Started in 1996, the OSLIST welcomes Open Space practitioners and friends from everywhere (really) into an active global email community. Perhaps the easiest place to connect with the living Spirit of Open Space and the OS community, it’s truly the heart of OS practice. It’s a great place to post questions (and get answers at all hours of the day or night) and an easy place to “lurk” and learn from others’ stories and experiences.

Anyone can join, search or browse the archives; see below for details. The archives contain a wealth of practice information, stories, and insights. Several other open email groups have sprung up, especially in other languages, as listed at the bottom of this page. The OSLIST is currently being maintained by the Open Space Institute US.

Chris Corrigan did a good job of capturing the spirit of the OSLIST, posting back in 2005 (as well as doing a nice job answering Frequently Asked OSLIST Questions)…

It doesn’t get said enough, and I’m in an appreciating kind of mood, so here’s what I love about the OSLIST:

  • There is no such thing as a dumb question. In fact, the more basic the question, the more lively the responses, and there is nothing seasoned veterans of OST like more than answer a basic question twenty five different ways!
  • New people are always showing up.
  • Experienced practitioners seem to take turns showing up to welcome folks at the door.
  • Harrison is here, and he isn’t shy! [That would be Harrison Owen, originator of the OST approach.]
  • We seem to avoid the undue sufferings of every other email list on the internet…we play nice, we’re helpful and as a result, we have assembled an archive of knowledge and observation about our collective work that is precious beyond belief.
  • We think and muse and learn openly, and are not afraid to expose our foibles, missteps, errors and insecurities.
  • We appreciate one another’s work, and give boosts of spirit and support to folks doing what we do in vastly more challenging circumstances than those in which we normally work.

Why the OSLIST Matters

From the very beginning (1985), Open Space Technology has been free and freely available. But there is a cost — that we freely share what we are learning. The mechanisms of sharing are multiple including training programs, public presentations, private emails and most especially in the online community known as the OSLIST.

The substance of what we share on the OSLIST is diverse: technical “How to…” questions, philosophical meanderings, and deep feelings from the heart. And in many ways, the deep feelings are the most important. It is from those feelings that we learn who we are, what we are doing, and what the true value of this work might be. If Open Space and the OSLIST were simply a technical approach to better meetings, then we might avoid both the philosophy and the feelings. We have discovered, however, that “OS as meeting methodology” is but a tiny part of the reality.

Over time, in Open Space and the OSLIST, we have wandered into the strange world of self-organizing systems, questions of peace making, human dignity, personal sense of worth, constructive conflict. Our journey has always been a shared one. No single person has, or could have, the total experience. And no one has the interpretive capacity to explain and elucidate that experience. We can only do this together, freely and openly. And what we have done so far is wide open for your searching and learning, in the OSLIST archive.

Occasionally Harrison Owen is asked why he never trademarked, patented, or franchised Open Space Technology. He says, “A flip, but honest answer would be that I was too lazy, in addition to the fact that I had better things to do than spend my time defending the sacred precincts. The same might be said for my refusal to “Certify” OS Practitioners. More to the point, and closer to my heart (true feelings :-)), I really felt/feel that OS does some good in ways that this funny world of ours can truly benefit from. Therefore I wanted it to be freely available to whomever, wherever, and however. . . And I don’t just mean Open Space Technology as a narrowly prescribed methodology. I mean the whole enchilada – Method, Philosophy, Feelings, and anything else that has popped up along the way.”

The OSLIST has been a critical part of the Open Space experience, and the evolution of the global Open Space community. From the very beginning it was open to anybody who cared – with no questions asked about why they cared or how much. People have come, people have gone, and some have just hung out. Some have posted regularly and many have been reading and learning quietly for many years.

There has never been any promise of privacy or exclusivity, indeed just the opposite. Anybody who would think of the OSLIST as a private, exclusive club would be operating under a severe misunderstanding. Indeed, the very nature of Open Space and the Internet, of which OSLIST is one small intersection, fosters this openness. Some of our messages have copied and forwarded their way around the world multiple times — making Open Space, and the possibilities of Open Space, available to people and places we will never know. We think that’s Fantastic! AND… we are glad that you are here!

Search the OSLIST

Anyone can search the OSlist archives. More than 30,000 messages collected there since 1996 (thru 5/30/22, pending migration to current list service) offer a wealth of insight, learning and community spirit and support. Here are some keywords you might try:

  • Organization Type… Technology, Church, Youth, School, Government, Health Care…
  • Where you are… Berlin, Chicago, Denmark, Hong Kong, Nepal, London, Paris…
  • What you’d like to do in Open Space… Strategic Planning, Corporate Retreat, Annual Conference…
  • Deeper themes… conflict resolution, self-organization, hierarchy, control, letting go…
  • How to… convergence, non-convergence, computer voting, sticky dots, talking stick, documentation, video…

The list is also browsable from the monthly archives page that will let you sort posts by thread, subject, author and date.

Join the OSLIST

  • Via web form… Click Here for the OSLIST page where you can join/subscribe and where existing members can adjust settings.
  • Via email message… To subscribe by email, send a message to the following address: everyone-join@oslist.org.  The subject and content of that email will be ignored. You will get a confirmation email almost immediately. Just reply to that and you’re IN!

Once subscribed…

More lists have started in other languages and regional places

Genuine Contact offers several email groups, and a website at http://www.genuinecontact.net, filled with resources and archived discussions that are searchable, and related to working with OST and complementary approaches. It is open to any Open Space Technology facilitators.  The international Genuine Contact List is https://groups.google.com/group/genuine-contact.  There is also a German-speaking list and one in India.  Email Rachel Bolton, Program Director of the Genuine Contact Program, at pd@genuinecontact.net to join any of these lists.

Basque…  Started in 2015, the Open Space Friends’ list [OS-GILagunak] is an experiment to let the Open Space and facilitators’ community related to our area inform, learn and relate to each other. There are 115 people (Oct 2015) on the list. Basque and Spanish have been used mostly so far, and any other language is welcome. It´s a public list. You can see the messages so far, even if you are not subscribed, at https://groups.google.com/u/1/g/openspace-gilagunak To subscribe, write a short message to bosonos13@gmail.com.  Members write to the list at OpenSpace-GILagunak@googlegroups.com  (300+ members in 2022).

Haitian Creole and French… As reported by JohnEngle in Haiti… join it by sending a message to: mailto:reseauforumouvert-subscribe@yahoogroups.com As of December 2002, there are about 85 people on this list.

German… Established February 3, 2002, has 258 members as of October, 2015, most of them from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also a few german-speaking colleagues from Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, France, Hungary, Sweden. Its become an important exchange for us in this part of Europe. To subscribe directlymailto:openspacedeutsch-subscribe@yahoogroups.de or mailto:jotoepfer@boscop.org