Guide to Open Space Technology (Español)
by Ron Mader
Every moment of the day provides an opportunity to create
the conditions for Peace.
- Harrison Owen, Many
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OPEN SPACE TECHNOLOGY
Open Space Technology (OST) is a creative re-imagining of relationships.
It is the methodology we use and it is the ideal means of bridging
online and offline events.
OST was developed in 1985 by organizational consultant Harrison
Owen. The third edition of his book was published in 2008
and highly recommended for anyone wishing to organize groups
of people in ways that are respectful and engaging.
Among the advantages of the OST
format are that events are easy to organize, extremely interactive
and require very little lead time. It is best used for groups
that need re-energizing and are need creative planning. Workshops
last from one to three days.
The facilitator's job the first
day is to explain the format and rules of Open Space. The opening
meeting takes place in a room large enough for all of the participants
to sit in a circle. Chairs may be used, but tables aren't so
that participants can fully engage each other on a personal
WRITING ON WALLS
One other characteristic of the primary meeting room is that
it uses a large wall. After the meeting is opened to the group,
individual participants announce a topic of interest to the
group and puts his or her topic on a sheet of paper, and assigning
room spaces and times for the topic. After everyone has had
a chance to post a topic of discussion, the facilitator opens
this 'marketplace of ideas' and asks for individuals to sign
up for the topics that interest them.
If this is a multi-day conference, the group begins each day
with a re-opening of the marketplace. Throughout the event,
the group self-manages their discussions and produces a report
of the proceedings available at the end or beginning of each
day. The OST workshop concludes again in a closing circle in
which participants reflect on the experience and identify their
commitments for future activity.
Says one facilitator, "The OST is simply a vehicle to gather
ideas, unleash real passion and responsibility. Often leaders
find they need to 'get out of the way' -- not control everything
-- which of course is another way of saying their leadership
is likely never to be the same. The process teaches everyone
that they lead by asking the right questions, listening, and
using structures that facilitate the use of this 'wisdom.'"
There is no charge to conduct OST workshops and facilitators
do not require formal training. "Nothing is required but a good
head and a good heart," said Harrison Owen.
GUIDELINES IN OPEN SPACE TECHNOLOGY WORKSHOPS:
For a conference idea that originated from the observation that
the most useful portions of formal conferences take place over
the coffee breaks, the OST format utilizes both unorthodox and
One of the more interesting rules
is 'The Law of Two Feet' which states that if people find themselves
in situations where they are neither learning nor contributing,
they are responsible for moving to another place -- using their
two feet to find a place where their participation is more meaningful.
This simple rule keeps the participants engaged in making the
conference interesting. OST workshops also employ the following
four principles which are posted in the main room:
1. Whoever comes is the right people
- This reinforces the wisdom to achieve solutions is present
in the room.
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
- This keeps the attention on the best possible effort in
the present, instead of wondering endlessly about what should
or could have been done.
3. Whenever it starts is the right time
- This reminds people that creativity cannot be controlled.
4. When it is over, it is over
- This encourages people to continue their discussion so
long as there is energy for it. This may result in a short session
not filling the entire time allotted, or it may result in a
session longer than the time allotted.
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