Art of Hosting: World Class Collaborative Leadership Training in Finland, Minnesota

Finland has always accomplished community goals by working together. It’s part of how we have survived as a community. It’s why the Finland Co-op is still here after 108 years. It’s how the old Finn Hall was built. It’s how the old Rec Hall was moved to Finland from the Forest Center logging camp and set up to serve the needs of the community at that time. It’s how we built the Clair Nelson Center. There are many other examples through the years.

It’s easy to be influenced by the big world out there though. The overarching culture we also live within tells us to be rugged individuals, overcoming adversity alone. I would argue that even though many of us are indeed seriously rugged individuals, none of us can overcome our personal or community issues alone. We need other people. We need community. We can accomplish so much together that looks impossible when we are alone.

Friends of Finland has been through a lot in the past few years. We are still a relatively new organization, still expanding in our work – in our capacity to address community needs. There’s still so much to be done, and we need all of us to help do it.

I get a lot of credit for a lot of the things that happen in Finland. I have certainly contributed, and it’s nice to get some recognition for that, but I have never done any community work alone. I have had help and mentorship and other people’s leadership every step of the way. I can’t do it alone. I need all of you. We hold each other up. I want to hold others up and help them do the work. We need to grow our own leaders. We need to empower our own community.

I have been hoping for and planning a collaborative leadership training here in Finland MN for a long time. It recently happened, and I am now confident that similar events will take place in the future. It was called Art of Hosting, Finland, MN and it took place November 11th, 12th and 13th. Eighteen (!) people who work for or with Friends of Finland attended, alongside six trainers, and thirteen folks from around the state who work in various leadership positions. In three days, we learned new words, new methods, and new ways of thinking about ourselves as leaders in our communities. Finland folks were engaged and excited, and gained a new understanding of how widely our community is known throughout the state. Friends of Finland Board, Core Staff, Youth Night, and Food Chain staff all found collaboration and connection at the training. We were inspired by our trainers and visitors and they were inspired by us as well.

Art of Hosting is a world-class training that we managed to bring here, to Finland Minnesota, despite the pandemic. I don’t know what tangible results will come from it, but I feel really good that staff are on the same page with collaborative leadership as never before and that whatever the future holds, we have what we need to tackle it together. – Honor

The Art of Hosting training was a wild experience. When we first got there, I felt confused about a lot of the language and concepts the hosts were introducing to us, but by the second day we moved away from the lectures and started to put more of the concepts into practice as a group. Many of the tools we learned will be useful for our work at Friends of Finland and the Finland Food Chain and will strengthen our current model of horizontal leadership. Beyond the techniques we learned, my biggest takeaway from the training was how grateful I am to be a part of the Finland community. What we have here isn’t like anywhere else and quite a few people from all over Minnesota shared that they were inspired by our community too. I am so happy to know and work with you all and look forward to meeting more folks in Finland soon! -Lucy

The Art of Hosting training really opened my eyes and mind to the possibilities of sharing power. It changed my outlook of my purpose as a leader in today’s society. The biggest thing about systems change is ourselves and how and what we practice in our professional spaces! – Abby

The Art of Hosting training that happened here at the community center this past weekend was quite an experience. We were introduced to a whole new language and framework when working together, and honoring a non-hierarchical approach to collective decision making processes. Not only was it educational but very intimate and emotional as well. I know I’m not the only one that left in tears. – Katee

After dinner on Saturday we participated in an Open Space discussion where as a group we organically created our own meeting topics with a few guiding principles: 1) Whenever it starts is the right time, 2) Whoever comes are the right people, 3) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened, and 4) When it’s over, it’s over. I participated in a discussion about Doomsday Planning in Finland hosted by Robin Sunquiet. This discussion produced a few uplifting and fun takeaways, namely that you should always know a welder, someone with a bucket truck, someone who writes grants to build infrastructure like a pizza oven, and that when the going gets tough in Finland, we tend to party more. The discussion brought about a fierce pride for our community resilience and grounded us in being from this place. – Dan

The Art of Hosting Finland, MN training was made possible by generous grants from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation‘s Second Chance Fund, the Garofalo Foundation, and the Tracy Family Foundation‘s Capacity Building program. Trainers (or hosting team) were through Co-Nexio and friends. 

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