Experience : The Art of Invitation

Updated: Jan 15

Stir to Action and Encounters Art training workshop The Art of Invitation: Creative Approaches to Community Engagement with Ruth Ben-Tovim at The New Room, Bristol


Beginning with an invitation to arrive in the space, the experience first offered a self-ownership of comfort, education and curious of all perspectives. We explored the extension with a collective aim to try and offer inclusivity of those voices who chose not to conventionally be part of the conversation. Giving the group a range on tools to interfere and encourage extended and culturally democratic discussion over ecological and social issues of our modern time, Ruth developed a notion encouraging the group to activate ourselves and our own engagement in the process. Using these activities, such as grouping objects and playing with themes of ownership, a cross community inclusion is aimed for to understand a vision of change, whilst building care and connection within a collective.



Aims of the workshop :


In groups, we then discussed and related times in our life where, with the mutual aim to come to a collective set of inclusive ways to implement creative engagement :


1 . You felt your opinion, idea or experience was really listened to


Dialogue over monologue ; understanding background over intentions ; background and narrative relationship ; authority of your own voice and influence without hierarchy ; vulnerable empowerment ; common understanding


2 . You felt disengaged


Crowd ; not being heard and competing voices ; power dynamics and dictorial knowledge-based education within a formal model ; no pushing of boundaries and factual imbalance of rational or historical models ; oppressive and patronising  


3 . You felt that someone hosted you really well


Felt company enjoyed, wanted within the space and appreciated well ; welcome sense of warmth, generosity, listening and respect of ideas ; careful use of language modelling ; premeditative care and offerings ; eye contact  


4 . You felt you were part of something


Common identity and goal within social contact ; common identity and values ; similar and respected group in which you were all engaged in a positive process ; tribal rituals


Key themes that we wished to include within our own ideal facilitation included :


Dialogue not monologue : allowing our reflexive conversations to influence and be influenced

Mutual respect : two way listening and being prepared to try and understand another opinion and individuality that we approach

Co-create : a common objective providing a reflexive, flexible and reflective process to reach a goal where everyone has a say

Highlighting the importance of care and consideration - having needs met through language, hosting, generosity and attention to individual details through action


There is a need for uninterrupted time, trust and investment of resources in a personal approach which offers accessible agency and active listening with practical needs and ease of options. By reflecting on unstructured and structured relationship building, we relate to senses and trust building to push between purpose and understanding. These tools work to break down barriers and become aware of extending circumstances.


Look at creating the conditions for create, caring and connective world in which we can all learn, flourish, live together within a community - reach by listening. How can we meet people who are different from me? Creating an experience, journey and exclusive interaction by opening a space and interrupting daily routine, although being aware of the tension between engagement and outcome.  The invitation to reflect is forming a micro approach versus the macro fields of overstepping thresholds by asking questions which relate to the democratisation of place.



Activation Methodology : Interruption


Inviting intimacy and connection into the public sphere by bringing the self and experience into pre-existing moments of groups and drop-in engagement with invokes enticement and makes contact - go to where people are

Offering tools for a remote dialogue and not necessarily a debate in order to remove dichotomy of response, specifically through opening emotions perceptions and offering numerous forms of participation

Co-authoring installed and reflexive pieces in which people see, leave and add to a snapshot in time as a sense of control and power, in which change itself is modelled

Revealing and influencing questions in a non-confrontational but rather inquisitive manner in how individual’s are living opens rather than closes minds

Enhances a sense of local belonging over consumers and brings interaction and human engagement

The more joy and excitement offered adds interests to the invitation


Activation Methodology : Barn Raising


Inviting people on a journey

Creating lininual communities as a reflection of recruitment but being aware of how far you are willing to get to collate a group

Importance of talking and growing, allowing for multi-landscape of entrances into a discussion by involving through attractive ways and modelling, making and enacting themes


Key Principles


“It’s not where you’re going it’s being on the road that counts”


Being aware of the situation and who you are travelling with and their inclusivity of invitation

Aim to deliver outcomes whilst maintaining a state of authentic engagement and enjoyment as the organiser

Being continually aware of the entrances and full-circular view of the context by offering different perspectives and connective tools to find networks of space

Length of journey encourages a built element of trust whilst engaging small changes to maintain motivation, although being aware that funding often sets destination despite slow culture change


“Let curiosity be your guide”


Instinct of human connection is aware of genuine interest in dialogue, exploration and open-ended enquiry - be honest, lateral and human

Setting an intention of why you want to form inclusions on a personal level and lose assumptions of how this may look

Create a toolkit in which to extend further into presence and adventure, building upon an inner resource to keep asking

Every engagement made under a professional and human guise has to have value in itself as a state of reflection to form a creative human experience and adds meaning

Be aware of whose taking and reflecting on the outcome? By relating yourself you add a link and shared resource


“Offer more than one way in”


Multiple entry points, styles and sense engagements into a process allows for multi-perspectives - knowing the self can interrupt interactions as it’s own tool

How, where and for who are you offering this access and communication?


“Co-author”


Set of invitations and structures in which all can contribute and treat all as equal

Explore your position as a facilitator and expectation for people to come - being aware that you have a responsibility to cross the threshold and offer additions

Are you the tool or are you using tools?

Step out of your comfort and stretch zone, being aware of both positive and critical reflection as small movements influence a confidence and leverage within the simplicity


Personal reflection :


"Jumbling, bumbling, it will all unfold, opening up and being flexible, fluid, unravelling within those conversations. Communication will find it's place, offer it and it's those gifts of the unknown, coming together and reaching across those bridges to the ones that need to hear you and be heard. You need to speak and listen, freely observe, fluid, graceful - take gratitude in this. Opening doors of the threshold, letting as much in as possible in order to be free and held. That tangible, malleable communication is so distinct in building that deep innate sense humanity - it is needed. There seems like so much overwhelming confusion, expansive and locational disrupt that wherever and however, together it can be overcome. Be that beacon, be the one who offers the hand out and so much will grab you in return, you will form that unity - hand to heart, feet to floor."


Further Research : Volunteer working with Encounters Art for community initiatives in Exeter

Lottie Matthews © 2020
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