Open Space with small groups

Chris Kloth kloth at
Fri May 29 04:11:13 PDT 1998

This question affords me an opportunity to take the risk of violating
what I perceive as an OSI norm that I am uncomfortable with: that we
often speak as if Open Space is both a method for meeting that produces
profound results in systems and that it  "IS"  the essence of a better
way of life in organizations, communities and other inerdependent
groups.  While I believe deeply that it provides insight into and a
metaphor for a way of being together.  I do not believe it  IS  "the

Without getting into the deeper philosophical issues (which I am
currently writing an article about and which I intend to post for
feedback on when it is more worked out) I believe the first layer deeper
than open space is the nature of dialogue or dialogic communication.

What this has to do with Open Space in Small Groups in the short term
and in the long term (and what I think is implicit in Grover's & Larry's
responses) is creating the conditions for effective dialogue.  I believe
that the work we do in the first moments of an Open Space meeting, which
I sometimes think of as an invocation, creates the conditions for
dialogue at the same time that it creates the form.  I believe a few
other forms are also accomplish similar results and that we need to
learn when to use other options.  As much as I love open space and
believe it is the most fexible of the forms I use in my practice I am
reminded of the warning that when all you have is a hammer then
everything is a nail!

I believe that keeping the principles of open space in mind while
working with a small group will create the conditions for the right work
to be done by the right people.  Do we need to say it IS open space that
we are using or creating reminds me of the conversations I have with
rabbis about whether or not Reform, Conservative or Reform Jews are all
Jews or some are "better" than others.  You say TO-MA-TO, I say
TO-MAH-TO. Chris Kloth

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