What is Open Space Technology?

…and how can anyone use it to address crisis situations? Doug Germann and I are beginning to draft a “guide” for use in such situations. Something short and sweet, light enough to stick in a backpack and useful enough help in New Orleans or Indonesia, and wherever the next big bumps show up. This description of OS emerged from that work:

Open Space Technology is a method of organizing meetings (immediately) and leading movements (longer term) so that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things, in record time. This simple and powerful approach will help you:

1. Organize a meeting of 5-500 (or more!) people, to quickly, cheaply and effectively address any issue or situation of real importance or immediate concern.

2. Focus on the issues and opportunities that are most important, the assets and resources already on hand (even if they are few), and the people who can and must be involved in any successful outcome(s) or resolution(s).

3. Support the movement and connection of people, information, resources and ideas that are related or required by the main issue or situation — to create (or renew) a genuine sense of community and collaboration.

4. Identify and execute responsible, informed and immediate next steps, in many directions, on many levels, and by many different kinds of people, all at once — and to sustain this sort of action as long as is needed to address or resolve the issue or situation.

Open Space Technology will not help you take or maintain control of people, pacify the masses with the illusions of participation, or work very well when you already know what needs to be done and how to do it.

If, however, you find yourself in a situation that is overwhelming (or nearly so) in its complexity of tasks, diversity of people and needs, importance and potential for conflict, and undeniable urgency, then it is likely the best possible way to bring people together, focus on what matters, make essential connections, and do what must be done.

If you have ideas or suggestions about what should go into such a “crisis” guide to Open Space, please email me.