Professional and Alumni

Open Space Process

Open Space Process


Today we are featuring Open Space Technology. Often referred to as Open Space, it is designed to support maximum opportunity for self-organizing. It reveals the emergent leadership for collaboration, learning, and action. The questions—Who are the speakers? What is the agenda?—are irrelevant. Instead, you are invited to create the agenda on this spot and to take responsibility for what you care about. There are two engines for Open Space: passion and responsibility. That’s all you need to bring to the circle.

Our goals today are to

  • Convene the circle
  • Reveal the leadership and diversity present
  • Produce practical outcomes
  • Support the leadership in oneself and others to respond to emergent realities and possibiities
  • Share learning through reflection and storytelling

What is Open Space? At minimum, it is a fast, cheap, and simple way to better, more productive meetings. Potentially, “it enables people to experience a very different quality of organization in which self-managed work groups are the norm, leadership is a constantly shared phenomenon, diversity becomes a resource to be used instead of a problem to be overcome, and personal empowerment is a shared experience” (Owen & Stadler, 1999, p. 235). Although there are diverse levels of knowledge and experience in this group, Open Space is conducted on the basis that there are no hierarchies—all participants have equal status within the group. All are learners who are invited to go with their passion and take responsibility.

The focus today is _______________. We trust that this subject evokes your attention and that it is sufficiently open to capture your imagination. Open Space utilizes the resources and energy of the group to identify issues and new ideas to enhance organization performance. It is an empowering process—in that it recognizes the intelligence and energy of all participants.

There are a few guidelines for conducting OST sessions:

Four Principles [Transparency]

1. The right people are whoever come.

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.

3. Whenever it starts is the right time.

4. When it is over, it is over.

One Law—the Law of Two Feet [Transparency]

If during the course of any gathering, persons find themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive space.

The Process [Transparency]—each participant has the opportunity now to identify a topic of passion and convene a group to discuss the theme:

What are the burning issues that provide the passion for your leadership of a group dialogue about __________________?

Open Space Directions [Transparency]

1. Write your topic on one of the large sheets in the middle of the floor.

2. Announce your topic and post it in one of the available time slots on the wall.

Authentic Participation [Transparency]

1. Show up.

2. Be totally present.

3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment.

4. Be open to the outcome.

Role of Conveners [Transparency]

As a convener, you will be acting as a facilitator as well as a participant in the discussion. Your task as a facilitator is to help the group:

1. State the issue.

2. Discuss the issue.

3. List recommendations, resources, and follow-up requests.

Open Space Report [Transparency]

As a convener, we would like you to generate a report from your group describing the following:

1. Names of group members.

2. Issue

3. Discussion/Recommendations.

4. Available resources.

5. Follow-up requests.

6. Submit report to session presider.

The Invitation—Creating the Community Bulletin Board

1. The topic: ________________________.

2. The question: What are the burning issues that provide the passion for your leadership of a group dialogue about ________________?

Related Questions

1. What _______________________issue would you like to discuss with colleagues?

2. What _______________________issue would you like to solve in a collaborative fashion?

So now, I invite you to identify a topic of passion and convene a small group discussion.

1. Come forward.

2. Write your topic and your name on a large sheet in the middle of the floor.

3. Announce your name and topic.

4. Post your topic on the Community Bulletin Board. Select a sticky note identifying time and site for dialogue and place it on your topic sheet.

5. Obtain a “convener kit.” Relax.

Open the Village Marketplace

1. The Village Marketplace is now about to open. Everybody is invited to leave their seats and journey to the wall where you may sign up for a session. But first—a suggestion:

a. Conflicts—if anyone feels that you want to attend two sessions and they seem to be related, the rule is simple. The conflicted person must find the two conveners and convince them to either combine their sessions or sequence them. If neither of those options will work, a choice must be made.

2. The Village Marketplace is now open. Enjoy yourselves. As soon as you have your groups together, go to work. Don’t forget that you are in charge.


Owen, H., & Stadler, A. (1999). Open space technology. In P. Holman & T. Devane, T. (Eds.) The change handbook. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Other Resource:

Owen, H. (1997). Open space technology: A User’s guide. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler