Getting started with Open Space

Peg Holman pholman at
Mon Nov 2 09:15:52 PST 1998


First, I've forwarded your message to the Open Space e-mail list; it is a
wonderfully supportive community who can give you some thoughts on your
question.  If you want to join the list yourself, the instructions are

Here are my thoughts for you:

Using OS to vitalize your community is a wonderful thing to do.  Open Space
was a way of awakening spirit.  There are numerous stories of people who
felt burned out participating in an OS only to re-capture the energy that
caused them to get involved in the first place.  They re-engage bringing
their new-found excitement and their experience and history.

I would caution against doing an OS just to introduce the concept.  As you
mentioned in your note, the focusing question goes a long ways towards
creating the context of an OS.  An Open Space for the sake of Open Space
just doesn't contain the passion of an OS focused on something people really
care about.  Your second point seems to capture this.  An OS on the
"Saskatoon chapter of the Canadian PR Society we really want" would invite
people into a creative process on something they  care about.

To the question of who to invite, the answer is always informed by the
organizing theme.  You mentioned you'd like to see the community grow.
Given that, I'd encourage you to reach out as far as possible into the
community and potential community for participation.  Greater diversity of
thought seems to bring with it creativity and innovation. You may find more
than the same 6 people energized by the process.

The video does help paint a picture of what an OS looks like.  It is a
useful tool in helping those who sponsor an OS understand the potential.

I hope this helps.  By all means continue to ask questions as you proceed.

Peg Holman
Open Space Institute

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-----Original Message-----
From: Suzanne Cornforth <paschall at>
To: Peg Holman, Open Space Institute <osi at>
Cc: Dani VanDriel <dani at>
Date: Saturday, October 31, 1998 6:49 AM
Subject: Re: The Open Space Institute (US) - An Update

Hi, Peg.
Thanks for the very informational update!  As a past local president of the
Canadian PR Society, and current frequent helper with our annual topic-based
workshops, I've suggested to our past president that this fall or spring we
try out an Open Space workshop with our group.

Our issues are that we are a small group, with no "critical mass" to attempt
big activities, and we are in a somewhat isolated market (Saskatoon).  We
want to grow, but have tried a number of things that have had only marginal
success.  The same 6 people or so have been trading around the executive
positions for the past decade, and are burned out.  I am afraid the CPRS
will lose one of its only 12 chapters in Canada next year if nobody will
agree to serve as president. (We almost had this situation this year.)

I am a 10-year veteran of facilitating and workshop-giving, and after 20
years in the work force have started my own communications
training/consulting firm.  I intend to make OS a part of my skill set and
strategies to offer to clients, but have not yet had the opportunity to
conduct an event.  I have bought and read the manual, and find it
fascinating.  I am also starting a masters of continuing education degree
from the University of Calgary, focused on learning in the workplace, so the
issues are very interesting for me in that realm as well.

I have suggested we attempt with our small group to conduct an Open Space
session designed to do several things:

1.    Introduce our membership (PR managers and consultants) to Open Space
as a concept they might be able to utilize in their own jobs, with clients
and in their lives.

2.    Try to figure out through the process what we can do to vitalize
(never mind RE vitalize) our small group.  Maybe we'll discover there's
nothing we can do and that we SHOULD shut down, but I've been a member
(President of two local societies, and national secretary) for 15 years,
have my international accreditation through it, and personally, I'd be very
upset to see it go; as would other colleagues I know.

What I'm hoping is that you can suggest to me how we might go about
this...First, is this a good situation for OS? From my reading of the
manual, it would seem to me it fits, but I've never done it before!...I know
the first challenge is to properly focus and articulate the question and
then get out the invites (do we just invite our current members, or
prospects, too?)  These two things in particular I would like some help on.
Our past president, a good colleague and friend of mine, is eager to do this
as well,and would be very helpful with me in getting it all together.

Thanks for any assistance you can give. I was hoping to go to the OS session
at the IABC conference in Edmonton recently (Elaine Dixson who
co-facilitated the session is a friend/colleague of mine), but could not get
away from my practice at that time.

I'm also wondering if seeing the video might not help me visualize the event
and the facilitator's role a bit better?  If so, I'd be happy to buy one.
Please advise! :)


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