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.

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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.

3 questions when exiting

Got this three-part advice in my inbox this morning — To ask these three questions:
1) Can you tell me what happened for you?
2) What could I have done differently?
3) What do you need to feel complete?

[source: Heart of Business, by Mark Silver]

This third one stumps me as I cannot fathom how to answer it in an exiting conversation. Though, I am keen to learn and experience it in the realm of interpersonal relations.

Questions on spirituality and self

Back in May, I was privy to an exercise called Wisdom Question. 1.5 days into a training on … (1. the integration of spirituality and social justice, and 2. being less triggered/intrusive as a facilitator). Here are the list of questions that each of us asked as the most pressing question as we were two-thirds of the way through:

  1. What are the obstacles that I create, that are grounded in fear?
  2. What is the role of anger in spiritual activism?
  3. How do we embody authenticity? How do we know when we are feeling authentic connection?
  4. How to be skillful in dropping down in a moment?
  5. How to stay with love?
  6. How do I want to show up?
  7. How to share and build this place?
  8. How we live, embody and take [this] out to the world?
  9. What worked in my facilitation yesterday?
  10. How are people experiencing me?
  11. What do you see that I bring? What do you wish that I would bring?
  12. How do I keep [my tendency to] beat myself up for speaking harshly at bay?
  13. When is my posture or energy is closed or slouching?
  14. What can i let go of?
  15. How am I showing up?

Emotion and experience were recurring topics. As was body language, and what our behavior was telling others.

presencing.org: 12 Journaling Questions

Like Daniel Pink said, I clicked through 4 sites this morning. As a result, I got to a dozen questions of U Journaling Practice: A 18 Step Journey through Your Field of the Future:

1. Awareness: What experiences in your life made you aware of the deeper dimension of your personal journey?
2. Frustration: What about your current work and/or personal life frustrates you the most?
3. Energy: What are your most vital sources of energy? What do you love?
4. Crack: Where do you feel the future now?
5. Helicopter: Watch yourself from above (as if in a helicopter). What are you doing?
What are you trying to do in this stage of your professional and personal journey?
6. Footprint: Imagine you could fast-forward to the very last moments of your life, when
it is time for you to pass on. Now look back on your life’s journey as a whole. What
would you want to see at that moment? What footprint do you want to leave behind
on the planet?
—————–(Crossing the Gate)———————-
7. What advise have you been giving from Self to self?
8. Intention: Now return again to the present and crystallize what it is that you want to create: your vision and intention for the next 3-5 years. What vision and intention do
you have for yourself and your work? What are some essential core elements of the future that you want to create in your personal, professional, and social life? Describe as concretely as possible the images and elements that occur to you.
9. Letting-go: What would you have to let go of in order to bring your vision into reality? What is the old stuff that must die? What is the old skin (behaviors, thoughtprocesses, etc.) that you need to shed?
10. Prototyping: Over the next three months, if you were to prototype a microcosm of the future in which you could discover “the new” by doing something, what would that prototype look like?
11. People: Who can help you make your highest future possibilities a reality? Who might be your core helpers and partners?
12. Action: If you were to take on the project of bringing your intention into reality, what would you like to accomplish: over the next three years, three months and three days?

 

poetry in a mission statement?

a friend is launching a new nonprofit. some guidance that i gleaned online:

1. it can’t be said much more simply than this:

A Mission Statement should be a one-sentence, clear, concise statement that says who the agency is (the name, that it is a nonprofit, and what type of agency it is), what it does, for whom and where. Period.

2. to distinguish between a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement:

Vision
What are the values or beliefs that inform your work?
What would you ultimately hope to accomplish as a result of your efforts?

Mission
How do you plan to work toward this broad vision? For whose specific benefit does the organization exist?

    3. then to think of a mission statement as poetry:

    On a concrete level, how can we apply the craftsmanship of poetry to mission statements? Think carefully about each word of your mission statement, about the range of denotations and connotations it carries, and about the effect it will have on readers. As you write or revise, consider your mission statement a poem, that is, a carefully-worded piece in which every syllable holds meaning. Interpreting an existing mission statement as a poem can provide meaningful insight into your organization’s purpose and approach.

    On a “positioning statement” that is speaks to the value of your nonprofit:

    a one to three (only if they’re short) sentence statement that conveys what your org does for whom to uniquely solve an urgent need—the  value that your org delivers. Here’s a list of key components your positioning statement should  convey:

    • Who you are
    • What business you’re in
    • For whom (what people do you serve)
    • What’s needed by the market you serve
    • What’s different about how you do your work
    • What unique benefit is derived from your programs, services and/or products?

    Are you open or transferring misery?

    Substantial difference between being told/asked: What makes you miserable? rather than being asked … How would you describe how you feel?

    It was telling that misery was named. But who’s misery — that of the questioner, answerer, or someone that the questioner is thinking of?

    Questions, and how we ask them. Succinct questions elicit brief answers. Sloppily formed questions offer little cohesion, focus. And are more about the messy mind asking a question in the midst of their own declaration than they are about seeking the inner opinions of the person asked.

    Pops called and asked a question

    Just spoke with Dad for 10 minutes or so. [my sense of time is so screwy as I open, and embrace differently. Time is abundant. My following my heart rather than minding with my brain]

    Anyhow, Dad called twice yesterday. Both messages asked me to call him asap. Both times he said how he had a question for me. His question?

    Did I want he and Theopolis to come out and help me pack up?

    I am awestruck. Into silence. In such tenderness, generosity and love. Offerings that have not been a common occurrence with him. Rather than turn him down altogether, I pivoted the offer by saying that I’d like a raincheck once I’m settled in the Fall. He checked the raincheck.

    What a venture wants …

    I came across the site for Seattle firm Second Avenue Partners yesterday (after reading site of WA State Senate candidate Eric Liu). Their synopsis of what  business plan ought to answer includes:

    Consider the following questions:
    Is your company bringing a new technology-based product or service to market?
    Is your company at the “seed” or first stages (i.e. raising less than $10 Million)?
    Is your company headquartered in the Pacific Northwest United States?
    Will your company offer 40%-60% compound annual returns on Second Avenue Partner’s’ money?
    Are there multiple exit strategies for your company?

    A different lens than the one-page business plan format/formula.

    Appropriate reading as counterpoint to the Duration of Unemployment graphs from CalculatedRisk blog. Oh, that and Donald Peck article in the Atlantic on ‘How Jobless Era will transform America.’