Open Space Technology

Description: The decision to incorporate Open Space Technology5 typically results when organizers want to 'tap the wisdom of the group' by providing a session designed to empower participants while facilitating networking and sharing. Additionally, it introduces participants to a leading edge facilitative technique and builds a sense of 'community' among the participants. These outcomes are achieved while those in attendance work toward a pre-identified theme for the meeting, focus group or conference.

What is Open Space Technology?

  • A meeting process that begins with a theme but no set agenda

  • An approach that convenes and engages groups of people in constructive conversation on a focused topic in a highly participatory manner

Implementing Open Space

  1. Chose an inspiring theme

  2. Find a venue - a large room with blank walls and breakout rooms

  3. Produce the invitations and distribute them to all relevant stakeholders

  4. Conduct arrival and briefing of participants

  5. Introduce the four key principles

  6. Explain the importance of the circle

  7. Explain the 'the law of two feet'

  8. Explain 'convenors', 'settlers', 'butterflies' and 'bumblebees'

  9. Invite participants to set the agenda by identifying issues and opportunities

  10. Conduct the marketplace

  11. Hold the meetings

  12. Facilitate the closing ceremony

The Four Principles of Open Space

  1. Whoever comes are the right people

  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have

  3. Whenever it starts is the right time

  4. When it is over, it is over

The Law of Two Feet
If at any time you are in a place where you feel you are neither contributing nor learning, you alone have the responsibility to remove yourself from that place and find a place where you CAN contribute and learn.

Length of Meetings: it is common to allow one to two hours for each meeting (although successful ones have been held in as little time as thirty minutes)

When to Use Open Space

  • An organization or community energizer

  • Creative planning needs to be done quickly

  • Challenges require immediate action

  • Communication needs to improve

  • Diverse issues, challenges need to be addressed

  • Diverse stakeholders need to work collaboratively

  • Future opportunities need to be explored and moved into action

  • Organizational vision needs to be developed

Who Can Use it?

  • Groups of 15 - 500

  • 1/2 day to 3 days

  • Diverse stakeholders (i.e. from different sectors, staff, volunteers, consumers)

For more information see

5 Owen, H. (1997), Open Space Technology: A User's Guide, Second Edition. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

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