Tools and methods

Opening Practices


Check-ins help hub members transition into the session, become present to the space and the intention of the gathering, and connect with one another. They provide a space for each member to share something. It is often useful to allow people a few minutes of stillness before checking in. The check-in itself can take many forms. Generally, the check-in is guided by a question. You can adapt the check-in to suit the size and character of your group, as well as the time available for your session. Here are some examples:

  • How am I showing up today?
  • A hope I have for today's session is:
  • Something I would like to share with you as we begin our time together is:
  • One word that describes how I am entering into today's session is:


Intention-setting is a powerful tool. You may want to begin at least some of your sessions by allowing participants a moment to clarify and share their intention for the time you will spending together.

If you wish to arrive at a shared intention, consider that intentions can be set at a personal or a collective level.

The following conditions might help with intention-setting:

  1. Create a relaxed atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable.
  2. Start with a mindfulness practice to shift the attention to the here and now. Being present in the body helps prepare for intention-setting.
  3. You can then use practices like guided journaling or a World Café session (see instructions below) to explore questions that lead to setting an intention, such as:
    1. Present situation - What disruptions do you see? What do you see wanting to emerge?
    2. The future they wish to create - What would you wish for this context, challenge, or situation? What would that look and feel like?
    3. Next steps - What seeds need to be cultivated to arrive at this future, and what conditions will allow this?
  4. For collective intention-setting, you can write what participants came up with on a board.
  5. Don't forget to reflect on the global intention. How can your personal and collective intentions be framed in the context of the whole?

Intention can function as an important compass for your hub as it can allow you to open up to new possibilities.

It can even be helpful to explicitly refer back to your intention (whether personal, collective, or global) throughout your journey, checking whether it still makes sense, or whether new information and experiences might cause you to adjust your path.

Closing Practices


Check-outs can be short or long. Some examples of questions or sentences to guide a check-out are:

  • How am I leaving the hub today?
  • An insight or learning that I gained today is:
  • Something from today that will stay with me after I leave is:

Check-outs can take place in the whole community or in smaller groups. If the check-out is done in smaller groups, it is still a good idea to come together as a whole community and ask for a few comments related to the check-out question. Gathering together in this way helps to support the sense of community and bring closure to a session.

Dialogue circle

Guidance for moving into Generative Dialogue

Some participants may want more information on how to operate in dialogue circles. Here are some points they might find useful:

  1. Dialogue is different from discussion. Discussion is about sharing views and making decisions. Dialogue is about exploring the context or field in which a problem arises; the end point is not a decision. Rather, it is to become more aware of our thinking and being, and open ourselves up to new insights and awareness.
  2. Avoid giving advice. Sometimes advice is direct and sounds like this: "You should/could/need to....". Often it is indirect and delivered as a question, such as, "Have you considered...", "Did you ever try....?", "Do you think you might want to....?". Don't be fooled: even in question form, advice is advice! Giving advice tends to shut down the conversation rather than open it up.
  3. Allow moments of silence in dialogue. This creates space where people can sink deeper into the shared understanding and new ideas can emerge.

Talking Stick and Circle Practice

The talking stick - also called a speaker's staff, a talking piece, or listening piece - is an instrument from aboriginal democracy used by many tribes, especially those along the Northwest coast of North America. The talking stick may be passed around a group or used only by leaders as a symbol of their authority and right to speak in public.

In circle practice it is often used to slow down the conversation, in order to improve the quality of deep listening and intentional speaking. Principles are simple:

  • Sit in a circle.
  • Use an object as a talking piece. This can be a branch, an apple, a stone, a marker
  • You can put the stick in the middle of the circle on the floor.
  • The host explains the rules and speaks the question.
  • The person that wants to share first takes the stick and talks as long as they need, while keeping the stick in their hands. The group listens with care. When finished, the stick goes back in the middle or is passed on. (you can pass the stick on to the next if you're not ready or don't want to speak)
  • It is OK if there is some silence.
  • No need to respond to anything that was said before, you can speak to the question from whatever emerge. Speak with intention. Less is more.
  • Not everyone needs to speak!

This is a slow process. However, if facilitated with warmth and discipline it is a good way to create a real dialogue. You can do this with big groups, if there is time enough and a certain level of maturity in listening (that might also grow in your hub as the process unfolds).

Use this method for example in the beginning to check in or at the end for closure.

Awareness Practices

Here we present some practices that can help you and/or your hub improve awareness of your thoughts, emotions, beliefs and actions.

Silence Introduce a few minutes of silence at the beginning of the meeting. Invite participants to land in the session, in their body, in their mind, in the now. With eyes open or closed, whatever feels good. If you keep your eyes open, focus somewhere on the floor before you, don't look in each-others faces.

Guided journaling:Guided journaling leads participants through a self-reflective process. This practice allows participants to access deeper levels of self-knowledge, and to connect this knowledge to concrete actions.


  • Journaling is a personal process. Never ask participants to share their journaling notes in public.
  • After completing a journaling practice you may create an opportunity to reflect on the experience of journaling. Again: emphasize that participants decide what they want to share.
  • Journaling means that you think through writing; not to think and reflect, and then write down the reflection. In the instruction, emphasize that participants should just start writing and see what emerges.
  • Step 1: Preparation: Prepare a quiet space that allows each participant to enter into a process of self-reflection without distractions.
  • Step 2: Guided Journaling Questions: Read one question after the other; invite the participants to journal guided by the questions. Go one by one through the questions. Move to the next question when you sense that the majority of the group is ready. Don’t give participants too much time. It is important to get into a flow and not to think too much.


You could use music to create a good atmosphere during the session.

Dialogue Practices

Art of Hosting methodologies

More info on

Circle Practice -Adaptable to a variety of groups, issues, and time frames. Circle can be the process used for the duration of a gathering, particularly if the group is relatively small and time for deep reflection is a primary aim. Circle can also be used as a means for “checking in” and “checking out” or for making decisions together, particularly decisions based on consensus.

Appreciative Inquiry -Useful when a different perspective is needed, or when we wish to begin a new process from a fresh, positive vantage point. It can help move a group that is stuck in “what is” toward “what could be”. Appreciative Inquiry can be used with individuals, partners, small groups, or large organizations.

World Café -Process used to foster interaction and dialogue with both large and small groups. Particularly effective in surfacing the collective wisdom of large groups of diverse people. Very flexible and adapts to many different purposes – information sharing, relationship building, deep reflection exploration and action planning.

Drawing on seven integrated design principles, the World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue. World Café can be modified to meet a wide variety of needs. Specifics of context, numbers, purpose, location, and other circumstances are factored into each event’s unique invitation, design, and question choice. More about purpose, process and instructions:

Open Space -Useful in many contexts, including strategic direction-setting, envisioning the future, conflict resolution, morale building, consultation with stakeholders, community planning, collaboration and deep learning about issues and perspectives.

Pro Action Café -A space for creative and inspirational conversation. It is a blend of 'World Café' and 'Open Space' techniques, where volunteer hosts call sessions on what matters most to them (projects, ideas, questions, knowledge, experience - or whatever they feel inspired by) and other participants travel from table to table and engage around those issues to help the hosts to deepen their understanding of the matter and gain diverse perspectives on it. More infohere

Facilitation Resources Corrigan collected all his resources in one place)

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