explore the convergence of the inner and outer worlds of Conveners—those who engage others in meaningful meetings, discourse, and conversations. The integration of the personal practices of the Convener with the practical concerns of convening meetings and gatherings is the unique realm of the Art of Convening.
We discovered while developing the Convening Wheel that the outer, physical, design-oriented delivery considerations in convening always seem to follow the same path as the inner life of the Convener. That is why the inner considerations are so prominent in our convening model. We believe that the Convener is a leader whose power and effectiveness are rooted in personal development, integrity, and coherence. When we tap into the generosity inherent in most people, the wealth of knowledge and wisdom in any gathering is revealed.
The Convening Wheel is the form we use to visualize the inner and outer considerations of the Convener. The parts or phases of the Convening Wheel, the center and eight outer points around the perimeter, are called Aspects. We start at the center with At the Heart of the Matter and then move up, or north, to Clarifying Intent, then travel clockwise all the way around to Commitment to Action. We follow a path that reflects both the presence and action of the Convener. The Wheel reveals an intuitive, logical progression of actively engaged relationship.
You may ask, “Do I really have to do all of these steps?” The short answer is: to get the best result, yes; to see an improvement, no. Begin where it makes the most sense, with a commitment to try following the Wheel as your understanding and practice grow.
Despite our best intentions to use the whole Convening Wheel model, we understand that in our everyday world, sometimes an impromptu conversation or gathering surprises us. Sometimes our active lives deliver us to a gathering unprepared; or we did not call the meeting, so we arrive feeling that nothing can be done to modify or change the meeting form. Even so, the power and capacity of the Art of Convening will continue to grow and permeate our gatherings as we utilize and practice it when we can.
The structure of the Convening Wheel illustrates the various Aspects of convening as a whole. As we progress through the Aspects around the Wheel (whether tentatively, fitfully, or gracefully), we cycle through the steps and considerations using this circular form to guide our way of being and doing.
The Convening Wheel is flexible. Rather than being limited to a sequential progression, we are able to correct our course at any juncture along the path. As in our individual lives, we at times need to hit the “reset button” to refocus or step back a few paces to a place of balance and equilibrium. This is also true in our relational lives as leaders and Conveners. The path of the Convening Wheel isn’t rigid or static any more than are our relationships.
There are many books and theories about best practices in meetings or gatherings. The Art of Convening is unique in that it can be used independently, but can also be used in conjunction with other models, methods, skills, and proficiencies we already have. Each of the nine chapters in this book covers an Aspect of the Convening Wheel. Each Aspect builds on the previous and provides a bridge to the next, creating a cycle of wholeness in our relationships and engagements.
Creative credits: Olivia Bretzman on Doodly, Tim Foss of More Belief for excellent graphic recording