Creating a Container is how we create a context to manifest our intent by attending to factors such as emotional safety, individual difference, physical space, etc. A successful container not only nurtures creativity, but it increases productivity. A successful container provides the hooks for all the other patterns that support successful group process.
Creating a container can perhaps best be thought of it in terms of spirit, which doesn’t lend itself to definition or specificity. To many it’s the embodiment of the intention and the purpose that was set.
"If you think of holding space as being in the center of the wheel, it’s being in the center and holding the energy of what’s both inside the bounds and outside; it’s magnetic – you draw in what’s most coherent to the intention."
At the same time, it's also very practical, with a large element of creating a container referring to the psychic and physical conditions within which the group meets. Failure to attend to the creation of the container leaves openings for potentially disruptive, unconscious processes.
Instructions & Variations
- You start to create the container with Invitation and Purpose.
- The container is energetic, verbal and material.
- Timing - Announce clear starting and ending times, although Creating a Container can extend beyond ending times especially in multi-day events - caring for transitions of people coming late and going early – what’s going on at the boundaries
- Invite Beauty – create a centerpiece | pay attention to the Power of Place - old, environment and setting, be in nature or where you can see nature whenever possible
- Make sure the accommodations are comfortable, that there are enough chairs, the temperature is right, the windows can open, there is food and drink available, etc.
- Create initial unity through a common act – chanting or a moment of silence, reflective meditation, lighting a candle. Ritualize the beginning.
- Let people know what to expect – if they’re going to be called on, etc.
- Setting clear Norms & Ground Rules in order to create a culture. Use Ant Rules – simple instructions that lead to self-organizing systems, like Open Space uses
- Seating arrangements and the energy flow in the room/s are important – sitting in a circle or around a round table sets up a different intention than sitting in rows or sitting at rectangular conference tables.
- If some people don’t seem to be engaged, don’t ignore it. Creating a Container implies a responsibility for the Energy Flow and a connection to Witness with Compassion.
- There may be occasions where we need to make space at the boundary for people to be half-in and half-out.
- Creating a container is based out of a deep relationship of shared trust with the culture. The facilitator is responsible for investigating the culture in which the container is to be built in order to have the necessary cohesion & context
- Establish a clear contract between facilitator/host and client as a pre-condition for creating an effective container. See Purpose.
Cautions and Caveats
- Boring, sterile environment. Lack of focus, disorientation. Lack of safety. People tend to drop out or not be engaged fully when the container is not held well (if no one is not engaged, is that a matter of there not being adequate holding of the container?)
- The timing is "off" - you consistently run out of time or find yourself interupting the flow when something powerful is trying to be born
- What creates a leak in the container, and what catches and repairs that leak?
- What are the design criteria for creating a container in different situations? What’s always involved, and what are the variables for different intents?
- What needs to happen before the event to create the container, and what is the follow-up after the event that keeps the container intact if that is the desire?
- Creating a container may look different in every culture, so how do we establish a container when not in our root culture?
- The container is an indicator of magic when things end exactly at the time designated for the event to be over.
- Coherence in the field – everything is flowing in the direction of purpose; everything is feeding into the higher purpose of what people are there for.
- Participants feel comfortable and there is a sense of psychological safety in the group that allows people to speak and know their voice will be heard.
Creating a Container points primarily to:
Other patterns Creating a Container also points to (secondarily):
Patterns that point primarily back at Creating a Container
Other patterns that also point back at Creating a Container (reverse secondaries):
Category and tags
Session notes from containers session at Leadership in a Self-Organizing World.
Personal Stories about Creating a Container
Each card listed here has at least one relevant story. Add your own stories in Anonymous+Personal Stories.
Synonymous with Hosting? (see the discussion there)
--John Abbe.....Wed May 05 11:17:14 -0700 2010
We are reading this, trying to understand if this is the pattern Safe Space for Truth-Telling we are thinking about. Creating a Container and Holding the Container seem to be Safe Space plus verbs - so the Container is Safe Space.
Bascially what we are trying to understand - does the verb go into the pattern? is there a norm about that?
One thing I've noticed in working on this pattern is that Creating a Container and Holding the Container are two different patterns - one following the other in use. Safe Space is a subset of Creating the Container - by that I mean that creating safe space is part of what it means to create a container, but it is not everything and couldn't substitute for either pattern.
John - to your question above, depending on your definition of hosting of course :-), both creating and holding a container feel like they are part of what it means to be a host or facilitator (whatever language you use to talk about convening group process). But not the same, no.
--Amy Lenzo.....Wed Jun 09 15:12:59 -0700 2010
Amy, thanks for your comment. I'm still grappling with the grammer. Is Container a pattern? And Safe Space for Truth-Telling a sub-pattern? And Creating a Container and Holding the Container as larger patterns in their own right?
--Ted Ernst.....Thu Jun 10 20:07:29 -0700 2010