I am happy that I had/took the opportunity to share knowledge about how Open Space Technology can be used wisely, to 1000’s of people around the world since more than 20 years. It is deeply fulfilling for me as my vision is that there should be knowledge about co-creative working methods in all villages on earth. I think that building capacity to use Open Space Technology is one of the most important contributions. We also use Open Space in online meetings since the mid-90s!
What is the Open Space Technology?
Harrison Owen discovered Open Space Technology. He got the idea when in 1983, after a year of preparation, he arranged a major international symposium. What made him think was the feedback he received, which was also consistent with what he himself felt. The conference had been good, but the most rewarding activity was – that’s right, the coffee breaks.
Harrison realized that there is something in the set-up that can be improved when the participants’ engagement peaks during the coffee break. This led him to create a meeting method where the participants design the program and organize the conference. A continuous creative coffee break!
The ingeniously simple structure proved to be very effective and today Open Space Technology is used for groups from 5-2000 participants in more than 140 countries. Tens of thousands of facilitators have been trained worldwide.
The method is used in many different contexts and is suitable for change and development work as well as for exchanging experiences and creating good learning experiences. A prerequisite is that those responsible want to unleash the potential and invite real participation. It can be the start of a journey towards maintaining that level of energy and power in everyday life.
Concrete results from an Open Space meeting:
- All important issues will be “on the table”
- Each question is discussed as much as the participants want
- Everything is documented and made available during the meeting
- Priority issues are identified
- Action plans are produced
- Responsibility is taken for activities in the next step and working groups are initiated
Four principles and one law
In Open Space meetings, we have four principles and a law as guiding principles for the work. Your own engagement and willingness to take responsibility are key to rich participation.
The four principles are:
- Whoever comes is the right people (the participants are the experts and the wisdom to find solutions is in the room)
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have (focus on the best possible effort in the present. Not worrying about what “would have been if…”)
- Whenever it starts, is the right time (creativity can’t be controlled)
- When it’s over, it’s over (a topic or conversation can be dealt with in a shorter/longer time than planned)
One law: The law of mobility (original: Law of two feet)
If you as a participant find that you are in a situation where you neither learn nor can contribute, it’s your responsibility to move to another place.
Open Space Technology is best suited when some or all of the following conditions prevail:
- “A real issue of concern
- Diversity of players
- Complexity of elements
- Presence of passion (conflict is an element of passion)
- Decision time is now”
How is Open Space Technology different from other large-group methods?
In “Open Space” the participants are given full responsibility to create the meeting agenda and to organize themselves. The scope for action is defined through the theme and givens (as taught by Birgitt Williams) which are developed in the prep work.
The structure of the meeting is simple and clear. As a participant in an Open Space meeting, you will experience what it is like to work in a self-organizing system with distributed leadership, self-governing groups and with an nourishing working climate.
Open Space Technology is thus an effective method for working with an important issue while giving an experience of a true learning way of collaborating in an organization. The Genuine Contact™ program has been developed as a way to bring this way of working into everyday life.
Contact us for more information or follow one of the links below. If you still don’t understand how it works in practice, we recommend you to have a look at our video.