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
- Chose an inspiring theme
- Find a venue - a large room with blank walls and breakout rooms
- Produce the invitations and distribute them to all relevant stakeholders
- Conduct arrival and briefing of participants
- Introduce the four key principles
- Explain the importance of the circle
- Explain the 'the law of two feet'
- Explain 'convenors', 'settlers', 'butterflies' and 'bumblebees'
- Invite participants to set the agenda by identifying issues and opportunities
- Conduct the marketplace by having participants add their issues and opportunities to the meeting grid (the blank agenda showing meeting times and locations) that has been affixed to the wall.
- Hold the meetings
- Facilitate the closing ceremony
Sample Meeting Agenda (participants add their topics in their chosen timeslot. In this example 5 meetings could be held at one time but it could easily be adjusted.
The Four Principles of Open Space
- Whoever comes are the right people
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
- Whenever it starts is the right time
- 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 www.openspaceworld.com/brief_history.htm
5 Owen, H. (1997), Open Space Technology: A User's Guide, Second Edition. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.