9/11 Boat Lift

Jane Lewis in Taiwan mailed this to the OSLIST today:

Just watched a documentary on boat evacuation ‘open space’. 500,000 evacuated by boat from Manhattan on 9-11. Coastguard invited – made 1 call for help. Hundreds of boats, all kinds, showed up, spraypainting their destinations on paper signs for people to pick from. They say its the largest boat evacuation in history. Great open space story.

Video and story at: http://blogs.reuters.com/katharine-herrup/2011/09/09/boatlifters-the-unknown-story-of-911/

The Company of the Future

Harold Shinsato sent this to the OSLIST after last year’s Open Space on Open Space practitioners conference:

I’ve just finished uploading a 50 minute video of the highly interactive discussion held at the Berlin WOSonOS – “What is the company of the future?” which was convened by Deborah Maarek. I found it packed with really great experiential reports of how to build a company around a much more sustainable, participatory, and light weight model.

Berlin WOSonOS – Company of the Future from Harold Shinsato on Vimeo.

There is a place for interactive notes for the session here – I put the link to the video also in this site, in case you want to find the video in the future.

OST Video from Northern Ireland

Kevin Flanagan wrote to the OSLIST a while back to share:

I’ve taken part in two Open Space events previously. An Open Space on Open Space in Belfast and Open Space Pathways to rebalancing the sustainability equation with 7thGeneration at Ballycastle Northern Ireland. I made a video for the Open Space Pathways event, which runs about 10
minutes if you have time to check it out.

On Keeping it Simple

Harrison Owen shared this a while back on the OSLIST:

…regardless of the venue or the means I have found it useful to ask a basic question: What is the simplest approach to yield the maximum result? Which usually goes right along with: “Thinking of one more thing not to do.” The elegance of simplicity is a personal preference, but it is also a very practical approach. The simpler something is the less there is to go wrong. This is not simply a matter of “annoyance avoidance” but also a way to create more space. The best part about Open Space Technology, so far as I am concerned is that it is so simple it can’t break. Which also means that it is robust enough to allow for very rambunctious behavior — just what we need for dynamic conflicted situations. As a facilitator I need a laser like focus on the present moment in order to hold space. The more I have to worry about something not going “right” the more difficult my task. KISS (Keep it simple stupid) may not be an elegant expression, but it surely has kept me out of a world of hurt.

Forum Ouvert Liste Nouvelle, en Français

Luc Bizeul, en France, écrit:

Bonjour, j’ai le plaisir de vous inviter à rejoindre une liste de diffusion sur sur le forum ouvert; le but de cette liste est de permettre les discussions et les échanges en français autour de la pratique de l’ouverture, plus particulièrement au travers du Forum Ouvert, et de faciliter le développement de la communauté francophone.

Vous pouvez vous inscrire via l’interphase web : http://groups.google.fr/group/rffo/ ou en envoyant un mail sur : mailto:rffo+subscribe@googlegroups.com

Le vous trouverez des nouvelles en Français sur le forum ouvert via le blog du RFFO (réseau francophone sur le forum ouvert) : http://forumouvertopenspace.blogspot.com/

OS in Liberia

This from Susan Partnow, via the OSLIST…

You may enjoy these photos. The middle group is of an Open Space we did in Liberia – where Harrison first gained many of the insights for OST! It was inspiring to see how empowered the participants felt. They began offering many contributions to the circle once space was opened – songs, dances, etc. It was also wonderful to see how participants who were illiterate were easily incorporated and supported by those who were literate.

If you’re inspired by our work, you may be so moved as to support our endeavors to create the Liberia Peacebuilder Initiative. We have a $10,000 matching fund grant and so we need to raise $10,000! Your donation will be doubled (or – if you have a corporate tie with a policy of matching – quadrupled!) so please give it some thought! You can donate here: http://globalcitizenjourney.org/paypal/

WOSonOS XVI events underway

While tomorrow is the official start of World Open Space on Open Space XVI, conference events are well underway.

The week started with an extremely well-attended (40+ participants) two day Open Space Technology learning workshop led by Lisa Heft. People from Uganda, Russia, Spain (Basque country), South Korea, the Netherlands, UK, and other countries attended the workshop.

Tuesday evening Harrison Owen presented the third edition (expanded and updated) of Open Space Technology: a User’s Guide. Harrison encouraged the approximately 100 attendees to dive in to the wine and crackers after a short talk about Open Space, self-organization, and his upcoming book, Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-organizing World. It was a delightful meeting of new and old friends of Open Space.

This evening, Wednesday, was an informal gathering also held at the historic Fort Mason site. This was the traditional pre-conference informal gathering. More wine, a delicious dinner, and extremely rich conversation.

Lisa Heft gives a taste of the whole WOSonOS experience thus far on the OSlist.

More reporting from the conference forthcoming!

an elevator speech

Harrison shared the following today on OSlist:

Every now and again we seem to get ourselves involved here on OSLIST in
creating and comparing “elevator speeches” about Open Space. I have never been very good at all that, but a young Korean friend caught me early in the
morning on the shuttle to the airport. Given the hour I wasn’t sure how it
would all turn out, but I guess it is a good picture of The Hat. And for
sure it is the shortest speech I have ever given. If interested, check out


Whatever happens…

John Engle began a lively discussion of the “Whatever happens in the only thing that could have” principle in late April on the OSlist. And it is continuing! Here is how it all began:

I know that some have been through this hundreds of times but I’m wanting to get the most recent reflections on the principle:

Whatever happens is the only thing that could’ve.

My colleagues in Haiti and I continue to have smart people from a variety of cultures let us know that this principle doesn’t sit well with them.

It communicates fatalism to some instead of encouraging responsibility. While i’m totally comfortable with the principle, if enough people tell me that it communicates something to them that is different than what i’m trying to communicate, there’s a problem.

For me, what’s worse is that often times people remember it as: “What happens is that which is supposed to happen” or “There’s a reason for everything that happens.” This can have us sounding like Christian fundamentalist.

We’ve been experimenting in Haitian Creole and in English with this:

What Happens is what happens – learn and move forward.

Join the conversation on OSlist!

Believing in Open Space

Gerard Muller shared this a while back on the OSLIST, notes from a session at the OSonOS practitioner conference he hosted earlier this year:

Issue: Beliefs: What beliefs are important to attract OST clients? What beliefs do the organizations need for successfull OST? What are important beliefs for good OST Facilitators?

We attract our experience based on beliefs held especially at the subconscious mind. It is important to consider what limiting beliefs or fears we have in doing and attracting OST and then create new empowering beliefs of what we want instead. These new beliefs attract a new reality/experience.

Some Beliefs:
I am open enough to hold space.
I have the energy I need to facilitate.
I have the courage to say no when the conditions are not right for OST.
I know when the conditions are right for OST.
I believe that groups find the energy to come to action.
I easily communicate the principles of OST & they get it.
I attract people that live the principles of OST.
I trust the process of OST and it works for me.
I am open to the outcome in OST.
OST always works and I trust it.
I create the space for people to be engaged and responsible when I
I know how to invite and I attract the right people that are needed.
When I make mistakes, I open the space for myself and others to learn.
I believe in the responsibility of all the people involved.
Wisdom leads to harmony.
The wisdom is always in the room.
I am Open Space.
I hold the attitude and essence of Open Space.

honoring Cheryl Honey’s work

Thank you Joelle Shelton for sharing this piece of inspiring news on the OSlist about Cheryl Honey, originator of Community Weaving, an approach to activating the gift economy for family and community vibrancy and resilience. This approach in part draws upon open space principles.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper and Microsoft Corp. honor five people, including an Antioch University Seattle graduate, who make a difference through community service.

Cheryl Honey, who received her B.A. degree in 2006, has been selected to receive a 2007 Jefferson Award for her 15 years spent weaving people together to create a support system for families. The program, named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson, was created nationally in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Robert Taft Jr. and economic-development expert Sam Beard. The founders’ vision was to create an award, similar to a Nobel Prize, for public and community service, with a special honor for local service “by ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”

The full story can be read in the online version of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

West Coast Canada Stammtische

Wendy Farmer-O’Neil announces an April 28th stammtische in Nanaimo (British Columbia) for those who will be unable to attend the Toronto Open Space on Open Space April 27th and April 28th:

In confluence with our friends to the east who will be opening space at the Toronto OSonOS, we are hosting a West Coast Canada Stammtisch on Saturday, April 28th for all of those who want to join us. We will be gathering at Muddy Waters Marine Pub (within walking distance of the Vancouver Ferry) on the water in Nanaimo at 1:00. We look forward to seeing you there!

Directions are available here.

Client evaluation of an OST meeting?

Harrison Owen recently shared on OS list about a retreat he facilitated for students at Columbia Business School. As is often the case, the meeting was so fruitful that “opening [the] space…just wouldn’t stop– [it kept] getting deeper and richer.” Indeed so rich, that one participant sent Harrison a poem afterwards:

Open Spaces
Tibetan bells
Open spaces
Safest people
Safest places
Magic creeping…

(rest of poem here)

by Carol J. Morley, CFA, Managing Director

In conclusion, Harrison writes, “Maybe we ought to keep this one around for the next time somebody asks us for a
recent client evaluation of Open Space, particularly an evaluation from the Business World. :-)”

Might it behoove us to start a new resource called “Client evaluations-alternative formats”? After all, this is definitely not the first time that a participant has written an “evaluation” of an OST meeting as a poem!

Moscow stammtisch March 17th

Open Space Institute-Russia is convening a stammtisch (local gathering of OST facilitators and people interested in the method) March 17th in Moscow.

Veteran Australian spaceholder Brian Bainbridge will be among the attendees. Galina Tsarkova invites us to “collectively reflect on our experience of holding space in the wide open spaces of Russia. This invitation is for all, including those who have just started out on this path.” For more information, you can reach Galina by email.

The lively Ukrainian OST facilitator discussion list also regularly lists stammisches in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities.

OST in Russia and the near-abroad: some recent developments

Gabdulla Hamitov facilitates meeting on youth development

Youth development OST meeting. Ufa, Russia. September 2006

Gabdulla Hamitov facilitates conference on youth leadership development, “Path to the Future”
Ufa, Bashkortostan (Russia)
photos courtesy of Bashtorg, a major regional wholesaler in Russia

Since the 14th annual international Open Space on Open Space conference in Moscow in August 2006, OST has continued to be applied in many different kinds of organizations, especially in companies.

Recent applications include a meeting on personal safety and responsibility with RusAl, one of the largest aluminum producers in the world.

The sponsor, Elena Sochkina, responsible for corporate culture, noted “my most pleasant discoveries with the Open Space method were:

*the number of participants is limited only by the size of the physical meeting space.

*the conditions are created where formal boundaries are erased (status, hierarchical, and professional)

* the participants create the agenda (which is the guarantee of success).”

(Direktor po Personalu magazine)

OST has also been used recently with major Russian political parties, at marketing conferences, training conferences, at a coaching conference (co-sponsored by Open Space Institute-Russia), with Russia’s Central Bank, with cellular phone service provider Beeline, and with a major pharmaceutical company.

Note: PROMT offers a free and relatively good quality Russian to English webpage translation service.

Open Space in Conflict Situations

Elwin Guild recently posted to the OSLIST a report from an OSonOS by the Sea conversation about Opening Space in Conflict. Four case studies were presented as examples of a wide variety of conflict instances where Elwin has used OST:

1. [A] consulting contract with a small and defective office within the U.S. Dept of Interior. This was a two-day “team building” workshop that was in reality a “set-up” to eliminate/terminate one of the office employees. The new boss felt this person was an obstructionist and determined to cause trouble for him.

2. A 2 1/2 day OST for an International Consulting firm that just underwent a senior management coup d’etat in order to launch a “global” marketing strategy.

3. A series of four 2 1/2 day OSTs each with 30 participants representing Croat, Serb and Bosnian Muslim NGO leaders in equal numbers (10). The objective was to find improved management strategies for post-war operations.

4. The surrender of the Communist National Dairy Union to the Bulgarian
Dairy Association during a 2 1/2 day OST with 253 participants.

Elwin’s notes about how each one turned out can be read here in the OSLIST Achives.

Value of Silence in Group Work

John Engle shares with the OSlist how at the opening of group work, he often invites groups to rest at ease if silence happens, waiting for what the silence might bring:

“I ask that we see silence as a friend during our time together whether we’re in small groups or in this large group. If silence comes, let’s not feel like we need to chase it away, remembering that frequently, it’s the nudgings of silence that bring into being ideas and voices which would’ve otherwise remained unspoken.”

Cambodian Street Kids in Open Space

Singapore-based Nigel Seys-Phillips, reported on the OSLIST on his contribution to a World Bank Asian initiative to connect with marginalized people:

…an amazing meeting in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, with some 150 street children from the horrendous circumstances of working for a living on the Phnom Penh city garbage dump – a literal mountain of fetid rubbish where garbage trucks arrive every few minutes to dump their waste directly onto this pile. The children made a living scrabbling for anything sellable the moment the back was opened, running in front of the bulldozer set to plough it down. Plastic, material, glass, food – anything sellable that might make them up to US$1 per day if they were truly lucky.

…Taken in by an astounding NGO “Pour Un Sourire D’Enfant” they now work at school six days a week. They are fed three simple nutritious meals a day, given uniforms and books, and educated towards a career and a productive life.

…We tackled the theme: “A better future for us – the Issues and Opportunities” And within the two days allowed we posted 110 topics. We reviewed, discussed and documented 92 of them and prioritized to 10, for which we created action points.

…these are street children from approximately 12-18 years old, but major topics prioritized included:

  • Corruption and how to reduce it in Cambodia
  • How to develop the economy in Cambodia to give us greater work opportunities
  • How to export more products made in Cambodia
  • How to limit illegal immigration so Cambodians aren’t disadvantaged
  • How to use the results of the Khmer Rouge trials to benefit the people of Cambodia

These, and the way the children came at them, are a great tribute to the power of Open Space and its ability to genuinely achieve openness and safety for those who would otherwise not have a voice.

The World Bank OST “road show” continues to Mongolia, Laos, Timor, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand, and we hope to be able to train others to take the programme deeper into these countries.

A hearty thanks to Nigel for this work, and to Brian Bainbridge and Viv McWaters for their initiating work.

Supportive Online Communities

A conversation from the Open Space listserv illustrates the power of online communities like the OSlist.

Allison Hewlitt writes:

I just wanted to send a quick note of thanks for the responses that I received from my earlier email requesting advice on whether or not to introduce OS as part of a larger conference. Deep down, I realise that I knew the answer but simply needed to hear it from someone else. So, a big thank you for providing the reassurance and support that was needed.

I also believe, but can’t prove, that the responses increased my colleagues confidence in using OS for half of the conference. Having told my colleague’s about the request that I made to this community and the supportive responses that were received, a couple of colleagues asked to read them. I am quite certain that by hearing other perspectives, they are also getting some of the reassurance that they need to trust me and trust OS.

Chris Corrigan responds:

Alison, you have pointed to a major benefit of this community and other online communities that are supportive of each other. Last year, as I was planning an appreciative summit on Aboriginal youth suicide, I put out a call on my weblog for folks who might be interested in bouncing ideas around. The responses I got, which included ideas from India, Ireland, the UK, the States and elsewhere were a huge boost for my client who suddenly felt connected and cared for in a way they had not experienced before.

“You mean people in India are helping us do this???”

There is so much to be gained by sharing and asking for help…pay it forward!

Is there a project that you are working on or a question that keeps resurfacing in your awareness? The power of opening up, sharing, and asking for help is unlimited… go ahead, try it!

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)

Whither British Drama? OST leads the way

Writer-director of the established British theater, Improbable, Phelim McDermott, is one of the latest people to join the OS discussion list.

Improbable organized a 200 person OST event in London on the topic of the current situation in British drama.

Of course, as many others who stumble upon OST, Phelim notes that he worked in open space long before he worked with the method.

Two articles in London’s Guardian and Observer describe this recent application of OST.

Reading about Improbable’s principles is also intriguing.

The original invitation for the two day OST event, DEVOTED AND DISGRUNTLED: What are we going to do about theatre?, was also posted to the OS list.

Improbable has graciously posted the proceedings from the two day event on their website.

Thank you for the story, Phelim!

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.

Devoted and Disgruntled

Phelim McDermott, co-artistic director of Improbable in London, offered this recently on the OSLIST

In preparation for next weekend when I also facilitate my first open space event(!) I put together an invitation which was about how to make things better in our theatre community. It was because I felt passionately that things weren’t as good as they could be in theatreland and I was fed up of hearing myself moan and not doing something about it. The invite was called “devoted and disgruntled.” It’s had an extraordinary response and we have gone beyond the capacity of our space, with 200 people signed up and fifty on a waiting list.

This is a great example of what I always coach clients to do in their invitations: tell the truth. I am devoted to this thing AND I’m disgruntled. That last part is the tough one, and I’m guessing it’s the part of Phelim’s invitation that really makes it sing to others who want something more. I’ve no doubt that they’ll create that “more” when he opens the space for that next weekend.

UPDATE: Phelim published in The Guardian in London… On the surface, British theatre is in its healthiest state in years. But is this buzz of activity hiding a creative slump, in which celebrity and ‘ticking boxes’ are prized over innovation? Here, four writer-directors argue that the theatre is in trouble – and offer their visions for the future. —The Guardian (click and scroll down for Phelim’s section of the story.

WHAT HAPPENED: In short, lots of good things. Reported here and here and here.