The art of holding space

April 02, 2019 Béatrice Bretton Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.6 out of 5


On 19th February 2019, I led a Lunch n’ Learn at SDC on what it means to ‘hold space’. 17 people joined, intrigued by the title, simply curious or deeply interested in improving their inter-personal communication skills at work and in their personal lives.




Aurélie de Lalande  – Process facilitator

Holding space is about opening a broad space for another person, where he/she can be completely himself/herself and experience the benefit of feeling fully welcome for a moment.

As the space holder, my sole intention is to be fully present to the other person’s experience, and to sit with his/her discomfort, pain, irritation or whatever it is he or she is experiencing at that moment.

As the space holder, I do NOT: have a project over him/her, bring up unasked for solutions, give advice, try and fix anything nor control the outcome. In other words, I will not try to bring the other person where he or she is not. I am simply offering fresh curiosity and presence to a fellow human being sharing his/her experience with me. It is like walking next to someone and holding their hand while quietly listening.


In order to practice holding space for others, just remember to:

1. Check if you are up for it 

We do not always have the capacity, space, availability or willingness to hold space for someone at a particular moment. It is important to recognize it and not try offer what we do not have. Let’s be realistic, and then genuine about it.

2. Create space within yourself

You can for example take 3 conscious deep breaths, visualizing a big warm sun in your belly. Afterwards, gently bring your attention to the person who is coming to you and remind yourself ‘I am going to let her/him be exactly the way she/he is’.

3. Hold space for the other person – and for yourself simultaneously! 

I am mentioning holding space for yourself because sitting with someone’s pain, irritation or any other intense feeling can be very uncomfortable – which is one of the reasons why we usually try to get them out of it!

4. Be gentle towards yourself

Holding space is a practice. We are not used to do this, and it does take courage to show up and sit in the fire and the rawness.

Enjoy practicing offering space to yourself and others!


Ayant vécu les limites des structures de management et de gouvernance ‘à l’ancienne’,  Aurélie se passionne pour l’écologie relationnelle, la collaboration et l’émergence de nouveaux leaderships. Formée à la Communication NonViolente (CNV) et aux outils de la gouvernance partagée, Aurélie facilite des processus de transformation, individuels et collectifs.


To explore further, you may want to check out Heather Plett’s website :

Parler en public – un challenge à la portée de tous

January 22, 2019 Carmen Eckert Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Marie-José Auderset, codirectrice de Microplume sàrlIl vous arrive sans doute d’être agacé parce que vous n’avez pas réussi à défendre vos idées, vous n’avez pas réussi à convaincre. Soyez-en sûr, être un bon communicant n’est pas réservé à ceux qui ont du charisme, à ceux qui maîtrisent naturellement la communication orale. Cela s’apprend. Vous avez une minute pour vous exprimer ? Ou dix ? Ou trente ? Je vous propose quelques conseils pour attirer l’attention dès vos premières paroles.

Marie-José Auderset, codirectrice de Microplume sàrl

Suscitez la curiosité

Au départ, il s’agit avant tout de susciter la curiosité de vos interlocuteurs, de les « prendre par la main » pour leur donner envie d’écouter. Soyez simple, direct, concret, original. Impliquez-les en leur parlant d’abord de ce qu’ils connaissent. Allez les chercher dans leur univers pour les amener peu à peu dans le vôtre.

Montrez l’importance de votre propos

Prenez votre place. Sentez-vous légitime dans votre rôle d’orateur. Puis, montrez l’importance de votre message. Parlez par exemple de l’enjeu qui sous-tend votre projet ou votre action, de vos motivations, de vos convictions.

Créez le lien avec votre public

Regardez vos interlocuteurs. Ayez une posture ouverte. Montrez le plaisir que vous avez à partager ce moment avec eux. Ils se sentiront pris en compte, reconnu. Ce sont des choses toutes simples qui ont un grand pouvoir.

Montrez votre conviction

Soyez enthousiaste et engagé. Votre propos, votre voix et votre posture prouvent que votre projet, votre action vous tiennent à cœur. Vous avez foi en vous-même et vous êtes convaincu du message que vous faites passer. Si vous ne vous montrez pas convaincu, il n’y a aucune raison que vos interlocuteurs le soient.

Choisissez les informations à donner

Votre ambition n’est pas de tout dire, mais d’être compris. Définissez votre message essentiel. Sélectionnez ce qui est indispensable à dire et mettez-le en valeur. Trop d’information nuit à l’information!

Marie-José Auderset est codirectrice de Microplume sàrl, formatrice d’adulte spécialisée dans la prise de parole en public et le média training, ancienne journaliste à RTS. Mme Auderset anime notamment des cours pour la CUSO, les formations continues de HEG-Fribourg et des universités de Genève et Fribourg. 

Resources and further reading:

Participatory videos for community development. Lessons from the Nepalese Himalayan Mountains

November 27, 2018 annavonsury Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.3 out of 5

Pimmer Christoph      Urs_Web_06     ZAHND Alexander_4 (1 of 1)

The use of participatory videos to document and share knowledge is gaining traction in development cooperation and community development. But can we leverage these videos in very remote areas with mostly illiterate people? Yes, we can. Here are insights and recommendations from using participatory videos in Nepalese Himalayan Mountains to support the development of community infrastructure projects, such as building drinking water systems and greenhouses.

By Christoph Pimmer and Urs Gröhbiel, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Alex Zahnd, RIDS-Nepal/Switzerland


How to find stories for your blog post, newsletter, report, workshop, presentation

January 18, 2018 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5


Remembering stories is a powerful skill. Including a story into the opening of a workshop, an e-discussion or your next presentation engages your audience. People love reading stories in blog post or newsletters; the stories allow you to underline your point. But how can you find stories? This blog shares 10 simple ways to retrace, notice, collect or reactivate stories.

 Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments




Interviews Part II: Vom guten Fragen & Unterbrechen

November 14, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.4 out of 5


Nach dem Vorgespräch fängt die Arbeit erst richtig an. Wie muss ich fragen, um die gewünschten Antworten zu erhalten? Wie steige ich ein und wie unterbreche ich? Dieser Blog behandelt das Vorgehen beim eigentlichen Interview.

Hansjörg Enz


Interviews Part I: Kein Interview ohne Vorgespräch

November 07, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

IMG_3667Besser ein Videointerview als ein hundertseitiger Bericht. Aber die Aufmerksamkeitsspanne ist auch bei Videos eher kurz, deshalb müssen sie gut geplant und durchdacht sein, damit die Zuschauer nicht wegklicken. Eines der wichtigsten Instrumente für ein gelungenes Interview ist das Vorgespräch.

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May 17, 2017 Blog Admin Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

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Workshop space is precious space we want to use wisely. Creating the right conditions is the facilitator’s job. It is part of the design process to think about how to create these conditions and the ambiance conducive for working and learning together in a productive and inspiring way. In this blog post, we share our reflection on what it takes and why it matters to create a common ground for working together.

By Jany Barraut, Beyond Boundaries and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Infographics , why bother?

May 03, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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By Gabriela Montorzi, Scientific Infographics (more…)

Mind map = c’est penser avec stylo

April 26, 2017 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5


Une mind map – carte mentale ou heuristique – ressemble à un couteau suisse : c’est attractif et pratique. Cette méthodologie visuelle ne passe pas de mode. Elle est toujours moderne, attrayante, puissante.  Qui plus est, c’est facile et rapide. Finalement, sa dimension visuelle permet d’identifier les connexions et les schémas ce qui sert de base pour agir.

Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Let’s Draw

February 01, 2017 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

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Caro Van Leeuwen, SDC (more…)

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December 01, 2016 Leonie Pock Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


The play button is the most compelling call to action on the web” says Michael Litt, CEO and co-founder of Vidyard, a platform hosting business video content for distribution to websites and social channels. Not very surprising quote considering his position, you may say. But the success of the company reflects also the importance of video not only in marketing but also in other forms of communication. In this blog post, we want to have a closer look at the benefits of video in communication and introduce Lightbulb – a new format for sharing new and innovative learning experiences of SDC collaborators, units and networks. By Leonie Pock


Value-creation stories for monitoring the value of networks

November 01, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.3 out of 5

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11½ ideas when to use a digital story

July 13, 2016 Blog-Admin1 Change Stories, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5


We made stories. Making stories is great learning. This we know, this we experienced. Using stories is the next step. In knowledge communication there are many options to integrate digital stories into sharing and learning processes.  In this blog post we collected 11 ½ ideas for you how to use your story or stories created by your colleagues.

Carmen Eckert, Leonie Pock and Nadia von Holzen, SDC (more…)

Dare to facilitate

May 25, 2016 Blog-Admin1 Change Stories, Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Facilitation is (also) a question of confidence, of daring to “stand there” and to be the facilitator. But first facilitation is a question of good preparation and of getting the 3 Ps clear: purpose, people and process. The key task of a facilitator is helping the organisers to clarify the purpose of the workshop, to understand people’s needs and questions, and to design a good process that is interactive, relevant and meaningful. 

Nadia von Holzen, SDC 


Physical Design of Space to Support Learning

May 18, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

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By Polona Sirnik and Jana Repanšek, Center of Excellence in Finance (CEF)


Kanban – an amazing technique to get a grip on your work

April 26, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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By Nadja Schnetzler


Are you preparing social reporting for your next face-to-face meeting? Here are 6 points to remember

March 09, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools, SDC Networks

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Nadia von Holzen, SDC


Joint Learning on Pastoralism – a process of experience capitalization among SDC Programme Officers

March 03, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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By Manuel Flury, SDC, Addis Ababa and Charlotte Nager, SDC, Berne


Documenting the process: The long road to a good story

December 23, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences, SDC Networks

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

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November 18, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


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By Nadia von Holzen, SDC


Sharing knowledge and experiences: create events that inspire and set free energy for work

October 07, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Corinne Sprecher, Agridea


How to make sense in a complex environment

September 23, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

During a 4 days-training, Dave Snowden, the founder of Cognitive Edge, introduced his audience to the challenges, risks and opportunities of working in complex environments. With the Cynefin-framework he proposes a tool to get a better understanding of the working environment and the appropriate strategies in order to be effective. Collecting stories from all the involved stakeholders is in his view the only way for making sense.

By Charlotte Nager, SDC (more…)

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August 26, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5
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Nadia von HolzenBringing together 95 learning practitioners does not provide a guarantee to joint learning nor community forming. Learning together needs space for joint inquiry and deliberation. Learning together needs true and deep conversations. Conversations are connecting and connections are the condition for deep conversations.

 Nadia von Holzen, SDC

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July 29, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

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By Nadia von Holzen, Mirjam Walser and Kuno Schläfli, SDC


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July 22, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

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