Open Space Technology


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 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.
  11. Hold the meetings 
  12. 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

  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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