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Alpbach Summer School on Facilitation and Participatory Leadership

From August 19 to 22, 2015 the European Forum Alpbach will host a Summer School on Facilitation and Participatory Leadership. The language of instruction is English.

The Summer School aims to provide participants with:

  • A deeper understanding of a wide range of participatory methods and approaches
  • Practical skills to apply in their own organisations
  • The possibility to gain first hand experience as co-facilitators during the European Forum Alpbach 2015

Our training will offer lasting skills of how to face challenges in a participatory manner in companies and organisations as well as the wider community. At the core of the training are the questions of how can we meet the complex societal challenges of today and what practices and ways of working can help us to unleash the potential of organisations in this age of diversity?

International Trainer Team

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The Summer School will be provided by a team of internationally renowned trainers and is led by Mary Alice Arthur (New Zealand), Ursula Hillbrand (Austria), Christian Hörl (Austria), Toke Moeller (Denmark) and Monica Nissen (Denmark).

  • Mary Alice Arthur (New Zealand) is a Story Activist, specialising in using story in service of positive systemic shift and to access and create collective intelligence on critical issues. Her art is creating and hosting spaces for wise action, and narrative practice forms a key part of her international participatory practice work. She is a steward of the Art of Hosting and works with participatory practice all over the world (
  • Ursula Hillbrand (Austria) is a participatory host, trainer and coach in the European Commission. She holds a law degree and has worked since 1995 in different policy areas, currently in corporate management.  She has applied the Art of Participatory Leadership as a pioneer in her multicultural work environment and designs and supports participatory processes and events in many departments. She regularly gives workshops in Art of Participatory Leadership and Communities of practice in the EU institutions.
  • Christian Hörl (Austria), Business Consultant, Magister (diploma) in business studies from the University of Innsbruck, graduated Team-Supervisor, Practice Consultant, and Project Officer from IAP Zurich (Institute of Applied Psychology). He has professional experience as executive manager and consultant in social, political and economic organisations and relations. Since 2006, he leads the dialogue-project “Arbogast” and is co-organiser of the “projects of hope”. He accompanies local council and is a member of staff of the “Art of Hosting”-Team.
  • Toke Padulan Moeller (Denmark) is a pioneer in “Art of Hosting” and is, with Monica Nissen, the founder and managing director of InterChange ( He practices, teaches and works in various fields and cultures, for instance in civil service (ministries, European Commission, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights), in public health service e.g. Wiltshire County (UK), Nova Scotia (Canada), Columbus (Ohio), and in education. He works with companies and with civil society all around the world.
  • Monica Nissén (Denmark) is the co-founder of “Art of Hosting” and InterChange. She studied architecture and had training in Human Resource Development, Meeting-Design and Process Consulting. For 25 years, she has been working as process consultant worldwide and accompanied larger groups in strategic works. One of her core areas is “learning ecology” where results of discussions are recorded in such a way that collective awareness and insights are visualised.
  • Elisabeth Anker Head, Haus der Begegnung, Innsbruck Diocese, Innsbruck
  • Martina Handler Political Scientist, Mediator and Public Participation Expert; ÖGUT Vienna
  • Simon Mathis ETH Zürich
  • Anna Wohlesser Facilitator, freims:contemporary consulting
  • Mirjam Dondi Communication and EU – affairs expert, Permanent Representation of Austria to the European Union, Brussels
  • Diego Heatherman Club Alpbach Vorarlberg
  • Thomas Hutle Club Alpbach Vorarlberg
  • Gwendolyn Kohlhaupt Club Alpbach Vorarlberg
  • Mische Oliver Altmann Graphic Recorder
  • Melinda Varfi Graphic Recorder


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Participatory Leadership has proven its value in many different contexts as a means of activating the collective intelligence in groups and organisations. Present and future leaders need to be more flexible and creative to successfully navigate the challenges facing us like the accelerating rate of change, the increased complexity in organisations and the prospect of ever widening diversity and orientation. The traditional command-and-control type of leadership alone is no longer workable. Tapping into the potential held in people is crucial and inviting everyone to participate with their diverse perspectives is the key to releasing this potential in organisations.

The practice of participatory leadership recognises strategic dialogue and conversations as drivers for development and change. It can be used to good effect in areas like:

  • Strategy-making
  • Stakeholder engagement and alignment
  • Organisational and community development
  • Leadership & management alignment
  • Team and network development
  • Staff engagement
  • Developing and animating networks and communities of practice

Purpose of the Training

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The training based on the “Art of Hosting” methodology aims to give a dynamic and effective introduction to methods of working in a participatory and collective manner to tackle complex systems and challenges on the local, regional, and national levels.

The purpose of the training is to create both the know-how and capacity for participatory practice in the European Forum Alpbach community and specifically for professionals in public service around the world.

The Alpbach Summer School on Facilitation and Participatory Leadership is a 3-day training designed for learning simple yet powerful processes to build community, activate collective intelligence and foster individual and collaborative leadership practices.

This training is for people who want to practice being in participation together. It will build capacity to host and practice participatory process and apply it to your own work. During the training we will:

  • Explore how hosted conversation as a process complements more traditional ways of leading teams and organisations
  • Explore collaborative means of responding to complex system and organisational issues
  • Experience and learn how to use tools that invite people to contribute their strengths and gifts to meet a common purpose
  • Equip you to facilitate change using participatory methods and take these methods to scale

As a participant you will

  • Participate in a process that lays the foundation for shared goals, deep engagement and focused action
  • Gain an understanding how to work with powerful questions and how to work with harvesting the results of co-creational processes
  • Experience how to design processes and host meeting and conversations with the help of methods like Circle, World Café, Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, Storytelling, etc.
  • Actively take part and have an opportunity to present your own project or idea and gain access to the collective wisdom of the group in shaping its implementation
  • Experience how to tap into the collective know-how and discover the strengths, talents and capacities hidden in the group

We are inviting

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All those who want to develop collaboration and participation and want to harness the richness of diverse backgrounds and experiences, specifically

  • Professionals in public service
  • Change makers, social innovators and entrepreneurs
  • Representatives of NGOs
  • Leaders in business
  • Selected Forum Alpbach scholarship holders

The Summer School is most suited to participants who will have the opportunity to apply their learning on return to their respective work.

Fees/Scholarships and Application Procedure

Participation in this training is limited to 60 participants. The working language is English. We will be selecting participants from all applications aiming to create a diverse, dynamic learning field.

Applicants are asked to answer a short set of questions in a motivation letter (max. 1 page):

  • Why are you interested to learn more about participatory leadership?
  • What are you particularly interested in seeking to learn more about in the art of participatory leadership? Where will you apply what you have learned in life and work afterwards?
  • Because this training is embedded within the Forum Alpbach 2015, there is the possibility for some participants to step forward and to be part of the team that will co-host the breakout sessions of the Alpbach Health Symposium (MED) (afternoon, August 24), or the Forum Alpbach Bar Camp (Evening August 24). Are you interested in this option, if yes, please mention it in your application and tell us which of the two above mentioned you would like to be co-hosting and why! Please consider that you should be available from August 19-25 if applying for this option.

Paying participants

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As the number of places is limited, participants will be selected by the European Forum Alpbach. We are aiming for maximum of diversity in the composition of participants and their backgrounds. Therefore we cannot guarantee applicants a place in the summer school upon receiving your request for participation. All applicants will be notified by April 30, if their application was successful or not.


Full price: EUR 1.000,- (Companies, Public Administration etc.)

Reduced price: EUR 700,- (Registered Charities and Social Businesses )

The fees include only participation and lunchtime meals during main training days; accommodation and travel expenses are not included!


Request for participation form (PDF)

Motivation letter (max .1 page) answering the questions above.

Important note:

Please send your documents until April 17 via E-mail to


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The European Forum Alpbach will provide a number of scholarships for the Summer School for university students or recent high school graduates with a special interest in participatory leadership.

The scholarship program was set up in order to build capacity within the Forum Alpbach community. Scholarship holders are encouraged to apply their newly acquired skills during the Forum this summer and in the years to come.

The scholarship includes free participation. Should you not have sufficient funds to cover the costs of your stay in Alpbach, there is a possibility to apply for an additional amount for accommodation and board. Please fill out the Supplementary Form (PDF) and include it in your application if you wish to be considered for this extra sum. If you have any proof of financial support for your studies, you do not need to explain your financial situation in writing. Please include, however, the corresponding proofs (e.g. the confirmation that you are receiving the Austrian “Studienbeihilfe” or any other study grants).

Those granted the scholarship should be available for the entire period of the European Forum Alpbach.(August 19.-September 04. 2015)


Scholarship application form (PDF) + Motivation letter answering the questions above + Curriculum Vitae

Please send your application documents as printed copies only (!) until March 31st (postmark) via regular mail (!) to the

European Forum Alpbach Non-Profit-Foundation
Franz-Josefs-Kai 13/10
A-1010 Vienna

Preliminary Program

August 19Informal Welcome and Official Opening of the European Forum Alpbach
August 20-22Summer School Training
August 23Free day
August 24MED change makers in health system, harvesting and presentation of ideas (optional)
August 24Co-hosting the Alpbach Bar Camp (optional)

Should you have any further questions please visit our FAQs or contact:

Lara Weisz