The Art of Convening by Craig and Partricia Neal is a book on how to enable authentic engagement in meetings, gatherings, and conversations. Authentic engagement is defined as a genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for others. When we are authentically engaged, we feel connected and energized, which leads to better outcomes, the possibility for something new to emerge, and true commitment from those who participate.
Convening is to move beyond facilitation. The authors make the following distinction between facilitation and convening:
- Facilitation is the process of making something easy or easier.
- Convening is the art of gathering and ”holding” people, in a safe and generative space, for the sake of authentic engagement each time we invite people together.
The book takes you through the following convening aspects, exploring each in detail:
- At the Heart of the Matter. Who I am in relationship with others?
- Clarifying Intent. What is the intention and purpose of our engagement?
- The Invitation. Is the offering to engage sincere?
- Setting Context. Is the form, function, and purpose of our engagement and intent communicated?
- Creating the Container. Is there a physical and energetic field within which we can meet?
- Hearing All the Voices. Is each person heard, present and accounted for?
- Essential Conversation. Is there a meaningful exchange in an atmosphere of trust?
- Creation. Is it possible for the new to emerge from our engagements of shared purpose and trust?
- Commitment to Action. Is there an agreement to be responsible and accountable for the way forward?
The art of convening isn’t rigid or static any more than are our relationships. Rather than being limited to a sequential progression of steps, it is a journey where we can correct our course at any time along the path.
It’s a graceful book.