Party, party

March 28, 2011 |  by  |  Uncategorized

The format and underpinnings of Conversare gatherings are becoming clearer as is their significance.

For inviting people who may not know each other to share a meal together in a public place, in a context in which whoever is present feels welcome and included,  is increasingly striking a deep chord.

As was expressed by a participant in one such event in Padang, West Sumatra, last November:
“It’s simple and deep. A spiritual adventure.”

With four main underpinnings which derive from the conversational processes, Open Space Technology  (OST) and the World Café (TWC), namely:

.  Create a hospitable space

.  Define the purpose of the gathering

.  Whoever comes is the right people

.  Whenever we treat each other well good things happen.

A couple of recent events have demonstrated the application of the format and principles nicely.

Both have been parties, one to say hello to a group of fine friends, the other to say au revoir to another similar group.

The first has been reported on previously (see  Context and convening ).  Here is another brief account to illustrate the connection between the two events.

My wife Carmen and I went to Adelaide in South Australia during the Chinese New Year holidays, at the beginning of last month. We have done this several times during the six years we have been living in Hong Kong.  On each such occasion we have held a party – at a Chinese restaurant! – to which we invited fine friends we have made over the many years we have both resided there and with whom we wish to keep connected.

The format of the most recent of these gatherings was based on the early beginnings of, and then more developed, the idea of creating contexts for conversation in public places. With the premise that participants get to know others more deeply than is usually the case. This happens through having time to converse – to turn or to dance together’ metaphorically.

And so all present were invited to find one person who they did not know to have their meal together.  With plenty of time for everyone to mingle and say hello too to those they had met previously.

Reportedly this kind of socializing has been greatly enjoyed ever since the beginnings of the adventure, not least as people are able to find commonalities between themselves and those who were initially strangers to them.  Which can be a source of great delight, not so?

What also happened at this party was truly astonishing.  For two of Carmen’s previous colleagues in the Education Department said to her: “There is a position which has just become vacant which would suit you well.  Please apply for it as we would be very happy to have you come back to work with us again.”

Carmen looked at the prospect, decided that the position was indeed attractive, applied for it and was promptly  appointed.  Once I got over the shock of possibly leaving Hong Kong – which we had no intention of doing in the foreseeable future – and recognized the opportunities on offer for my work from being back In Australia I was happy about the prospect too.

Which means that we are leaving here in the next few weeks to return to Adelaide ‘for good.’

It also meant that we had another Conversare style party, this time in Hong Kong to say au revoir to lovely friends we have made during our very happy stay here over the past six years.

This gathering, on Fri 25 March, was held in the place where the Conversare experiment took form, Café Zambra in Wanchai. In this instance – but not in the party in Adelaide – the principles listed about were made explicit in the form of posters displayed on a wall. And because of a larger number, participants joined in tables of four.

Once again the restaurant and its staff came up trumps to ensure that everyone was nicely looked after.

And, as ever, people connected with those they did not know as well as catching up with those they did.

The gathering closed with everyone participating in rousing renditions of a Pete Seeger song ‘Where have all the flowers gone’ See why this was chosen and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – the first verse.

And a chocolate cake the likes of which, in yumminess and size,  you could not have imagined!

These brief accounts give another ‘taster’ of the potential of the format and underpinnings of Conversare gatherings.

I wonder if you see from these, and perhaps other accounts recorded on this blog, of other applications of the approach?

Are there other contexts you can visualize in which making explicit that ‘Whoever comes is the right people’ and ‘Whenever we treat each other well’ could be relevant?

Go well

Alan Stewart


  1. You have asked for a few comments, re-the going away party last Friday.
    Let me firstly say I had a wonderful time. I think what sticks in my mind from the evening is your honesty and the way you treat others well, (I underline that word honesty) because it shines out from you. That is what makes me feel comfortable in your presence. You are awesome Alan (and Carmen too!) it’s your honesty that attracts people and that is what I think makes great conversation.
    You don’t ask or expect anything in return, you just give out to others and get pleasure in seeing others enjoy themselves.
    You don’t worry what people think of you because you are comfortable with yourself. Honestly.
    With you Alan there are no pretenses, and because of this I think you relate to such a huge cross-section of people, of varying ages and backgrounds.
    We all are, I am sure, attracted by your honesty.
    Thank you for the warm experience of your party with special strangers at a table I just so happened to have sat at.
    If I may I would like to leave you with my favorite quote because it is all about being honest,
    “People in general judge more with their eyes than with their minds.Everyone can see, few have understanding. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know who you really are, the common crowd is always deceived by appearances and by the way things turn out,” Way back in 1519 (Machiavilli)
    Thanks Al, God bless you mate!

  2. Conversare defines social networking without the use of new technologies and internet communications, which often eliminate the non-verbal communication we take for granted.
    [These] sessions bring humanity back down to the ground level and reminds us of the conversations we miss all too often.
    A very enjoyable experience.

  3. Friday evening was delightful, people were open, enjoying conversations and generally feeling good. The spirit of camaraderie was evident.

    No agendas, no stress, just a happy atmosphere.


  4. “Conversare brings out the best of people and the best of Alan, a lively welcoming host who has learned the importance of saying and doing what matters. It is important for us lucky ones who have enjoyed Conversares to train and encourage other people to converse because the solution is in the dialogue”

  5. I wonder if you see that the lively comments above are in a similar spirit to that of a couple of earlier ones here?

    “great concept indeed … think you just hit it right at bull’s eyes … long wished for in the recess of our minds but not quite realized or voiced! great going alan … !”
    Velda Kwan

    Sometimes I ponder deeply about “Conversare” which is re-introducing the sheer joy of just being together to share, to laugh, to eat, [and perhaps also to sing and to dance]. No chores, no big problems, no strategy, no planned outcomes — just lots of intimate togetherness from which compassion, friendship, love and community emerge. I sense that in that Alan, you are truly a trailblazer. You persist, you continue and who knows perhaps one day, Open Space will become a Giant Conversare because the problems people will have to solve will seem so small when folks know and care about each other. We will be living the joy of just being together! A lost art that is screaming to be re-discovered.

    Suzanne Daigle

  6. Joelle Lyons Everett

    I think that Conversare can be a context in which caring, healing conversations can emerge.

    For several years I was a member of a therapy group, and we served as a support system for each other. Our therapist often reminded us that humans are social animals, made for connection–which in this day and age often takes the form of conversation. A century ago, there were rituals and conventions that encouraged conversation–salons and dinner parties, ritual visits with those who were in mourning, tea parties and coffee klatches with neighbors. The forms would vary from place to place (and class to class, I expect) but there was an understanding that we needed each other, and could support each other and treat each other well.

    Today many of the forms are gone, but we still have the same human needs. We may or may not know our immediate neighbors, or be a regular attendant at some church, or entertain our friends in formal fashion. E-mail is a kind of connection, and can be a rich exchange. But much as I treasure your remarkable e-mail conversations, they do not replace your presence. So we are feeling our way toward new ways of gathering, and Conversare is a powerful one. Open Space is another, and so are our conferences that bring us together with others who care about some of the same things we do.

    Joelle Lyons Everett

  7. Conversare brings me back to my youth and summers in Canada at the lake with no electronics where people actually enjoyed each other’s company. We played word and dictionary games and simply visited. Conversare recaptures the delight of just ‘being’ with others rather than ‘doing’ which is all too prevalent here in Hong Kong.


  8. to me, coming to Conversare has always been like ‘going back to the future’ in a sense -it’s going back to a familiar future that i know i could expect to be welcome, let my hair down (per se) and still be appreciated; it’s a place where we’d find that giving our attention to others (like Listening) is just as enriching an experience as sharing of our own (talking)! it’s also a place that we can trust that whoever shows up is the best pick of the evening .. a place where no one leaves without feeling a bit ‘bigger’ (mind, stomach and spirit) than when they arrived!

    Velda Kwan

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