Open Space

October 31, 2009

I had my first interaction with Open Space Technology today. Ys had turned one of the ballrooms into the Open Space space. There were circles of 10 chairs all over the room.

Each chair had a symbol and a number on the floor in the middle. Also two notebooks (1 for the 2p.m. session and 1 3p.m. session, as well as an information sheet for each session.

First, they asked us to think about this question. “What do we need to share and create with each other to better reach teenagers?”

Then they gave us the rules.

(the law of two feet meant that it was okay to move around from circle to circle, or to leave a circle if the topic was no longer necessary for you.)

Then, they asked the first question again and had us sit and reflect. Then the fun started!

Basically, anyone who had an idea for a topic, went to the center tables, picked up a piece of paper that had a symbol and number (representing one of the circles) and a session time (either 2 or 3 p.m.) and wrote their topic name on the paper.

Then the person stepped to the microphone and waited for Mark Matlock to call on him/her and announced what their topic was, which circle it would happen in, and what session.

Then they went and hung it in the appropriate time session on the wall.

Once all the topics were hung, everyone went to look at the topics and choose which ones were interesting or necessary.

(I’m posting this one for Jason)

Some of the topics.

Then this happened: people sat together and discussed the topics. Some groups were big, some groups were small. Each group appointed a note taker and these notebooks will be transcribed and put into a Wiki so that the group can look at them and add to them and have future conversations about them.

Honestly, I was more fascinated by the process of Open Space (this is why I was the crazy picture lady) than I was about the actual topics being discussed–although those were awesome. I spent about 15 minutes talking to the Open Space coordinator, Lisa, who took my information and plans to send me more stuff about Open Space. I circled the room a couple of times, overhearing conversations.

The theory behind Open Space is that the collective wisdom of the group is greater than the wisdom of the individual. There is no leader. There is no facilitator (except to get it started). There is no wrong topic. There is no one intervening in conversations or stopping discussions and arguments. There is only discussion that can later lead to solid plans.

To me, it just felt very right. Like something churches need to do. I was surprised by how much I liked the concept and I’m excited to learn more about it and think more about how I can use it.