Remembering Fr. Brian Bainbridge

Fr. Brian Bainbridge’s death caught so many of us by surprise. He was a great friend and teacher and student with OS practitioners around the world. He belongs on any short list of people responsible for making Open Space the global phenomenon that it has become. He travelled the world facilitating and teaching, learning and conferencing (he almost never missed the annual OSonOS) and then always returned home to life as a parish priest — where he really did practice what he preached about self-organization. Andrew Rixon and Kate Kneebone offered these reflective interviews with Brian. They’re published today to mark the second anniversary of his passing.

1. Brian a co-discoverer of Open Space Technology?
2. Brian’s scholarship at the international level
3. Opening Space with the world bank and becoming a parish priest
4. Reflections on his role within the Catholic church
5. Among other things, how Brian became a priest – there was no masterplan
6. Brian’s love of world travel and sabbaticals!

Andrew and Kate posted all six of these into a playlist on YouTube.

Harrison Owen Video

Open Space Intro by Harrison Owen from Harrison Owen on Vimeo.

Harrison Owen made this video last year for Stanley (Spark) Park, to welcome participants to Spark’s OST training program in Korea. Short and sweet take on Open Space.

Video Explanation of OST, in Russian

Raffi Aftandelian came across this video in Russian about OST posted to YouTube. The presenter is Tanya Podushkina. She was at the San Fran WOSonOS. In this video on OST she is talking about where OST came from and how it works. Raffi opened space for Tanya’s organization a few years back and they quite liked the approach, began using it, got further training from Raffi. If I knew how to say “good work” in Russian, I surely would!

Being Ourselves Together

Recently, Doug Germann made a comment on the OSLIST, suggesting that after some few days in Open Space, people might begin to “internalize” the Four Principles and One Law. Harrison Owen offered an evocative reply:

Good wonderings, Doug. But I might suggest that you turn things around, or possibly upside down. Rather than internalizing The Law of Two Feet (and we might also add the 4 Principles), I suspect that it is more a matter of remembering what we already know and for one reason or another have chosen to repress. All of this goes with the idea that Open Space is truly not something new and radically different. In fact it is a forceful confrontation with a pre-existing condition.

We are already in Open Space by virtue of the fact that we have forever been in a self organizing world (the usual 13.7 billion years stuff). The Law and the Principles are descriptive of normative behavior in a self organizing world, and therefore Open Space, I think. In short, we do all of the above all the time — unfortunately we usually feel guilty about it, and because of this, we tend to do it/them badly, or at least awkwardly and grudgingly.

Thus with the Law: when faced with a nonproductive situation (no learning, no contribution) we always leave (hearts and mind out the window) — but the body remains feeling miserable, and making others miserable as well. Once we get the picture, things work better, and we feel a lot better. But it is not about doing something new, or internalizing some new truth — but rather remembering what we already knew and doing what we should/could have been doing in the first place.

Why bother with all this? Well if nothing else, I think it makes our job as consultants and facilitators a lot easier. First of all we are not inviting our clients to engage in risky behavior. Quite the opposite, we are opening a space in which they can really be themselves. And the real risk is to continue with the non-productive, guilt inducing, dependant behavior. The old Marxist Battle Cry might have some application here (with modification): People of the World Unite — You have nothing to lose but your chains.” In a word — Be yourself.

(…which points to another dimension of the both/and nature of Open Space: People can be united and unique, at the same time. The “marketplace” we make for “individual” passions, skills, interests, responsibility — and initiatives — is its own sort of “united” collective. In this way, the realization of Open Space can begin to erode traditional political and idealogical fault lines, in largely peaceful and powerfully practical ways.)

Open Space on Open Space: Berlin and Melbourne in May

This is a special invitation to a free Open Space on Open Space in Melbourne on Tuesday May 11 at the Abbotsford Convent.

Of course, the WOSonOS is in Berlin, Germany May 12 – 15.

You may also be aware that Fr Brian Bainbridge (who died in early February this year) was instrumental in the growth and development of Open Space in Australia and New Zealand. He also maintained the Open Space Institute, circulated regular newsletters and trained many of us in the art and practice of Open Space Technology. He was also well known throughout the world and attended all but one of the last 17 World Open Space on Open Space events. He was, of course, planning to attend the WOSonOS in Berlin.

We have decided to host a Fringe Open Space on Open Space in Melbourne on May 11 to continue the tradition of having local Open Space on Open Space events and to honour Brian’s contribution. Fringe because it’s the day before the WOSonOS and we hope to post some pictures and reports on the (yet to be created) new Australasian Open Space Institute web site for those in Berlin, and elsewhere, to enjoy. It’s also an opportunity to explore the future of Open Space in Australasia – and to do what we always do at an Open Space on Open Space: have conversations about what matters to us, whatever that might be.

Oh, you’re wondering who ‘we’ is? Well, it’s me (Viv McWaters) and Andrew Rixon (Australia) and Anne Pattillo (New Zealand) and Chris Corrigan (Canada) and Johnnie Moore (UK) and Geoff Brown (Australia). So you see it’s our mini World Open Space on Open Space, and even if no-one else comes we’ll have great conversations.

But we’d love you to join us.

Date: Tuesday May 11 2010
Venue: Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford
Time: 9.30 am – 4 pm
Cost: Free
Format: Open Space

Please if you plan to attend, or if you have any questions. That way we’ll know how many lunches to order.

Open Space Website for South Asia

Hempal Shrestha sends greetings from Kathmandu, Nepal, with this bit of news:

I am a learner and follower of OST based in Nepal and very recently joined the ning group at I have learned about the work that you had been doing on OST. I also studies many of the materials that you have provided at Further, recently I am in working out to develop the wiki for collecting stories on OST from South Asia. The link of the proposed wiki is:

This new South Asia site is already taking shape, with more news (hopefully) forthcoming.

New Video: “Open Space – The Power of Self-Organization”

Jutta Weimar offers a fantastic new OS video, after a two-year period of producing:

I am very happy to present the release of the DVD “Open Space – The Power of Self-Organisation”.

Here the most important features:

– material out of 5 different open space events
– incl. Preparatory Meeting and Action-Planning
– incl. booklet with 16 pages
– 27 Minutes, german and english with english or french subtitles

The short version of the film with english sub-titles can be seen on YouTube,, or (english version click on “english”)

And now it’s time to spread the film all around the world. I sell the film for 29,75 € plus packing and postage (in Europe) and I will bring lots of copies to the WOSonOS here in Berlin in May!!!

New Translation Posted

Thanks to the Euskara (Basque) translation of About Open Space offered by Eleder Aurtenetxe Pildainek, we’ve just posted our 20th different language link to open space materials: Espazio Irekiko Teknologia.

Collected Videos

Thanks to Peggy Holman and Tom Atlee for these videos of and about open space…

Descriptions of Open Space

Depictions of Open Space

For fun: A video about an open space in Beijing, in Chinese

and its use in Haiti

and in Russia

and India

Harrison Owen Interview

In December, EventManagementBlog featured an interview with Harrison Owen in December. They likened the use of OST to “Open sourcing your event.”

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

Article Published in Meetings Magazine

From Diane Gibeault in Ottawa:

This article on OST was recently published by the Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine. It that may be useful to support our explanations of Open Space.

They quoted Harrison Owen, Larry Peterson, Michelle Cooper and myself. In my opinion, they captured essential points and reflected pretty well what OST is about. …but I may be biased. Click here to see.

Meetings & Incentive Travel, a division of Rogers Publishing Limited, has been Canada’s leader in the meeting and incentive travel industry for over thirty years. M&IT magazine, M&IT-e, meetCanada, IncentiveWorks, and the CMC directory specifically target professionals in Canada who plan and organize meetings, conferences, conventions, expositions, special events or incentive programs.

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!

“Becoming me,” an open space practice video?

Marty Boroson has developed a video companion to his book, Becoming Me, inspired in part by open space. Acclaimed by spiritual leaders of different faiths, the clip has been posted to YouTube. Becoming Me is a simple, daring, and moving story of your/my creation.

This resource might be considered as another video to inspire one’s open space practice. An addition, perhaps, to this collection?

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.

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.

Already been there…

Michael Herman posted something to get us thinking on the oslist today.

It also may help explain open space to people who are not getting it.

“but i’m going to suggest — especially to all of the “never-been-in-it” and “would love to try it someday” folks out there on the list — that we have all already been there.

“let’s start with the law of two feet, which seems to be the core of everything.

“having “been in open space” many times, i can say that it was a familiar place. the freedom and responsibility are not unlike when i went away to college. power, possibility. not unlike when i am solo hiking in the backcountry, bounded by my physical limits, for sure, but able to go wherever my two feet would take me, to learn about a territory and contribute to reaching some destination that i chose for myself.

“it’s not unlike any vacation where i leave teh computer and phone at home. not unlike the small space of an airline seat, where my range might be severely limited, in at least one dimension, but mind is free to wander and relax as it chooses. not unlike the time after a resignation but before actually leaving a job.

“sleeping in has a certain spacious quality for me, bucking the pressure of a world that says work starts early. staying up late has a certain quality. stopping in at churches or rivers or other quiet places when travelling. sitting at outside cafe’s in the summer time, even better with a sunday newspaper.

“in all of these places, there is a quality of being active and doing nothing. and these are just a few of the examples that come to mind. so i wonder… where else have you (and probably many others of us) already been there???

“not to mention the four principles, which i often summarize as “how things work when they really work.” what ordinary life conditions and circumstances might remind you of the states that these lines remind us about???

“as i look outside, there is a raging blizzard here in chicago. my wife’s flight out to a big client meeting was cancelled, at 5am this morning. suddenly the whole of chicago and a bunch of places connected by planes and phones and the like are running on “whenever it starts” or “whenever you can get here” …is the right time. i’ve experienced a similar shift in other storms, like having my dad in the hospital for heart surgeries, when we actively take things one day, one moment, at a time. like one step at a time when hiking.

“thinking spatially or kinesthetically for a moment, it seems more about stacking and scrambling than ladders and climbing.

“so i’m wondering if we can say some more about where it is that we’ve all already been in open space. where does or has space already open in life as you’re living it?


what happens & why does it work

I had the pleasure of co-facilitating this weekend with Kaliya Hamlin. She has a great post in her unconferencing blog, Open Space: what happens & why does it work which includes these sections:

  • So What Happens?
  • Space Needed for Open Space
  • Agenda Creation
  • What happens During Sessions?
  • End of the Day – Beginning of the Next
  • Modifications for Technical Communities – On Ramps…Next Action Circles

Travailler En Forum Ouvert: Petite Visite Guideé

Travailler en Forum Ouvert: Petite Visite Guideé, une observation d’une réunion hypothétique en Forum Ouvert, illustrant les conditions et les possibilités de ce genre de réunions, réalisée par Michael Herman, transduction nouveau par Esther Matte. Plus de Forum Ouvert en français…

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


unconventional and bold?

I’m not sure how unconventional OST is anymore, but Stephen Citron writes in his rant Conferences without the Conferring are a Con:

Similarly, conferences could raise their game by allowing all present to participate, contribute, express themselves and be listened to. Some have already taken this delegate focus to extremes, with unconventional and bold “unconferences” and “open space technology”. These are group sessions that run without prior agenda or speakers, and look to the delegates to create content on the fly.

5 minute description of open space

Seamus (Shay) McInerney begins his 5-7 minute description of OST this way:

Open Space Technology is not so much a technology as a technique and it’s not so much a technique as an experience.

Evolution and Open Space

A question was raised recently in an OSLIST conversation about the “next generation” of Open Space. Gabriela Ender, founder of the OpenSpace-Online virtual conferencing facility, offered a beautiful response:

Next generation of OST? Why? The gift and the power of OST its exactly this beautiful easiness. When we want to enable and support selforganization – we have to be role models for “less is more”. I think, we facilitators facilitating OST not for us. We do it for the people.

My question would not be “next generation OST”, but rather next generation of consciousness. Consciousness in terms of how to include the elegance of OST into ongoing or planned communication or transformation processes, the consciousness of how to combine complementary methods and resources within in a longer term process (also offline and online), and also consciousness in terms of what is our role as consultants/facilitators, if we work with OST.

If we step into the shoes of the people, we do not need a next generation OST, we need humility for the miracles of OST and a personal dinner demand for quality regarding well designed participatory architectures.

For me, OST has nothing to do with trends. It simply touches the heart of people and because it gives official permission for selforganization. For me its all about “back to the roots and forward to higher consciousness”. I deeply believe and feel, its all just the beginning – based on millions of evolutionary open space years.

Harrison Owen had a nice response to this, as well.

Chris Corrigan and I have been using the words “Inviting Leadership” to describe this evolution, but we’ll save that story and link for another day.