10 First Steps: #5. Use Open Space

Rob at Transition Culture (an evolving exploration into the head, hearts and hands of energy descent) writes as part of an ongoing series, “Open Space Technology is an extraordinary tool. … In theory it ought not to work.” He goes on to describe the some functions of OST in his community:

  • It brings together the majority of the people interested in a particular subject (i.e. food)
  • Within that, it brings together people interested in particular aspects of that subject (i.e. allotments or veg. boxes)
  • It is a great research tool, for drawing out ideas and visions within the community
  • If timetabled properly, it also creates time for people to just be with each other, to chat and eat.
  • If you run an event a few days before with a dramatic title (i.e. “How Will Totnes House Itself Beyond Cheap Oil?” or “Feeding Totnes; Past, Present and Future”) and then the Open Space, and promote both heavily, it can bring that issue to the forefront for a lot of people. This can be very powerful for the TT process in terms of identifying what is already happening in that area, and who are the main movers and shakers


“Camp” partial lineage

noneck writes a “How did we get here?” for Rootscamp:

Around the beginning of August 2005, a group of progressive technologists modified the long standing exclusivity of the invitation only hacker event “Foocamp,” and started planning Barcamp. Armed with a venue to host two days of free flowing and open conversations, Barcamps circled the globe and spread the meme of Open Space Technology. They have since evolved to meet particular needs in Govcamp, Podcamp, Artcamp, Copycamp, Drupalcamp, and in September 2006, the New Organizing Institute (NOI) and Emerging Progressives decided to grow their institutional knowledge and foster a 2006 political debrief; Rootscampwas born.

easily amazed: Opening Space and Deepening Connection


easily amazed: Opening Space and Deepening Connection
# I breathe. I listen to my breath. I allow my breath to guide me. I follow.
# I value myself and I value others.
# I explore new techniques and organically arising processes for listening to and connecting with my internal experience.
# I love others… through loving others I am introduced to a variety of aspects of myself.
# I play with children. Listen to their world and allow myself to follow the mystery of their engagement with life.
# I trust my felt sense and my experience of now.
# I follow my passions. I take responsibility for what I love.

New Collection of OST Stories Available

Chris Corrigan has posted 21 newly revised stories of Open Space in action at his website. These stories form an important learning resource, especially for those working with marginalized groups.

The Mystery of Open Space

Interesting conversation going on at omidyar.net on The Mystery of Open Space. From Christina Jordan, an Ashoka Fellow in Uganda:

So inspired am I by open space, actually, that I’m trying to develop it as a cultural ideal at Life in Africa. I’d like to see the physical WE Centers operate more or less in a permanent state of open space, where members reserve spaces to do their thing and invite others to learn or help.

The tricky part of developing the physical Life in Africa space so far has been to have a hook that effectively brings people to the space and keeps them coming back. In practice, offering part-time, temporary income generating activities in craft-making is the glue that’s worked best. Once they are there making jungle beads or solidarity bracelets (which are activities they can do while talking or listening) they decide where to do that work at the Center according to the other activities (english lessons, loan planning discussions, health presentations) that are scheduled throughout the day.

My hope is that members will eventually will feel able to use the LiA space to work freely with likeminded members to achieve whatever they want to achieve. Right now, they are learning alot from each other informally, but most are still waiting for instructions at every turn with regard to implementing activities. I think within another 6 months or so they will have had enough leadership experience as a community to start initiating more and more small project & group work ideas on their own.

Very interesting how people have to be taught self-organization, as if they don’t already know how to do it! Open space seems to do that teaching without even trying.

Michael Herman has updated his ongoing contemplation of the “practices of Open Space“, in preparation for the Open Space Leadership Practice Retreat that he and Chris Corrigan will be hosting next week, April 18-20, on Bowen Island, in British Columbia.

Michael describes these as the four practices of Open Space:

* Opening Heart:

…The key questions are about core issues, the heart of the matter, the center of the problem or situation, which is always me. What do I care about? What do I love?

* Inviting Connection

…As heart opens, I can invite connection with others. I dare to attract attention. And I have attention of my own to give…What might we be together?

* Supporting Collaboration

…How do we learn, move, live, and work together?

* Making a Difference

…Then, what is my responsibility here?…How will I ground this energy I have? How will I use it to make a difference for myself and others?

In our retreat next week, we’ll consider how we apply these practices as facilitators, participants and leaders, in meetings, conferences, organizations and communities.

Altai Peace-Mapping “Summit”

New friend of OST, Carol Hiltner (Seattle, USA), and OST facilitator Marina Tyasto (Novosibirsk, Russia) will be leading a Peace-Mapping “Summit” using OST in the Altai (Siberia) right before the 14th International Open Space on Open Space (OSonOS). This event will take place during the 2006 International Altai Expedition July 14-August 3.

This Peace-Mapping “Summit” presents an excellent opportunity to deepen our experience of OST, open space, and peacemaking.

You are invited to participate in the 2006 International Altai Expedition and Peace-Mapping “Summit” July 14 – August 3.

Altai is an extraordinary mountain range along the southern edge of Siberia, recognized as the origin of global shamanism…The Expedition will take you to the very remote Mt. Belukha, the highest energy spot in this high-energy region.

We will be joined there by indigenous Altai people, including shamans, and a Russian spiritual group from Moscow. At this sacred mountain, with this powerful group, we will convene an OST “Summit” with the objective of supporting participants to map out our personal “critical paths” to peace using guidelines (Tablets of Light) that originated in Altai. In conjunction with the Expedition, we have initiated a Clean-Up to take out trekkers’ garbage and install outhouses.

For information, see http://www.altaibooks.com/trekinfo.htm or contact Carol@AltaiBooks.com .. Please feel free to forward this information to anyone whom you think might be interested.

The Four Practices of Open Space- reframed

Many practitioners of OST underline that the daily practice of open space in life is more important than the tool called “Open Space Technology.”

Michael Herman together with Chris Corrigan have outlined a brief description of the four practices of Open Space. Michael offered a refined version of these practices recently.

Paul Everett shared his understanding of these practices on the OS list as inspired by the South African teacher, Oz Swallow.

As Paul remembers them:


Fun creates Enjoyment.
Enjoyment invites Participation.
Participation focuses Attention.
Attention expands Awareness.
Awareness promotes Insight.
Insight generates Knowledge.
Knowledge facilitates Action.
Action yields Results.

(Therefore, Fun is results-producing)

To Be Clear

This to the OSLIST recently from Birgitt Williams

The client opens the space in the organization for the facilitator to then do his/her thing with facilitating an OST meeting. Sometimes the space that the client chooses to open is quite big, sometimes it is very small. The key in the prep work and working with the “givens” is whether the space is stated truly, is authentic.

I have never found an organization that couldn’t open a little space for some conversation. For example, in the military, it was not about the whole military, it was only about a master plan for the landscape of the military college, however it was truly open space for the OST meeting to take place. One of the givens, stated by the Brigadier General who was also the commandant was ‘democracy ends on Thursday at 5pm’.

He didn’t pretend that the space was more open than it was. It was very specific to get a specific job done. And it got done well. Follow up even years later is that the whole plan was financed and has been implemented.

The client matters. Openness matters. Clarity matters. Truth matters. And each one is reinforced by the next.

Ever Evolving the Four Practices of Open Space

Michael Herman recently posted the latest iteration of his thinking on the Four Practices of Open Space: opening, inviting, holding, and grounding. Here’s an excerpt:

opening heart – in open space, it is the themes and purposes that arise in the hearts of leaders that we turn into invitations. by opening heart, we discover or rediscover the thing(s) we love.
inviting attention – in open space, the invitation comes from listening and then goes out to invite more conversation. to invite attention we almost always need to ask questions and tell stories, about what was, what is now, and what is next.
supporting connection – by supporting connection we make conversation, decision-making, and commitment possible. to support connection, we almost always need to open and hold spaces for people, work, and information to move.
grounding the energy – to ground the energy we almost always have to take responsibility, for recognizing, creating and/or securing value.

For the full text click here.