Why open space?

Open space is a way to break up the mundane, old ways of conferences. Just as we are realizing that rote memorization does not work in the classroom, and education needs to be shaken up. Our meetings and multi-day conferences need strong winds of new ideas and currents of new ways.

We do not need to leave the cool, non-traditional, people-powered ways to the techies in San Francisco, either. In fact, for the sake of our selves, our souls and our future, we need to harness our collective strengths. Open space (or Open Space Technology, as it can also be called. OST for short.) is one compelling way to do so.

Open space is not only about the topics that get discussed. The experience of open space is equally important. The experience of making choices and self-authorizing. The experiences of realizing that other people are co-creating ideas, having exchanges and addressing their own needs at the same time. In fact, others are doing so At. This. Very. Moment.

Open space is like communication. Just as 70% of communication is non-verbal, leaving 30% to be verbal. 70% of open space’s potency is how it feels, and 30% is what is said in the array of small groups.

Open space honors that we do not all learn in the same way. Open space embraces that we are all on different pages. Our being in different places is embraced, rather than viewed as being detrimental. It is actually, seeing a group of people as each one of us in a group is. Oftentimes, some people are ready to discuss some specific tangent, while others are seeking basic definitions and understanding of what is happening. Open space allows for the introductory and in-depth or tangential to happen at the same time. The people get to choose which one suits them.

During the recent BIN conference, I introduced open space technology as a version of “montessori for adults.” Go do what you want, as you want, with whomever else wants to do it. Or as they say in the Montessori camp, “go learn on your own, while being guided by a teacher.” Guiding happens, just with us guiding ourselves rather than relying on some typical teacher/facilitator.

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I have attended too many gatherings and conferences where the energy of a group can swiftly change. The warmth, curiosity of the first-day-and-a-half pivots. Suddenly, people can begin to see that the multi-day funfest is has an endpoint. Questions arise: how do i carry this on next week when I am back at school/work/my home/my desk? How will the importance of this moment be sustained? Who is going to follow through on all that been talked about, identified, proposed and what i have heard?

Open space can be a pressure valve to let off some of the steam that expands in a contained space. Instead of trying to control it, open space provides a blank canvass for people to doodle, paint and illustrate. Old controlling tendencies get mired in question of what: what are we gonna paint? what are we using, watercolors, oils, pastels, charcoal? what is going on this canvass?

Instead, open space can be a canvass to the nth power. There can be as many canvasses as there are people who are ready to paint. Canvasses for whatever people identify a need for, and then commit to take it upon themselves to utilize. (if no one goes to discuss the place that open space identifies, then it quickly ceases)

Instead of saying, “oh no, we only have x number of slots,” open space enables, equips and empowers. People can say:
– You want a canvass to do what?
– Great. Go find some space and put a call out to everyone else so they know what you are up to.

The primary constraint in open space is our minds. By that, I mean the limits of what our human minds can fathom when we categorize, define and differentiate. Open space is a wiki for meetings and conferences. Some people can discuss topics and issues while others can figure out the building blocks of logistics, principles, leadership, communications. This is some of what happened when we devolved in Atlanta.

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A year ago, I first introduced open space to another group. When defining it, I had to explain that it is not Free Time. Instead, it was a time for people:

  1. to go do what they need to do,
  2. to go where they needed to go,
  3. in order to take care of themselves.

That meant napping for some, and snacking for others. For me, i sat on a rocking chair on a large porch at the Benezet House of the Penn Center in St Helena, South Carolina. FOr most of the people present, it was a chance to jump in the car, ride 10 minutes to the beach where they took their shoes off, rolled their pant legs up, and strolled in the waves along the beach. They were doing what they needed to take care of themselves. They were right where tehy needed to be. And they got to do the things that we were all there to do: tell our stories, exchange ideas and experiences, compare notes.

As a little kid in me would say, it was so important that we got to do it outside, too. Afterwards, when i asked some people what their favorite part of our previous 2.5 days had been, they said it was their time on the beach.

***

That is some of what open space can allow for. What began as one person’s idea spread. It went from one car-full of people. To another. To a third. Just like that an idea found a group of people ready to spring into action. These ideas and such moments are all around us. The question is whether we can see them.

Rather than attempt to control them — control the ideas, control the moments, control the people — open space is one way to embrace ideas, moments and people.

having a taste for raw onions / onions as life

Ah yes. From the book that i finished earlier this week:

Remember what the old man said? His faec brimmed with laughtere as he turned to you and answered in a serious manner. ‘The secret is raw onions. I eat raw onions and I survive.’

And then, over your head, his eyes met mine and we understood each other. What he told you that day is the secret of life itself. One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things. We, you and I, and our people shall live because there are only a few among us who do not love raw onions.”

– The General. in The Wandering Falcon, by Jamil Ahmad (2011).

notes: if you till it (curtis.o, gibran.r)

technology > epistemology > cosmology

epistemology: how is it what we know what we know. holistic ways of knowing/being (mind,body, emotion, kinetic, spiritual).
cosmology: our view of the universe. evolutionary an dliving systems. evolving notions of the world. (very much alive)
ontology: what is the nature of being. human being *and* becoming. dynamic, developmental. we can learn, and unlearn. self-organize).
technology/methodology: operational metaphor of gardening + collective leadership. that intentionality create the conditions. we cannot predict everything that will ensue (pleasant surprises, unpleasant surprises).

Tilling the Soil
context matters, context matters … context matters.

the right conditions for collective leadership — we are moving away from individualistic approaches that lionize the individual.
a metaphysical posture of what is happening… not at all what we are talking about. different ways to organize ourselves, as the old ways become obsolete. they no longer facilitate teh kinds of change we are seeking.

John Hegel: people, narrative, platforms >> purpose, direction, desire.

the power of collective leadership:
PEOPLE: considering the who. the tools of stakeholder analysis. IISC commitment to stakeholder analysis.

  • who is responsible [for key desciions]?
  • Who might block what we are trying to do?
  • Who has relevant expertise, information, experience?
  • Who are implementers of key decisions?
  • Who will be affected by what we are trying to do?
  • Who will need to be informed about our outcomes?

… INVITATION: making the right kind of invite. shifting away from the industrial model that allows “an organizer to get warm bodies into a room to impress the politician.” We are not trying to go for mass, we want critical connections. ccritcal combinations.
Peter Block’s HIGH THRESHOLD INVITATION — what is the invitation to support people to PARTICIPATE AND OWN the relationship to tasks, and processes that lead to success? Be specific and provide some hurdles.

… NARRATIVE: what holds people together. purposefulness to make change. “Narrative functions around the very nature of leadership itself. Shifting in more and more of our collaborative work.”
leadership is a shared endeavor. it cannot be incumbent on a single org or leader to lead the work. across n’hood boundaries, geographical boundaries to move forward.

shared + rotated: provocateur , implementer, weaver, coordinator,
convenor, facilitator, designer.
IMAGING: imagine how living systems actually work. when the thrive. how they thrive. how to tap into that thriving nature. [VISIONING: can serve us, except when not grounded in reality.]

  • How do living systems actually work?
  • What do they look like when they are thriving?
  • What would this system look like when thriving?
  • How do we re-build resilience?

STORYTELLING: at the individual levels of stories.
metaphorically: stories of tools, precipitation, germination, and harvest.

In the student immigrant movement, they will not do much without being able to tell stories together. Storytelling as a skill and a process becomes more important than the bullet–point-memo. The complexity taht we are dealing wiht needs to be dealt with in storytelling.

PLATFORM: Open Space. World Cafe. Future Search.
… so different form a panel of presenters.
** not without social media. at IISC, we use SalesForce chatter.

Beyond people and networks … the holy grail is governance. Can be a scary word when talking about networks and distributed leadership. The structures put in place. “As smart … will require some deisgn, direction, decision-making

ingredients of (Design Principles)

Adaptability. Emergence. Contribution. Resilience. Diversity.

a resource that we are turning to: Sociocracy … “We the People” a guide to sociocratic principles.
http://www.sociocracy.info

http://www.carolsanford.com
Berkana Institute — ‘The Art of Hosting’ (on social technology)
edgeperspectives.typepad.com
Fritjof Capra — The Hidden Connections
Pegasus Institute …

slides to be available on LLC site.

Draw pictures as you experience it … all of your stories are true.

 

Storytelling as way to alleviate shame. storytelling provided shared awareness, of oppression and abuse at hands of the system.

METAPHORS:

  • industrial complex
  • Obama campaign, administration’s Promise N’hood grants.
  • silver bullet, silver buckshot(?)