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Open Space Technology

 Facilitation

 


Whenever it starts is the right time

Whoever comes are the right people

Whatever happens is the only thing that could have

When it's over, its over!



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Do you want to expand or improve community or employee engagement?

  • Are you interested in having people or employees fully engaged in co-creating innovative solutions in your business or community?
  • Do you want collaborative experiences where everyone feels they have the opportunity to have their voice heard?
  • Do you want to create an environment where  you can tap into the collective wisdom of individuals and groups?
  • What would it be like if people fully showed up in meetings, took responsibilty for leadership and contributed with passion?

Effective engagement is what Open Space Technology does powerfully, simply and naturally.

What is Open Space Technology?

Open Space Technology (OST) is a proven, effective meeting methodology that engages individuals and groups in collaborating to create solutions to pressing, often complex issues.

Developed by organizational consultant Harrison Owen, from Potomac, Maryland, USA, the Open Space Technology facilitation method creates an open meeting environment that captures the knowledge, experience and innovative capacity in the organization that is not captured through less open processes. It also creates the conditions for an organization to utilize the full potential of the workforce, inspire growth in organizational performance, and to learn to use the chaos in the organization to work for you rather than against you. The process taps into the wisdom of the group resulting in solutions and outcomes that are felt immediately and are often surprising.

As organizations utilize meetings and conferences as a primary way of connecting people to accomplish tasks, it is imperative that meetings be "opened up" in terms of appropriate structure and process to really get the work done that is needed for organizational excellence. Individuals need to be brought together quickly in ways that removes the constraints of inappropriate structure and control. Open Space Technology achieves this.

Open Space has been used around the world in almost every language, age and culture and with every kind of organization or community. It has been used effectively for a diverse range of purposes such as  conferences, strategic planning sessions, mentoring, product development, community and team building, visioning, sales planning, customer  engagement, organizing movements and conflict resolution. Open Space Technology has been used in groups ranging in size from 7 people to over a 1000!

 Open Space Technology Training

 

How can Open Space Technology be used?

Open Space Technology can be used to achieve almost any business or community goal including:

  • Creating a strategic plan
  • Envisioning the future directions
  • Resolving conflict in a groups or communities
  • Building community and morale
  • Self organized mentoring
  • Conferences designed to engage participants
  • Product planning and development
  • Engaging conversation on a social issue such as peace, crime or climate change
  • Organizing a social or business movement
  • Reinventing, reviving or innovating your business

Open Space meetings effectively engage and empower participants to get results quickly.

Open Space Technology is appropriate when:

    • An existing organization needs re-energizing
    • Creative planning needs to be done quickly
    • An organization faces challenges that need immediate action
    • Communication needs to improve
    • A wide variety of issues need to be dealt with
    • Opportunities for the future need to be explored
    • An organization is in its embryonic stage, to enable it to develop its vision and structure quickly
    • Individual interests with a group appear to be quite diverse
    • A merger is required
    • Public input is desired

    Open Space Technology is not appropriate when:

    • There is an environment of control
    • The solution to the issue or problem is already determined or decided
    • The participants have no passion for the topic or desire to  find a solution

     

    Tangible Results of an Open Space Meeting

    Each breakout group discussion is documented and gathered into a final "book of proceedings" which is the record of the highlights of the conversations.

    A breakout meeting report typically includes the topic name, leader, participant names, highlights of the discussion and action steps. These reports are combined into a complete "book of proceedings" that is available for each participant. In a longer Open Space meeting, the "book of proceedings" is the basis for prioritizing and the development of further action steps which are included in the final report.

    In-Tangible Results of an Open Space Meeting

    Far more important and far-reaching, however, is the change which takes place in the minds of the participants, who emerge from the event as ambassadors for change within their organization or community. Participants experience:

    • Breakthrough learning
    • Genuine community and collaboration
    • Spirited performance
    • Playful involvement
    • High efficiency and productivity
    • Shared, empowered leadership
    • Elimination of barriers to do a job with excellence and with pride
    • Genuine excitement to be a part of the changes needed instead of fearing and resisting change

     

    Open Space Technology is a dynamic,  self-organizing process led by a facilitator 

    The venue for the Open Space Technology meeting is a large conference room with several "break-out rooms" or areas adjacent. When people arrive for the meeting, they initially come to large space which is empty except for a large circle of chairs. In the middle of the circle is a collection of newsprint paper, masking tape, and felt pens.

    The Open Space meeting begins with a welcome by the sponsor that is brief, highlighting the theme and the "givens" and then a facilitator who explains how the Open Space Technology process will operate.

    Creating the Open Space Agenda:

    • Anyone who has any ideas, issues or opportunities that relate to this broad topic are invited to take a sheet of newsprint and write their name and topic of interest or passion. People are asked for ideas for which they have genuine passion and for which they are prepared to take the responsibility of leading a discussion group on that idea. They are also asked to make sure a record of the discussion is recorded (report forms are provided).
    • The sheets announcing each of the ideas and a note of when and where the topic will be discussed are fixed onto a large blank wall. There are multiple breakout spaces available in multiple time slots. The group waits until all topics are announced and placed on the wall.
    • The Agenda becomes a "market-place". Participants go to the market wall to look at the ideas outlined on each sheet and decide which topic discussions they wish to participate in; building their own personal agenda from the topics available.

    Breakout Group Discussions:

    • After the marketplace, participants break out to participate in the topics of their choice at the designated times. As far as possible, each breakout session is defined by a circle of chairs and no other furniture, though it may have flip charts, post-its, felt pens, etc.
    • The person who posted the idea is responsible for leading the session in whatever way s/he chooses. The facilitator has no involvement whatsoever in the breakouts. The only requirement is that, at the end of the session, the session leader brings back to a central point a summary of session ideas, and who has agreed to do what.  The highlights of the discussion are recorded in a standard format in a way that they can be understood by people who were not part of the discussion.

    Creation of a 'Book of Proceedings

    • A bank of computers is available and session leaders or a representative from the group enters the report into a computer. As soon as a report is entered, the facilitator prints a copy of it for a news wall and posts it so that all participants of the broader meeting can read about what has happened in each session.
    • A copy of the report is made to be entered into a "book of proceedings", a book that is comprised of all of the reports and contact information of the participants so that they can reach each other for further networking. This book is available to each participant of the meeting.
    • In a multi-day meeting, the "book of proceedings" is handed to each person prior to a time of converging the various topics and getting further input from the collective about next step actions. In a meeting that is one day or less, the "book of proceedings" is made available to participants within the week. 

    Convergence and Action Planning

    In meetings where the intention is to move topics to action steps, the facilitator conducts a summarizing session for convergence, prioritizing and action planning, including seeking input on next steps and follow-up. This is a feature of Open Space Technology meetings that are longer than one day.

    Morning  and Evening News

    Multi-day Open Space Technology meetings include  'Morning and Evening News'. This is at time at the beginning and end of each day where  everyone gathers in the larger collective to share what they have created, discovered or learned  with  others. It is also a time to introduce additional topics for breakout discussion. At the end of the meeting there is a 'Closing Circle' 

     

    In Open Space Technology meetings, the Law of  Two Feet (also called the Law of Mobility) states that if participants find themselves in situations where they are neither learning anything or contributing anything, they are responsible for moving to another place, for example to another group meeting. The principles and law enable people to participate in ways that are most meaningful to them.

    When organizations capture the energy their people through optimal, engaged learning, passion and personal responsibility, then performance dramatically improves. People are motivated and the best work gets done!

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