Opening the Space at Closing & **Looking for a volunteer **

Peg Holman pholman at
Tue Dec 22 10:37:17 PST 1998

-----Original Message-----
From: Ingrid Olausson <ingrid.olausson at>
Date: Saturday, December 19, 1998 2:45 AM
Subject: Opening the Space at Closing

>Good ideas Linda on how to work with the proceedings. I have experimented
with prioritzing and sorting. But I have always worked with the issues on
the agenda. I havent found a way to cope with the hundreds of ideas and
suggestions on the proceedings. Is this what you have been doing? In that
case - how does it work?

Your question on closing reminded me of a similar discussion on the list a
while back.  I've copied in two messages from that time below.

This brings up a request I have of some member of this list.  I have kept
all of the messages that have been sent since this list first formed.  It
would be wonderful to put an archive of the threads on the OS website for
ARCHIVE FOR THE COMMUNITY?  If so, please send me a message at
pholman at

Peg Holman

Here are two other messages on concluding OS events:

From: Parkinson & Gibeault <dgp at CYBERUS.CA>
Subject:      Concluding Open Space
Date: Monday, May 25, 1998 3:43 PM

Hello Open Space friends,

I have been away from the Chat List for a while, and I am very happy to
be back. I would like to share with you an article I wrote for the Open
Space Iinstitute of Canada's latest newsletter. It is on opening more
space while concluding Open Space. I basically worked with ideas
developed at the last OS on OS in Toronto. Many of you probably have
done the same. I know that there has been some discussion on closing OS
a while ago and I did retreive those conversations. I look forward to
hearing from others who may have been experiencing with this second open
space within open space as an ending.  Here goes...

            Opening More Space While Concluding an Open Space

                         By Diane Gibeault, facilitation and training

How can we keep the spirit of Open Space while narrowing the explored
issues down to priorities and concrete action planning ? At the last
Open Space on Open Space meeting  in Toronto, I had the opportunity to
discuss with other Open Space practitioners, our experience  around
prioritizing processes at the end of an open space meeting. Following a
very creative exchange, we realized that synthesis, prioritization and
aligning action could be achieved by doing an open space within the open
space. That second open space is about opening the space for action.

Using the key elements of this new scenario, I opened space for a few
events, one for planning a national fair on women's issues, another for
positioning and reorganizing a social service lobby group and one
identifying "the next step" for change management teams in the federal
government. My colleague, Jacqueline Pelletier also applied it with a
health related organization facing deep structural change. Here is how
it went.

On the last day, we moved from a divergent to a convergent mode. Reports
of group discussions were circulated. Participants were invited, as they
read the reports, to identify two priorities by answering the following
question: "Considering the results of all the issue discussions, what
are the priorities on which we need to make an action plan ?"  The focus
now moves to the "next steps", the "how" and even to the "who does what
and when".

A new bulletin board type of set up was organized on a wall other than
where day one discussion topics were still posted. A simulation of a
tree trunk with six or seven main branches was created using masking
tape. The theme of the meeting was posted on the trunk, large branches
represented main priority areas, and related ideas would become leaves
along the branch.

Regrouped in the circle, participants were asked to individually note
with a marker on separate sheets of paper, two topics which constituted
their personal priorities, topics for which they had an interest in
developing a next step type of action plan. They signed their sheets
just like when issues are put up on the first day. Participants were
then invited to announce, one of their priorities. That person would
then stick the priority action sheet on one of the branches.

Contrary to the opening on day one, this time, the focus was on
convergence. If a priority topic had already been posted, identical ones
were not to be repeated. Furthermore, topics with a common thread were
put on the same branch. On the other hand, a priority topic could  be
posted on more than one branch if a participant felt it was relevant to
more than one area . Priority areas were identified as follows: after a
few topics appeared on a branch, the group was invited to give a title
that described the priority area of that branch and a colored sheet with
that title was placed on the branch near the trunk. The number of topics
were evidently fewer - five or six - and more focussed than on the first
day. As participants read their priority sheets, they would gradually
automatically name the existing branch where the priority was going or
choose a new branch if none corresponded.

When all priorities were on the wall, a dot voting exercise gave a
reading of the weight each priority area has for the group. Participants
applied two dots on specific topic sheets or on branch title sheets
representing their top two priorities. This provided an interesting
reading of sub-priorities as well as of larger priority areas.

Assigning rooms for priority-action planning discussions followed. Since
all action planning discussions were taking place during the same one
hour time frame, additional meeting sites were identified, even hallways
were designated as meeting places. All were listed on a flip chart sheet
for quick reference and post-it notes appeared beside each room. The
person who authored the first sheet on a branch chose a meeting room and
put the Post-it note on the branch title sheet. Additional Post-its with
other room names were available for participants or groups who wished to
organize discussion groups on specific priority topics within the

It was now time for the market place, where participants sign up for a
specific priority topic or a priority branch title for which they will
develop an action plan. Participants were reminded that they could sign
up to more than one discussion group or spontaneously decide to
circulate since the four principles of Open Space, the law of the two
feet, the concept of the bumble bee and of the butterfly, all still
applied. Priority topic sheets and branch titles were all left on the
wall so that people who wished to circulate, could come back to identify
where meetings were taking place. The convener of the first topic sheet
of a branch was invited to note on a flip chart, the titles of each
sheet that appeared on that branch for reference in the group

The branch group would choose someone to lead the discussion. Rapporters
were asked to write reports clearly  because, typed or not, they would
all be posted on the wall, immediately at the end of that hour for
participants' review.  The same reporting forms as day one were used
except that the words "Action Plan" were  added at the top. Generally,
groups met as a whole priority branch which included everyone that had
signed up to any topic on that priority area. The group could still
decide to subdivide in order to discuss the planning of a single
priority topic or to combine a few topics. Once they decided on group
formation, the priority title was posted at the entrance of the meeting
place so that bumble bees could move around effectively.

In one case, day three was a full day so that there was time to discuss
action plans in plenary. Participants were invited to read action plans
posted on the wall, identifying with sticky dots, their top two choices
for plenary discussion. It was now noon and conveners,  who had not
finished typing their reports completed them. Copies of action plans
were placed on all chairs in time for the plenary. During the plenary, a
few participants  rotated to type on a computer, key points of the
discussion. Copies were made at the end of each action plan discussion
and those of the final action plan topic were made  during the closing
circle of Open Space. Participants left with a full report of all

Where the last day of Open Space was only a half day, participants
regrouped in the circle and shared verbally the key points of their
action plans. During that time, their action reports were being
photocopied.  That part of the report could also be sent out later on
that same day  through fax or e-mail so that it awaits participants as
they start their normal activities the next day. They are equipped for
immediate action.

To conclude, I found that opening space for priority setting at the end
of an open space event really injects a second spur of energy into the
group and reinforces the attitude of openness. Titles given to
priorities are more thought out and are now worded differently  as a
result of two days of explorative discussion. They are a better
indication of  where the group is at.

The purpose of day three or rather of the concluding or closing process
is to align and to bring focus. It is also there to connect the openness
of the first part of Open Space to the  reality, through actions and
commitments. As was so well said at the OS on OS meeting, "the last day
done this way, both grounds people in "what next" and reminds them that
the space is always open."

Diane Gibeault is an experienced bilingual consultant in facilitation
and organizational change. She works in partnership with Jacqueline
Pelletier a skilled facilitator who, like Diane has trained on Open
Space Technology with founder, Harrison Owen. They are both members of
the Open Space Institute of Canada. For more information please contact:

Diane Gibeault Associé.e.s /Associates, in Ottawa at (613) 744-2638 or
dgp at

From: Peggy Holman, Open Space Institute <osi at TMN.COM>
Subject:      OS as a Synthesis Tool
Date: Tuesday, March 17, 1998 8:01 AM

As has been demonstrated many times over the last 15 or so years, OS is a
wonderful way to bring openness to closed spaces: to allow the pent up
natural divergence to have room for exploration.

Over the last 2 years, I've been experimenting with OS in a different way.
Often, I've been in environments where the powers that be found the thought
of opening space far too frightening to pursue.  So, I have worked with them
in other ways to make room for new possibilities.

Whatever route is taken to envision new possibilities, there comes a time
when focusing has value.  I believe that focusing is best done through
synthesis.  I want to digress a moment and offer a definition of synthesis.
It's the process of looking at the elements of something and putting them
together in new ways.  So, it is a creative process that by definition,
creates new mental maps.  When we create new mental maps, we think about
things differently.  When we think differently, it changes behavior, which
ultimately leads to different results.

So, when I started to think about better ways of setting priorities, I found
myself guided by some familiar principles: Whoever comes; whatever happens,
etc.  And of course, the law of 2 feet.  In addition to these familiar
friends, I found two other underlying ideas were guiding my thinking.

The first:  the personal is universal.
The second: when people listen to their own internal dialogue, they have a
remarkable capacity to synthesize vast amounts of information and feelings.
As a matter of fact, I believe that the act of looking inside or using
intuition is an act of connecting with spirit.

So, armed with these thoughts, I started experiementing with using OS to
bring focus after a space had been opened for exploration.  What changed is
the sort of question I use to open the space for synthesis.  Rather than an
expansive question, I ask a very personal, reflective question: "Based upon
your view of all of the possibilities discussed and explored, how do you
personally want to use your energy, your two feet to further what's
happened?"  I let them know that if someone posts something similar, to work
with them.  So, rather than encouraging diversity, at this stage, I ask
people to look for common threads.

What I find happens is people come forward with practical ways to live out
what they have been discussing.  And that there are relatively few items
that come up.  The number of areas for focus emerging has ranged from 1 to
5.  The largest group I done this with is about 60.

The other observation I have about this approach is that it really
reinforces the kind of collective consciousness that often happens in an OS.
People hear articulated what they have been thinking about.  It's affirming
and really builds energy for collective action.

During the last Open Space on Open Space, we had a discussion on "Day 3" a
short-hand name for converging after an OS.  Someone had a wonderful quote:

"When we dream alone, it is only a dream
When we dream together, it's the begining of reality."

I would love to hear your reaction to these ideas.

Peg Holman

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