The Art of Convening

Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations

Craig Neal (Author) | Patricia Neal (Author) | Cynthia Wold (Author)

Publication date: 02/07/2011

The Art of Convening

Details a powerful set of principles and practices for making any gathering productive, meaningful, and transformative.

  • Details a powerful set of principles and practices for making any gathering productive, meaningful, and transformative

  • Draws on the authors' decades of experience convening meetings in all kinds of settings

  • Offers practical wisdom on both the inner and outer aspects of convening

"Meetings are a waste of time," is a sentiment many of us share, which is tragic, because meetings bring us together as human beings. To achieve the kind of meaning or breakthrough results most of us really year for when we gather, the key quality needed is authentic engagement: a genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for others. Why it so often eludes us can be a matter of habit, distrust, lack of attention, or fear.

As co-founder of Heartland Inc., Craig and Patricia Neal have led over 170 of their acclaimed Thought Leader Gatherings with leaders from over 800 diverse organizations. Their new book shares for the first time the unique and powerful Art of Convening model -- developed in these gatherings and refined over six years of intensive trainings -- that brings authentic engagement and meaning to any group brought together for any purpose.

Convening goes beyond facilitating. Convening creates an environment in which all voices are heard, profound exchanges take place, and transformative action results. The heart of this book is the Convening Wheel -- a series of nine steps, or Aspects, that bring the practices and principles needed for authentic engagement together as a whole. The book provides exercises, stories, and questions to help you master both the inner and outer dimensions of this work -- because, in convening, the state of the Convener is equally as important as the physical preparations.

Convening works in any setting and can be adapted to virtually any group process. With this book you have all the tools you need to develop this essential life and leadership skill, one that will lead to improved outcomes in your organization, community, family, and relationships.

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Overview

Details a powerful set of principles and practices for making any gathering productive, meaningful, and transformative.

  • Details a powerful set of principles and practices for making any gathering productive, meaningful, and transformative

  • Draws on the authors' decades of experience convening meetings in all kinds of settings

  • Offers practical wisdom on both the inner and outer aspects of convening

"Meetings are a waste of time," is a sentiment many of us share, which is tragic, because meetings bring us together as human beings. To achieve the kind of meaning or breakthrough results most of us really year for when we gather, the key quality needed is authentic engagement: a genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for others. Why it so often eludes us can be a matter of habit, distrust, lack of attention, or fear.

As co-founder of Heartland Inc., Craig and Patricia Neal have led over 170 of their acclaimed Thought Leader Gatherings with leaders from over 800 diverse organizations. Their new book shares for the first time the unique and powerful Art of Convening model -- developed in these gatherings and refined over six years of intensive trainings -- that brings authentic engagement and meaning to any group brought together for any purpose.

Convening goes beyond facilitating. Convening creates an environment in which all voices are heard, profound exchanges take place, and transformative action results. The heart of this book is the Convening Wheel -- a series of nine steps, or Aspects, that bring the practices and principles needed for authentic engagement together as a whole. The book provides exercises, stories, and questions to help you master both the inner and outer dimensions of this work -- because, in convening, the state of the Convener is equally as important as the physical preparations.

Convening works in any setting and can be adapted to virtually any group process. With this book you have all the tools you need to develop this essential life and leadership skill, one that will lead to improved outcomes in your organization, community, family, and relationships.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Craig Neal



Since awakening to his life's purpose in 1963, Craig has celebrated life as a passionate evolutionary leader. He has been a publishing and organizational executive, as well as a guide to those called to authentically show up in life and work. Throughout the 70's, 80's, and 90's, Craig help executive positions with Garden Way, Inc. and Rodale Publishing, and helped launch Harrowsmith and Eating Well magazines. By 1996, he concluded his publishing career as publisher of Utne Reader Magazine.

In 1996, Craig founded Heartland Inc. with Patricia, his wife of 30 years. Hearland produced the first Thought Leader Gathering in 1998. Twelve years and 170 Gatherings later, Craig has co-convened over 1,600 leaders from 800 0rganizations in these ongoing membership-based groups in Minnesota and the San Francisco Bay Area. He and Patricia created the Essential Conversations Process for educators (Circle of Fire) and MBA students, and have convened meetings for businesses and communities alike.

Craig created and launched the Art of Convening Trainings in 2004 for those called to be an inspired catalyst for change in their organization or community. Over 350 are currently engaged or have graduated from 40 groups.

Craig's passion for the wilderness and being amongmen transforming thir lives and personal visions led him to create the Men's Wilderness Journeys.

Craig is skilled at building relationships within and across organizations. He is dedicated to creating networks of authenticity and essential conversations among individuals and within organizations through training and events. He founded the Conscious Business Alliance and the Minnesota Magazine Publishers Association, and served as a board member of Business for Social Responsibility, Various Waldorf Schools, and Responsible Minnesota Business.

Craig and Patricia live in Minneapolis; they have three inspired adult children and two grandsons.


Visit Author Page - Patricia Neal

"My passion is to bring convening as an expression of intentional leadership and transformation. I love to convene leaders and communities of engagement dedicated to creating a world with well-being for all."

Patricia is cofounder and president of Heartland Inc.Since 1998, Patricia and her husband, Craig Neal, have co-convened over 170 Thought Leader Gatherings serving leaders in Minnesota and the San Francisco Bay Area. Patricia co-developed the Art of Convening Trainings with Craig. Patricia leads When Women Lead retreats for women leaders in Minnesota. Under Patricia's guidance and focus, Heartland's signature programs over the last decade-plus have flourished.

Prior to Heartland Inc. Patricia held various marketing and media positions at Telemedia Communications, where she helped launch two national magazines, Harrowsmith and Eating Well, and at Garden Way Mfg. Inc.

Patricia serves as a Founding Board member of Honoring Women Worldwide, and is a participant and advocate in the Waldorf School movement. She is mother to three outstanding grown children, and grandmother to two terrific boys.



Visit Author Page - Cynthia Wold


Cynthia believes that the loving and generous among us are heroes to be recognized.

She is a writer, artists, and Web marketer and designer. She started her own Web design and consulting business in 2000, helping high-value organizations and nonprofits to better communicate their value propositions, until joining the Heartland team in 2007 as Web chief.

Cynthia raised her two daughters as a single parent, working as a bartender, restaurant manager, and teaching/research assistant while earning her B.A. in psychology, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, at the University of Minnesota.

She continues to serve in an advisory capacity for several nonprofit organizations, including Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers.

Cynthia lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Tom, her two step-sons, her cat, and Polo the wonder dog.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: At The Heart of the Matter

Chapter 2: Clarifying Intent

Chapter 3: The Invitation

Chapter 4: Setting Context

Chapter 5: Creating the Container

Chapter 6: Hearing All the Voices

Chapter 7: Essential Conversation

Chapter 8: Creation

Chapter 9: Commitment to Action

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Endorsements

"The authors have done for convening what Julia Child did for French cooking -- they have created the authoritative guide to mastering their art."

-- Eric Utne, Founder, Utne Reader


"Few people have refined the process of bringing people together as gracefully and elegantly as Craig and Patricia Neal. I hope you will not only read this book, but take it to heart."

-- Peter Block, Author of Community, The Structure of Belonging


"We spend so much time working together in groups, doesn't it make sense to learn how to do it better, smarter, deeper, and more authenticall?"

-- Alan M. Webber, co-founder, Fast Comapny magazine


"An extraordinary work that encourages sincerity, clarity, and commitment to the formation of relationships at work and at home."

-- Marshall Goldsmith, author of MOJO and What Got You Here Won't Get You There


"This wise and thoughtful book helps readers understand what's needed to create the kind of authentic meeting where true collective wisdom can emerge in group settings."

-- Juanita Brown & David Isaacs, Co-Originators & authors, The World Cafe

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