The Future of Public Radio

Rob Paterson writes about The New Realities Forum, a meeting of over 300 delegates from all across the Public Radio system in the US, which occurred in Open Space over the weekend in Washington, DC. UK consultant Johnnie Moore opened the space.

Rob described the gathering’s purpose before it started:

Our intention – to find agreement on how we will go into the future together…

…The stakes are high. For many who will attend, the issue is much more than the survival and health of public radio but the survival of the last large media space in America that can be trusted. Some see the stakes as higher yet. They see the opportunity that public radio can expand its role from trusted news source to a space where the citizens of the nation can come together safely and solve the pressing problems that confront their communities….

And afterwards reported:

We have just completed 2 days of Open Space meetings with leaders of Public Radio in the US. I have been blown away, as have the delegates, with the power of this process to enable a rich and deep conversation.

What really made it for me though was how the conference concluded. Here I heard the public radio system declare as a body that it would start the hard work of setting aside petty differences and find a way to come together as a true system with a structure that would heal and help.

Imagine the real power of a real network of hundreds of stations and great producers such as NPR, MPR, APM and PRI all dedicated to help each other inform their communities, the nation and ultimately the world. Imagine this power dedicated to not only keeping the truth alive but also in creating the space where people can come together and find the trust, influence and safety to solve the intractable problems of our time such as why don’t our schools work, why are we not more healthy, why is there such a divide between cultures and communities…

Johnnie and Rob posted an excellent description of the Open Space process on the retreat forum site, where you can also find photos and session reports.

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)

What is Open Space Technology?

…and how can anyone use it to address crisis situations? Doug Germann and I are beginning to draft a “guide” for use in such situations. Something short and sweet, light enough to stick in a backpack and useful enough help in New Orleans or Indonesia, and wherever the next big bumps show up. This description of OS emerged from that work:

Open Space Technology is a method of organizing meetings (immediately) and leading movements (longer term) so that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things, in record time. This simple and powerful approach will help you:

1. Organize a meeting of 5-500 (or more!) people, to quickly, cheaply and effectively address any issue or situation of real importance or immediate concern.

2. Focus on the issues and opportunities that are most important, the assets and resources already on hand (even if they are few), and the people who can and must be involved in any successful outcome(s) or resolution(s).

3. Support the movement and connection of people, information, resources and ideas that are related or required by the main issue or situation — to create (or renew) a genuine sense of community and collaboration.

4. Identify and execute responsible, informed and immediate next steps, in many directions, on many levels, and by many different kinds of people, all at once — and to sustain this sort of action as long as is needed to address or resolve the issue or situation.

Open Space Technology will not help you take or maintain control of people, pacify the masses with the illusions of participation, or work very well when you already know what needs to be done and how to do it.

If, however, you find yourself in a situation that is overwhelming (or nearly so) in its complexity of tasks, diversity of people and needs, importance and potential for conflict, and undeniable urgency, then it is likely the best possible way to bring people together, focus on what matters, make essential connections, and do what must be done.

If you have ideas or suggestions about what should go into such a “crisis” guide to Open Space, please email me.

OST in 25 Words or Less

OSlist members define Open Space Technology with 25 words or less (having fun and getting creative!):

Open Space Technology is surprisingly simple high performance system, bounding passion with responsibility.
~Mikk Sarv

Do you like to be in conversations in this community where you feel alive, inspired, connected, surprised, engaged, and empowered? Well, that’s what happens in open space. ~Jack Ricchiuto

Do you yearn to be in conversations about questions that matter where you feel alive, inspired, connected, surprised, engaged, empowered, responsible and open to possibility? Well, that’s what happens in open space. ~Alan Stewart

Open Space enables groups of any size to organize themselves to deal with complex, important issues and accomplish something meaningful by inviting people to take repsonsibility for what they love. ~Peggy Holman

Open Space combines the rigor of a great board meeting with the energy of conversation around a coffee pot. ~John Rapp

Open space is a lot like tofu, which can be used in countless ways
because it readily absorbs the flavors and spices of anything.
~ Tree Fitzpatrick

Getting people to work on stuff that really matters.
Creating and immediately implementing high performance work teams.
Harnessing the power of Spirit to bring meaningful work to our community.
Discerning what’s most important and taking responsibility for it.
Onion Skin Technology…peel back the layers and it makes you cry…but cook it up and it gets sweet and juicy.
~Chris Corrigan

Open Space is the WD-40 of group work. One shot will loosen up just about anything. (For those not in the know – WD-40 is a marvelous universal solvent.) ~Harrison Owen

Open Space can do more than a personal development training, a creativity workshop and a big company party altogether: people evolve, they really connect with each other and they create great results ~ all at the same time, naturally coming from within. ~Marei Kiele

OST puts the human being in the center, enables result-oriented
self-organization, leads individuals and groups to phenomenal transformation
processes, which can be experienced in all kinds of application fields.
~Gabriela Ender

Would you like to find a method for turning frustration into action? For accessing the wisdom of individuals and groups? Try Open Space Technology! ~ Glory Ressler

Open Space is a great method for real people with real issues to create real results in real-time. ~Karen Sella