Open space

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Open Space is a technology for making meetings and conferences grass-rooted and effective.

The Four Open Space Principles

  1. Whoever comes is the right people.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. It is over when it is over.

What is Open Space Technology?

Open Space Technology is one way to enable all kinds of people, in any kind of organization, to create inspired meetings and events. Over the last 20+ years, it has also become clear that opening space, as an intentional leadership practice, can create inspired organizations, where ordinary people work together to create extraordinary results with regularity.

In Open Space meetings, events and organizations, participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance, such as: What is the strategy, group, organization or community that all stakeholders can support and work together to create?

With groups of 5 to 2000+ people -- working in one-day workshops, three-day conferences, or the regular weekly staff meeting -- the common result is a powerful, effective connecting and strengthening of what's already happening in the organization: planning and action, learning and doing, passion and responsibility, participation and performance. is the official website but most of it is a useless collection of vagaries and testimonials. For real information about OpenSpace see the User's Guide.

Though Open Space Events can appear chaotic, it can be helpful to use some organisational tools in Open Space. Methods to do so can be Moderation (more in german here) , sometimes refered to as as Metaplan technique. Whereas the moderators takes care of structurizing discussions, encouraging participants, visualizing ideas and results, try to establish a positive climate ... the community concentrates on ideas, creativity and achieving results. The Moderationmethode seems a not very known thing outside german speaking countries , so i only found details of it in german. e.g.: Moderation in agenda-processes, which holds many advices on what moderation in this context is and how to moderate, or Advices on Moderationsmethode on one sheet of paper (pdf).

When and Why?

Open Space works best when the work to be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and the time to get it done was yesterday. It's been called passion bounded by responsibility, the energy of a good coffee break, intentional self-organization, spirit at work, chaos and creativity, evolution in organization, and a simple, powerful way to get people and organizations moving -- when and where it's needed most.

And, while Open Space is known for its apparent lack of structure and welcoming of surprises, it turns out that the Open Space meeting or organization is actually very structured -- but that structure is so perfectly fit to the people and the work at hand, that it goes unnoticed in its proper role of supporting (not blocking) best work. In fact, the stories and workplans woven in Open Space are generally more complex, more robust, more durable -- and can move a great deal faster than expert- or management-driven designs.

See also