Open Space Technology:  A Summary

Open Space Technology is a democratic and dynamic tool for conferencing/meeting in a hurry. It is stimulating and fun and gives everyone of whatever status an opportunity to contribute. It evokes passion and commitment and validates people’s visions. It is widely used by many types of organisations from theatre companies to corporations with groups of 5 to 500.  The results are shared a closing circle.

POINT TO PONDER: “I can’t believe that after all these meetings, workshops and conference sessions, the most valuable time for me was still during the coffee breaks, when I met with people I wanted to meet with and talk about the issues I wanted to talk about.” – Harrison Owen, author of Open Space Technology: A Users Guide

Here is an outline of Open Space Technology.

What does Open Space look like?

A Playing Space or A meeting room prepared for Open Space has a circle of chairs in the middle, letters or numbers around the room or rooms to indicate session locations, a blank wall that will become the agenda and a news wall for recording and posting the results of the sessions.

The Circle

The circular chair arrangement signifies that all are equal here–both as knowers and learners.  Participants are all facing each other equally, with the opportunity to work together to discuss and resolve issues, if they so choose. There is a facilitator but as yet no agenda.

Passion and Responsibility

Open Space runs on two principles:  passion and responsibility.  Without passion, nobody is interested.  Without responsibility, nothing will get done.  Obviously, different people feel passionately about different things and it is also obvious that people will not take responsibility for something they are not passionate about.  In Open Space, people come together around topics they care about.  Voluntary self-selection is the absolute condition for participation in the Open Space event.

Stating the Theme

The group will be invited to (and not everyone has to) identify topics, issues and themes that they would like to discuss, explore or play (such as Do the Fools need a community/research/documentation space? Or is it possible to apply fooling to music?) issues for which they have a genuine passion and for which they will take real responsibility for discussing.  They should be thinking of powerful ideas that really grab them to the point that they will take the responsibility to make sure that something gets done about that issue.

Proposing an area for discussion, and taking responsibility for it does not require that the propose-r be an expert or that a formal presentation be given.  Either or both of those could be true, but it is equally possible that the propose-r could be virtually ignorant of the subject and was looking for some people with whom to share the ignorance and develop some knowledge. Taking responsibility means the propose-r will designate a time and space and then convene the session.

The Four Principles

*Who ever comes is the right people

*Whatever happens is all that could have

*Whenever it starts is the right time

*When it is over, it is over

The Law of Two Feet

There is only one law and that is: The Law of Two Feet: If you are no longer engaged in a session, you have permission to leave.  The law puts responsibility for your own actions on your own shoulders.

Bumblebees and Butterflies

Bumblebees and Butterflies are for those people who wish to use their two feet and “flit” from session to session. These people can pollinate and cross-fertilize, lending richness and variety to the discussions.

A number of groups should run simultaneously.

Session Recording

One of each group will be nominated to keep notes of the discussion to be reported at the end and compiled to create a report of all the discussions and made available to all members.