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Open Space

The last session for the day will be an open space session.

“Open space” you ask? – What is it?

It’s about people coming together to address important challenges and complex issues in their “world”.

  • You can think impossible thoughts and come up with unthinkable answers
  • Participants establish their own frameworks for group process
  • Its about being playful but with respect
  • It is genuine community

The objective behind the open space or ‘unconference’ as some like to put it, will be to hold conversations about how we can individually and collectively influence our institutions (governments and others such as education, health etc) to create enabling environments for community economic development to happen more.

Open Space is a self-organizing practice of inner discipline and collective activity which releases the inherent creatively and leadership in participants.  By inviting participants to honor what they care about, Open Space seeks to establish a space for inquiry, reflection and learning, ultimately bringing out the best in both the individuals and the whole.

The Law of Two Feet: this means that you take responsibility for what you care about — standing up for that and using your own two feet to move to whatever place you can best contribute and/or learn.

The Four Principles:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people – whoever is attracted to the same conversation are the people who can contribute most to that conversation – because they care.  So they are exactly the ones, for the whole group, who are capable of initiating action.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have – We are all limited by our own pasts and expectation. This principle acknowledges we’ll all do our best to focus on NOW, the present time and place, and not get bogged down in what could have or should have happened
  3. When it starts is the right time – the creative spirit has its own time and our task is to make our best contribution and enter the flow of creativity when it starts.
  4. When it’s over, it’s over – creativity has its own rhythm. So do groups. Just a reminder to pay attention to the flow of creativity, not the clock.  When you think it is over, ask: Is it over? And if it is, go onto the next thing you have passion for.  If it’s not, make plans for continuing the conversation.

How it works:

People sit in a circle in order to maintain openness between each other.  They will be asked to think about the theme of the gathering and the complex issues each really cares about that needs to be dealt with now.

When prompted, individuals will suggest a specific issue they are really passionate about and want to dialogue with others about.

All the ideas will be posted on large sheets of paper.  Common issues will be combines.  And an explanation will be provided for each issue by its originator.

A “marketplace” will be opened and people will select the issue group they want to participate in.

The group dialogue will seek to clarify the issue, assess the challenges, develop the options, create actions to move towards solutions and finally to fix responsibility for moving forward.

There is a wrap up where each group presents the outcomes from their group. This is an opportunity to get feedback from the broader group participants and to see where potential alliances may happen with one or more of the groups.

Note: Open Space concept has been around forever. It is Harrison Owen who developed the concept as an important group process in his book The Spirit of Leadership – Liberating the Leader in Each of Us.

For more information:

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