Here is a collection of short explanations of Open Space Technology, compiled from practitioners around the world, with links to more at the bottom of this page.
At the very least, Open Space is a fast, cheap, and simple way to better, more productive meetings. At a deeper level, it enables people to experience a very different quality of organization in which self-managed work groups are the norm, leadership a constantly shared phenomenon, diversity becomes a resource to be used instead of a problem to be overcome, and personal empowerment a shared experience. It is also fun. In a word, the conditions are set for fundamental organizational change, indeed that change may already have occurred. By the end, groups face an interesting choice. They can do it again, they can do it better, or they can go back to their prior mode of behavior.
Open Space is appropriate in situations where a major issue must be resolved, characterized by high levels of complexity, high levels of diversity (in terms of the people involved), the presence of potential or actual conflict, and with a decision time of yesterday.
Open Space runs on two fundamentals: passion and responsibility. Passion engages the people in the room. Responsibility ensures things get done. A focusing theme or question provides the framework for the event. The art of the question lies in saying just enough to evoke attention, while leaving sufficient open space for the imagination to run wild. — Harrison Owen
Not long ago I did Open Space for an evening with 75 people, talking about the future of their county. They created fifteen substantial conversations about the issues they really care about and came back together to say it was one of the best meetings they ever had. The whole thing took three hours and all the notes are online for people to follow up. That’s an example of what can happen in Open Space. — Jeff Aitken
Open Space puts any number of people together to share their passions and create something new. If you are open and willing to risk a little, you will gain much. — Murli Nagasundaram
It is a way to get all people in a group, no matter how big, have their say on equal terms. They make their own agenda with what they have passion for and they organize the discussions themselves. — Ingrid Olausson
Open Space is based in the belief that organizations and communities run on passion and responsibility. It allows groups of any size to self-organize around what they really care about to get things done. — Peggy Holman
Open Space Technology is a natural communication process that recognizes that people take responsibility to pursue what they are passionate about, and it ensures that what is important to each participant will be discussed. — developed by a small group during BirgittWilliams’ Open Space training workshop in Halifax, Canada
I conduct conferences when the following conditions are present, and only then:
1. It’s already too late to meet the need.
2. There are many stakeholders that want to be involved.
3. The issue is complex and conflicted, and
4. “You” demand an outcome!
…if you ever are in this situation call me and we’ll get it right. Oh! By the way, this can be arranged in a weeks time and there is no cheaper way to get it done! Thanks! — Elwin Guild
Through an intentional combination of order and chaos, OST resembles the creative act of a mind moving from confusion and frustration to assimilation and discovery, but OST achieves this transition not in one mind, but simultaneously in several. Intense, focused discussion leads to mutual recognition of areas of agreement and disagreement, and thus lays the ground for knowledgeable participation in the action program that concludes with the publication of a full report on the group’s findings.” — Marino Piombini, a sponsor of an OST event facilitated by Chris Corrigan
What Clients and Participants Say offers reflections from participants and clients of Open Space events, edited by Lisa Heft.
How Do Facilitators Describe Open Space Technology by Lisa Heft.
Opening Space for Collaboration and Communication by Lisa Heft helps with describing the process to clients/hosts.