Chris Corrigan

Consulting in organizational and community development




Open Space Technology

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Chris Corrigan
RR#1 E-3
Bowen Island, BC, Canada



An Open Space Scenario

Open Space is a powerful way to get people working FAST.  In 2.5 days, this is what usually happens...

Opening...people sitting in a circle, many of whom who have never sat in a circle, so this is a little strange, but there is a sense of anticipation, and certainly as the sponsor begins to introduce things and the facilitator begins to walk around the inside of the circle people are challenged to make something new. The level of excitement rises.

Agenda setting...folks create an agenda that uses the whole facility as a meeting space, that centres on small invitations to convene intimate dialogue sessions, or that asks questions of the assembled masses, to attract expertise to a topic, to figure out how to move things forward.

The Marketplace...the agenda items are out, the invitations have been issued and one wall of our meeting room is covered with topics, arranged by time and place. We have an agenda. People are invited to go to the wall, mill around, decide what to attend, which discussions to contribute to, which opportunities to learn from. It's chaotic and loud, but people are beginning to sink their teeth into what's on offer.

Day One starts slowly but warmly. Small groups gather.  People meet each other, toss ideas out, poke around the edges of assumptions, find natural allies.  Conversations convene and disperse, and notes are entered into laptops and collated into a real time book of proceedings.  If we are posting online and there are people out in cyberspace, they will begin to pick up the thread of the conversations there, and extend them in asynchronous time.

Day One Evening...people are tired, but charged up.  There is inspiration in the room and the dialogue is humming out on the Net.  There is a sense of possibility that something really interesting might be happening.  The anxiety from the morning is gone, replaced by curiosity and a emerging sense that things are changing. Evening news features some feedback but also dinner plans, hopes for the next day, thanks yous and challenges.

Day Two...a few more topics are proposed in the morning news session, some overnight dreams and insights are shared but then people quickly get down to work.  Dialogue deepens quickly and people are surprised by how projects begin to take shape, how assumptions shift and new connections are made at deep and powerful levels.

Day Two evening...tired again and hopeful that something concrete can come of it all.  Looking forward to bed.  Net still humming with activity, book of proceedings is printed out, with discussion from online added to it, and copies are made for everyone.

Day Three...facilitator introduces this day as focusing on action planning.  Thick books of proceedings are sitting in the middle of the circle.  You have done this.  You have produced these 150 pages of conversations, notes, sketches of the future.  Today is the day to get it out of the room.  To let passion guide your direction and use your responsibilities and abilities to attract the resources we need to make it happen.

People go away for an hour and read the book and consider their responses to it.  What patterns do I see?  Which projects beg to be undertaken?  What can I do?  What WILL I do? It's quiet and introspective. Small hushed conversations may begin but mostly people are really asking themselves what they are now capable of doing.

We open the space again and this time we invite action.  We invite projects to come forward and we invite people to work on them and create the commitments that take them out of the conference setting and back to the real world.  There is no more time to rehash the issues...the time to implement is now.

Action groups meet, convening around the tasks that people volunteer to champion.  Conversations are recorded and the invitation is put back on the net to attract others to the projects.  People come back into the closing circle to report on their work and are surprised and delighted at how deep and how easy it has been to initiate change.  A closing circle ends the ritual and people say their farewells.  

After the conference, the work BEGINS.  Now we have to find ways to continue to connect people and support the projects that have started.  We provide them with places and methods to communicate...blogs, wikis, conference calls, meeting spaces, follow ups in OpenSpace OnLine. People leave with a job to do, self-designed, self-assigned, supported by the sponsor of the meeting and assisted by workgroups both large and small.