Opening Space Across Geographic Space?

This question just in from Menlo Park, California…

I am doing a bit of reasearch on if it would be possible to conduct an open space type meeting with the participants not located in the same room, but geographically distributed and connected via the Internet through instant messaging and other communication tools.

In your experience, have you seen anything like that in the past and/or do you have any thoughts on the viability of doing that?

Any thoughts that you could share would be appreciated.

Please use the comments link to offer your views and experience.

Note to email subscribers: This message will publish while I’m in the middle of a loooooong airplane flight. Would one of you alert the OSLIST and invite comments on this? Many thanks, Michael


To Meno Park ~

FYI, here’s Harrison’s response to this question, as it showed up in a recent interview referenced elsewhere in this blog:

Q. What is the most OST online space in your opinion?

A. The whole internet is a self-organising system! Funnily, the web, when it was all text, happened at the same time OST did. We were actually using the web as an adjunct to support Open Spaces. You could do Open Space completely on the web, or make a part of the people participate electronically. So I guess, the answer is the internet as a surrounding for communication is itself Open Space.


Blog reference to “unconferencing”:

Paul Gleiberman and Anne Stadler led an Open Space at Boeing many years ago that was held in two different sites at the same time.

Harrison, can you fill us in on the early history here? My recollections are sketchy and second-hand, at best…

(Also, Michael, I wanted to acknowledge that this question was not originally yours, but that of someone from Menlo Park.)

Hi, Michael!

I’m a little confused by your question, Michael, for a couple of reasons:

(1) My understanding is that OST actually had its pre-emergent roots online — the story before this story: — and the folks who conspired with Harrison to pull off the first OST gathering were actually pioneers in facilitating online conversations, including Frank Burns of The Meta Network and Caucus:

(2) I also thought virtual open space is what Gabriela’s work is all about with Open Space Online:

Am I missing something here?

That said, I have long wished that our OS listserv could actually migrate to a web-based conferencing application since it would be much easier to create “rooms” for various conversations, and to provide simple mechanisms to subscribe to threads of shared interest. Any good bulletin board application would work, and some more sophisticated applications include instant messaging. Or, we could look at Gabriela’s software or even Caucus (now open source), although we wouldn’t need the educational/testing features that have been added to Caucus in recent years (see above).

Since I have not be an active participant in the OS listserv in recent months, I don’t know if there would be any interest in creating such an online OS forum either in conjunction with the listserv or separately, but I, for one, have thought about it for a long time now, and would love to see (help make?) it happen!

I’ll check now to see if anyone had posted your message in the listserv, and if not, I’ll see what I can do….

Warmest regards to California!

Between 1999 and 2002 we have developed the OpenSpace-Online® Real-time Methodology. Our services are based on the philosophy of Open Space Technology (OST) and on the basic assumption that the best solutions can be found in one’s “own system.” The real-time Internet method was developed to encourage respectful, open and goal-oriented collaboration that enables autonomous, fast and on-going work about important questions or business issues, priorities and action steps. A few months ago, this method was a winner of the “Top 10 World Changer 2006” Award.

OpenSpace-Online® is a software system that makes it possible for 5 to 125 persons to work together in real-time. The meetings can be scheduled to be from two to eight hours in length. Neither organizers nor participants are required to have prior knowledge or technical expertise. In order to participate users only need to be interested in the conference theme. Participants use a basic internet connection on a standard computer that has been loaded with the meeting software. The technology guides all participants through successive phases as follows: opening circle, creating a shared agenda, discussing topics in various sessions, café talks and private one-to-one conversations, summarizing the topic sessions, prioritizing topics and planning for next actions or steps, and closing circle.

No external online moderator is needed because the virtual facilitator “Comoso” guides all participants through the conference. The participants themselves are the experts who bring shared interests in the theme, knowledge about various topics, and ideas for new solutions. At the end of each conference, every participant receives an extensive conference-book at the press of a button. The report provides an ideal foundation for further work. It contains all generated content, results, arrangements and contact data made during the meeting. It can be immediately used in either digital or printed form.

If you wish, download our free E-BOOK and email me:

All the best, Gabriela from Berlin