Open Space Technology
What is Open Space Technology?
In Open Space meetings and events, participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme or question of strategic importance.
At the very least, Open Space is a fast, cheap, and simple way to better, more productive meetings. At a deeper level, it enables people to experience a very different quality of organization in which self-managed work groups are the norm, leadership a constantly shared phenomenon, diversity becomes a resource to be used instead of a problem to be overcome, and personal empowerment a shared experience.
What Happens at an Open Space Event?
Anyone who wants to initiate a discussion or activity, writes it down on a large sheet of paper in big letters and then stands up and announces it to the group. After selecting one of the many pre-established times and places, they post their proposed workshop on a wall. When everyone who wants to has announced and posted their initial offerings, it is time for "the village marketplace": Participants mill around the wall, putting together their personal schedules for the remainder of the conference. The first meetings begin immediately.
How Does Open Space Work? (More Details about What Happens)
A meeting room prepared for Open Space has a circle of chairs in the middle, letters or numbers around the room to indicate meeting locations, a blank wall that will become the agenda and a news wall for recording and posting the results of the dialogue sessions.
Essentially an Open Space meeting proceeds along the following process:
1. The group convenes in a circle and is welcomed by the sponsor. The facilitator provides an overview of the process and explains how it works.
2. The facilitator invites people with issues of concern to come into the circle, write the issue on a piece of quarter size flip chart paper and announce it to the group. These people are "conveners."
3. The convener places their paper on the wall and chooses a time and a place to meet. This process continues until there are no more agenda items.
4. The group then breaks up and heads to the agenda wall, by now covered with a variety of sessions. Participants take note of the time and place for sessions they want to be involved in.
5. Dialogue sessions convene for the balance of the meeting. Recorders determined by each group capture the important points and post the reports on the news wall. All of these reports will be rolled into one document by the end of the meeting.
6. The group then finishes the meeting with a closing circle where people are invited to share comments, insights, and commitments arising from the process.