my struggles my viewpoint

Michelle Cooper coopgrp at
Wed Nov 25 21:11:45 PST 1998

I, like Jody, was unable to attend OSONOS this year.  My first event was last fall and I had anticipated the opportunity to again share the expertise of those more experienced in open space than I.  I want to add my thanks to Birgitt for taking the risk to share openly with the list her perceptions and ideas, this time of the OSONOS event.  Again, her courage to put into words that which was being left unspoken (a dead moose?) has created lively discussion and responses.  In opening this discussion, all of us on the list have the opportunity to share the learning that occurred with the bumps in the road, not just those persons who attended OSONOS.  I had feared that all we would get is the happy outcome, which is indeed happy.  As we all know, it is the learning journey that is our treasure, not just the end result.

It is clear from comments to date that there are a range of perceptions of the highs and lows experienced at OSONOS.  The bumps in the road are stepping stones to evolution to a higher level of being if we authentically seize the opportunity to explore what created the bumps, what was learned and how what was learned will inform the future.  We know that different people perceive the same event differently because of their experience, values, culture, and multisensory skills etc.  That means that each person's perception is as valid as the next.  I am a bit disturbed by some of the "I'm right and you're wrong" that is an underlying tone in some responses despite some of the language that it is couched in.  I have seen this on the list before, which has left me feeling that the space on the list is not safe to put out ideas without feeling vulnerable.  The responses that I have had (or not had for that matter too) have caused me to stay more in the lurking mode since I still feel like a novice in my experience of open space. I have not wanted to put my thoughts out here to feel attacked rather than probed with thoughtful questions that would help me to expand my thought or idea and confidence.  So if we are talking of welcoming strangers, it is not just at OSONOS or an open space event, it is everywhere.  It is interesting that so many of us are on the list because we believe in creating safe space for our clients, but we have a hard time with that for ourselves.  Of course, this is my perception.

My observations re: the stranger.  I did not get from Birgitt's comments that the stranger was unwelcome nor that she does not believe that strangers have a place.  On the contrary, in my experience in working with Birgitt, the stranger is always welcomed and celebrated.  In this case, it seemed that the strangers were really the experienced OS practitioners and the other participants expected something from OSONOS that could not be delivered.....Training.  That makes it a completely different event in my mind.  I can only imagine how that might have felt for me if I had attended hoping to focus on expanding my knowledge or if I were the person who wanted to experience training. There is learning....from open space basics....make sure to state the theme clearly.  It seems some debriefing happened re: making sure that people know that OSONOS is not a training ground from other comments made.  Perhaps there could be more explanation or discussion about how that all evolved.  Or perhaps it is in the proceedings.  

Open space works its magic against all odds sometimes as we have all learned.  That is why I am committed to bring more and more of it to my work.  However, I do not think that the principle "Whatever happens is the only thing that could have" means that we do not look critically and thoughtfully at how we got there.  When we are satisfied to only let things emerge without considering the factors that influenced the emergence, at what point do we know when what actions or non-actions by the facilitator, environmental factors etc. create the optimum space for the magic?  Do we not listen to dissenting voices to help us examine ourselves and grow? Even when I disagree with someone, I usually find an element of truth in their words that sets me on another learning path. 

I too am most pleased about the creation of worldwide open space and the possibility of the evolution of a NGO organization.  I was impressed as well by the countries represented at OSONOS in Toronto  last year: Germany, Sweden, Canada, US, Australia and I thought UK too.  I look forward to attending OSONOS in the "Windy City" next year.  I can even get there by driving! Let's hope that the Canadian looney is worth more than 50 cents U.S.!!!!.  Thanks to Sheila and Michael for sponsoring the event.


Michelle Cooper
The Cooper Group Consultants
200 Crestview  Avenue
Ancaster, Ontario
Canada L9G1E2  
Telephone -     (905) 648- 4633
Fax -           (905) 648-1763
E-mail          coopgrp at

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