Open Space Technology has been around since the 1980s and has been used to organise small meetings to large multi-day conferences with hundreds of participants.
At Impact Space we use an adapted version of Open Space, in combination with the other formats (see agenda), to build a participant-led agenda with a strong structure, and plenty of changes of pace through the day.
Open Space operating principles
Whoever comes are the right people
You don’t need lots of people; just people who care
Only one? Maybe use the time to reflect on what you’ve learnt so far
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
About letting go of expectations: coulds, shoulds; whatever is, is; work with it
You’ve got your objectives for the event – find a way to achieve them
When interesting stuff starts is the only time it could have started
Creativity does not happen according to a schedule
When it’s over, it’s over
Done in 10 minutes? Great! Move on.
If it’s not over, keep going until you’re done – reconvene in another session.
The Law of 2 Feet: Move when it is right for you
- Move when you are neither learning nor contributing
- It’s up to you to take a stand get your own needs met
- If someone is hogging air-time, vote with your feet
- Be a bumblebee: Cross-pollinate ideas, it’s fine to move from group to group.
Don’t underestimate butterflies: look delicate; deceptive impact. Sit down and have a quiet, reflective talk with that person sitting by themselves; a chance remark may impact your thinking and you take it back into the larger group and it affects others
Irritated by people who never participate in sessions? Know they do serve a useful purpose. You’re one of them? Don’t need to feel guilty about it – in open space you’re valued.
Be prepared to be surprised. Never before and never again will this group be together – so make the most of it!.
What actually happens…
If you haven’t experienced Open Space before then you may well be wondering what all this means in practice. Fair enough! What do we actually DO?
The easiest way to get the hang of Open Space is to do it; most first-timers find that after the first round they understand the process clearly, and by the end of two days are wondering how they can go back to ‘normal’ conferences full of people telling you what you’re supposed to talk about!
But in the meantime (because we want you to come) here’s roughly how we do it..
1/ Gather topics
2/ Individuals come forward to turn topic ideas into session proposals
3/ Individuals pitch their proposals to the group
4/ We allocate sessions to spaces
5/ GO LEARN!
When you apply… we’ll ask you about the topics you think you’ll want to discuss. What are your challenges, areas of interest, burning questions?
Before the event…
we’ll share all those ideas, generate more, and start to group them into themes and recurring ideas. We start to generate session proposals.
During the morning of Day 1…
we’ll introduce the format to the whole group, and start to generate more session proposals. Anyone can make a session proposal and thereby offer to become a ‘convener’ – that is the ‘host’ of the ‘space’ or discussion they’re going to open. The facilitation team can help you develop or refine your proposal if you want.
At the beginning of each Open Space slot…
we’ll review the available proposals, select 5-10 and ask the conveners to ‘pitch’ their session. Each group is then allocated to a physical space in the building. The facilitation team will ensure that room allocations are shared publicly, so people can easily move between groups if they wish.
In each Open Space slot…
the convener hosts the space, but the groups are collectively responsible for the outcome. Each group gets a feedback sheet and a flipchart, and can decide what they wish to share back to the wider group.