What is Open Space?

Open Space (OS) is an approach to organizing meetings that allows groups of all sizes to self-organize, create an agenda, share knowledge and solve problems. The nature of Open Space (formally called Open Space Technology) is self-organization. Using a simple framework, we will empower ourselves to build an agenda then attend the sessions that have real meaning for each of us.

Since 1983, the Open Space movement has spread internationally and grown to the point where each year hundreds of conferences organize on its principles. It has broad use – from NASA, churches, non-profits, and technical organizations, to inside large corporations, and favelas in Brazil. The format for the entire Girl Scouts 50th National Convention (1800 people) was Open Space.

 

There are three essential elements in an Open Space event:

Opening the Circle: We begin with a Welcome. The facilitator will explain the Open Space guidelines and describe how we’ll create our agenda of sessions. Participants are then invited to propose sessions they will host. To propose a session, you’ll briefly announce your topic, assign it a space and time to meet, and post the session on the Marketplace (agenda wall). When all sessions are posted, everyone will browse the Marketplace to find sessions they want to attend.

Sessions: Session hosts show up at the selected time and location, initiate the topic conversation, and see that notes are taken. As a participant, you may attend any session you like and move freely between sessions.

Closing the Circle: A facilitated time for reflection and comments.

Notes about hosting a session:

OS sessions are generally informal discussions; there’s no need to prepare “presentations.” You might offer a session on useful practices or tools, great books, interactive activities, job search, agile practices, etc. Requests and questions are great topics - “I’ could use help with” “How do I?” or “What do you think about?”

If you are a Day 1 presenter, consider hosting an Open Space session if follow up time is needed.

There is much more to Open Space than can be covered in this brief overview. For details about Open Space Technology, see: On Wikipedia or if you prefer a video format YouTube.