Supernova 2007 Open Space

Kaliya Hamlin and friends are working in the world of network technology and making an important link between the Open Space and Unconferencing movements. Here’s a good invitation and example…

The Supernova Open Space Workshop is an open forum on the social, moral, technical, and strategic questions impacting the increasingly connected world in which we live. Discussions about topics like user control, neutrality, identity and open standards are setting the stage for future policies and economic decisions. Come to this event to learn more, participate in the community and shape the future of the New Network.

The workshop is being organized in conjunction with the Supernova 2007 conference (notably, sponsored by Wharton Business School), but is a distinct event, open to the entire community.

Go, Kaliya! Go!

Recent Changes Camp Continues

This on the OSLIST from Deborah Hartmann…

RecentChangesCamp is the international conference for folks interested in Wikis, Collaboration, Community Building, and Self-Managing Teams. The latest of several incarnations dating back to January 2006 is taking place now in Montreal as RoCoCoCamp.

Here is the link to the slide show (so far 🙂
*if you click on the image you will see the caption of each photo as it
cycles through the slide show.

Session notes are accessible from the home page.

See also “Talking Chair” for (what I think is) an exciting development!

The space has been amazing to work with… unique and with its own
challenges and incredible benefits.

Today we will “converge” to move forward. Exciting!!


UPDATE: RoCoCoCamp in the mainstream media, original in French and translated into English.

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!

Open Space Technology with Agile Programmers

Howard van Rooijen attended last fall’ Scrum Gathering for Agile programmers. His post is a great description of OST from an attendee and he notes:

Instead of being confrontational and pouring on vitriol in order to justify their own job or methodology, attendees of the Gathering were so open minded. More often than not the reaction was “Wow, my experience of doing X was completely different. How did you handle situations like Y?” Ideas were cross-pollinated and people came away with a myriad of new techniques to try.

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!

Stories from the Field

From the Change Management Blog:

I owe a lot of learnings to the international community of Open Space practioners, so here is my dedication to them: a reader with nine stories of successful application of this methodology. The stories come from Russia, Israel, Mozamique, Canada, Haiti, Italy, Colombia and Bulgaria and show the full spectrum of Open Space applications: Open Space Technology – New Stories from the Field

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.

CEOs in Open Space in Russia

Raffi Aftandelian writes from Russia:

Phillip Guzenuk, a young St. Petersburg (Russia) trainer saw OST applied at an Intertraining (professional association of trainer and consultants in the NIS) annual conference in Moscow last year.

OST was something he had been looking for, which led him and colleagues to start a “Director’s Club”, a professional networking space for St. Petersburg CEO’s.

This first meeting, which brought together 60 CEO’s, was titled “In the fight for talent”.

I love the contrast of the handwritten signs and the hotel space

Guzenuk made a video which you can see here.

I love the way the pre-conference conversations mimic the in-conference conversations.

London Dance Studio Leaps Into Open Space

Jonathan Burrows curates a season of discussion, enquiry and debate in a program called Parallel Voices. Through February to the end of March 2007, Jonathan Burrows has been invited to curate a series of artists’ talks as part of a public art season at Siobhan Davies Studios, St. Georges Road, London. The program(s) will welcome leading dance and theatre artists, where, over four evenings, three artists will discuss their passions in an open session of enquiry and debate.

On Saturday 31 March, the season will culminate in an Open Space meeting called THE BIGGER PICTURE, for everybody interested in dance. Open Space is a method of running a large meeting in a more flexible and lively way, to approach a subject without an agenda, and allow the people there to create their own conference. We see it as an opportunity to look at where we’ve come from, where we are now and what we might wish for in the future.

Learn more about this…

More on the Agile Open Northwest Conference

green eggs and ham, in open space

Diana Larsen (facilitator) points us to Rebecca Wirfs-Brock, one of the hosts of Agile Open Northwest, who had never (knowingly) participated in an OST event.

Rebecca, who hosted entirely on faith and with a few nervous moments about whether it would really work, wrote a blog post about her take on the event.

A great look at how newcomers experience open space, complete with Green Eggs and Ham (photo). This session? Overcoming Resistance!

What Makes an Opening Open?

Sharon Quarrington shared this, via the OSLIST, on the Toronto Transit event previously reported here:

A group in Toronto held a “camp” for the Toronto Transit System – and
their opening is posted on YouTube:

I found it very interesting – how it was similar to and yet different it was from the OS openings I am most familiar with. I found I missed many of the “traditional” elements that were skipped – and yet wonder if perhaps that is just me being stuck in a rut!

I think not a rut at all. The “camp” and “unconference” movement and language is flourishing in the info tech world, which has embraced “open space”, but seems to have lost some of the “traditional” elements Sharon refers to. I, too, think something is lost without some of these elements, a certain elegance and ease in the opening process and story.

Opening can be easier than it sounds here, I think… and And AND… it obviously still worked. I’m glad to see opening practices seeping into the management of urban transit and other community institutions. I’m glad to see real work getting done with circles, invitations, marketplaces, and references to The Law of Two feet. I’m glad to see people making and sharing videos like this, that show real people practicing in this way. So props for opening practices and public sharing!

See (hear) also our podcasts archive for two (audio) recordings of more “traditional” openings by Chris Corrigan and Harrison Owen.

What do you think? What does it take to make an opening open?

Opening Space for Transportation, Community


Michael Herman, Claudia Haack and Christine Whitney Sanchez collaborated on the facilitation of two Open Space meetings to address a 37-year-old question about the highway Entrance to Aspen, Colorado. Michael reports here and here, with a link some of what was reported in the Aspen newspapers.

New York Artists in Open Space

Arlene Goldbard reporting from New York:

…We came together to talk about a particular (and very interesting) art project, Continental Harmony. But rather than following a preset agenda, the meeting’s structure was flexible and inviting, based on an approach called Open Space Technology in which participants’ own questions and interests drive a meeting.

Here is her heartening story of what happened at this meeting.

Open Space as Therapy?

Harrison Owen shared this old story recently…

…but what really delights me are the comments from the Psychology Professor, “who gave high praise to the ‘therapeutic properties of this process’ evidenced by, in his words, ‘the positively healthy dynamics so unexpected in such a meeting of highly disparate interests’….”

I am reminded of a situation in Canada when the senior staff of a large sheltered workshop program for the “developmentally disabled” came to a training. After the training, the staff returned to their facilities and resolved to put OS to work in a much larger staff conference on the future of the program. To save some money they held the gathering in one of their facilities. Accordingly they set out the chairs in a circle and were surprised to find that their clients joined the party. To the staff’s credit they just added more chairs and proceeded with the business.

I am not sure what they thought would happen, but as it turned the clients took a very active role in the OS, offering a number of sessions and attending sessions offered by others (surprise!).

Some months after the gathering, I got a letter from the director, who had attended the training program much against her better judgment :-). She told me of what happened, and then we on to say that a major impact of the OS had been a doubling of services for no increase in budget. It seemed that just about half of the previously offered services were neither wanted not needed by the clients — but nobody had ever talk to them before. And of course in the open space, everybody talked.

More than a year after the original training I got another letter from the director who said that a totally remarkable thing had occurred. Every year the program tested its clients in terms of their capacity to cope in the world. I am not sure how these tests worked, but I guess there are some sort of standardized versions. Anyhow, when they administered the test they discovered that for all the clients who had participated in open space there was the largest increase in test scores anybody had ever seen. The director’s conclusion was that OS was the most effective therapeutic modality they had ever employed.

With that story in mind, combined with the remarks of your Psychology professor — it strikes me that the good professor might find open space a fruitful field for research. I can just imagine what the results are likely to be, and then we would really be in trouble!


Opening Space within Traditional Conference Structures

Thanks to Zelle Nelson for compiling a new collection of stories about Open Space being used in conjunction with keynote speakers, pre-planned breakout sessions, powerpoint presentations, and other traditional confereance structures.

Meanwhile, Tenneson Woolf has started an interesting thread in the OSLIST email community, retro-fitting a traditional conference with all kinds of new spaces, some of them more and some less specifically like Open Space. When you get to his post, click the arrow/lightbulb button to read more posts in this thread.

Improbable Open Space

Phelim McDermott, of Improbable (theatre company) in London updates his previous story…

Things have been busy at Improbable. Here is an Article in the
about our now seemingly annual open space event for theatre.

Stay tuned for Improbably Open Space, the movie.

an unconference report

Open Space for Mash-ups

Mashups are web applications that combine content from more than one source, one common form is when a data list of some sort is merged with a map. This story from zdnet about the Third Mashup Camp makes no mention of Open Space, but obviously that was the format…

Many popular mashup applications involve plotting information, such as a calendar entry, on a mapping Web site. But Alan Taylor and others at the third Mashup Camp are looking to push far beyond maps. Hype Machine, for example, tracks discussions of music on blogs, aggregates that information and allows people to listen to mentioned songs.

Because Mashup Camp is considered an “unconference,” discussion topics were proposed by attendees and scheduled on the first day of the two-day event. Perhaps as a reflection of their enthusiasm, participants were able to decide on the conference content within 20 minutes.

The semi-structured format is particularly well-suited to mashups, which many attendees likened to a grassroots cultural movement.

via Peter Perera, who’s planning an Open Space Camp of his own, called ThinkCustomerDataCamp.

“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.

Face to Face or Online?

Steve Pashley has a great post Engaging with Local Communities about using Open Space Technology, including Open Space Online. He notes that the NHS (Britain’s National Health Service?) has used face to face OST meetings “engage with stakeholders” in a one-off way without democratizing the organization. He proposes the online version as a possible on-going tool to push change further.

Opening Space for Peace

This from Harrison Owen today on the OSLIST

You may remember that last year Michael Pannwitz and I had the privilege of Opening Space for the Congress of Imams and Rabbis in Seville. The occasion, as I reported, was more than a little exciting and definitely not according to whatever “Plan” I might have had. That said, the gathering was also profoundly moving and powerful for the two of us and, we believed, the participants as well – at least that is what we saw, and they said. Now almost a year later it was very nice to receive a note from an advisor to the King of Jordan and sometime Ambassador to the UN, which said in part,” It was wonderful in Seville and the great role you played changed the entire atmosphere, into what turned out lively, warm and cordial.”

Had the event been only another community/corporate gathering, the words would have seemed nice but not particularly significant. But that event was filled with virtually every conflict and tension imaginable – and at points seemed quite ready to fly into a million pieces. The shift from catastrophe (as some were calling it) into “lively, warm and cordial” was, to put it mildly, mind blowing, and confirmed once again, if confirmation was needed that opening space for peace can be very effective. And of course, the real heroes were not Michael, me or Open Space. The people did it all by themselves, as usual. Once they had the space to become what they already were – a vibrant self-organizing system searching for peace with themselves and their world, nothing else was needed.

As we sit at the edge of 2007 watching the so called “world powers/leaders” going in circles, seeking to control events and the lives of others with disastrous results, I find the experience of Seville to be nothing short of uplifting. To be sure we could all blow it this time around, but there is an alternative. It is also true, I think, that we in this funny little online community have a lot of work to do.

For the longer story of what happened in Seville, see here and here.

Extreme Open Space: Many Languages

They Do Things Differently There was the theme of a day for Customers, Testers and Developers Learning Each Others’ Languages — A French-English Open Space forum …hosted by the XP (eXtreme Programming) Day Montreal 2006 conference.

Deborah Hartmann has posted the invitation, photos of proceedings, and some other bits about this program, in the OpenSpaceWorld.NET wiki workspace. Way to go Deborah!

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.