Birgitt Bolton birgitt at
Sun Aug 22 12:39:33 PDT 1999

Hello Open Space friends and colleagues,
Harrison, thank you for that kind welcome Home! Unwashed and heathen indeed!
Australia does have showers :-) even at points in the Outback.

And now I want to share with all of you some of my excitements from the past
many weeks in Australia. A big thank you to Brian Bainbridge for putting
together an itinerary of all that transpired. Brian has been doing Open
Space work in Australia for several years. I responded to an invitation from
him to go to Australia to promote Open Space Technology and to conduct a
training program for those interested in learning Open Space Technology.
Over the year, Brian and another colleague in Open Space, Viv McWaters (and
thank you too Viv)  worked hard to get word out about the training program
and about my willingness to meet with people to discuss Open Space
Technology. In early July we had 36 people at the training program that was
held in the bush outside of Melbourne.High learning and high play for sure.
The program begins with an introduction about the presence of soul and
Spirit in the organization, quickly moves to conducting an Open Space
Technology meeting complete with collective convergence of the topics, and
then spends the balance of the days unpacking what it was all about and how
to do it. The form and the essence. It was wonderful for me amidst the gum
trees and the cockaburros (sp?).  Two days later I was on a "talk back"
program on the Australian Broadcasting System (which is where Bruce Kidd
started connecting with us---welcome to the list Bruce) and we had only
positive comments from the callers learning to embrace and navigate through
chaos. Brian fielded many phone calls after the show of persons interested
in learning more. It is pleasing that we were able to tell those who were
interested about the trained facilitators who could be of assistance. In
Melbourne, I stayed with Viv McWaters and was taken to meetings by Brian
Bainbridge. My recollection of that time is that it was packed with good
conversations and that Brian would appear in his little red car at the end
of Viv's driveway before the sun was up to pick me up and deposit me back
long after the sun had gone down. I sometimes wondered if he made it all the
way home in between or if he was at the end of the drive for the few hours
of night in between. The way I know that he went home was that as I coveted
my bit of sleep, Brian would greet me in the morning with the paperwork he
had done since he had last seen me.

The itinerary continued on with meetings for me in a number of cities with
people who wanted to know more about Open Space Technology and with
individual companies who were exploring their desire to create healthier
workplaces. A few meetings focused on the use of Open Space Technology for
reconcilliation with Aboriginal peoples, the details of which were almost
identical to the conversations I have been in here in Canada regarding the
use of Open Space Technology for reconcilliation with indiginous peoples
here. In most places, people were gracious and invited me to stay in their
homes, giving me a chance to really experience life in Australia and to be
in even more Open Space discussions. The entire experience was high learning
for me, exhilarating and felt in total keeping with my understanding of my
life purpose.

What I found in many places was that people have experienced something that
was called Open Space Technology, when in fact it used a few of the
principles and so on but then modified the process. And they were coming to
me wondering why Open Space didn't work. Those of you who know me, know that
I always say "there is no modified Open Space. We either Open the Space or
we don't Open the Space. It can be a big space or a teeny tiny space, it can
last for just a few hours or for days which is okay. There is no such thing
as modifying the space".  Examples of modified Open Space in one
organization that has done dozens of "Open Space Technology" meetings
involved staff coming to meetings, being asked to get their issues out but
there was never a theme for the meetings, nor were
"givens" named. Staff now greatly dislike Open Space, feel harmed by it and
used by it and have less trust in their managers than they initially did.
They found, as I described Open Space Technology, that they had never really
experienced an Open Space meeting and agreed that they would like to give
Open Space as they now understand it, a try.

I referred people to the Open Space Institute of Australia for continued
support and learning about OST. I conducted a few Open Space meetings, the
most interesting of which was with a group of significant leaders in
Australian business. They also loved Open Space Technology . They had been
exposed to the practice of Dialogue but found that they naturally slid into
Debate. In our reflection time after the Open Space, they commented that
they had enacted Dialogue rather than Debate for the first time and that
Open Space had done for them what the course in Dialogue had been unable to

I had a few days to myself on the trip. And explored the beaches of Cairns
where it was warm, and the Outback including Uluru (Ayer's Rock) which was
magnificent. I found that kangaroos wait at the side of the road patiently
until a lone car comes along and then they hop in front of it (such a road
might have maybe five cars all day---this is no coincidence). I saw the
empty lake bottoms and river beds throughout the semi-desert outback that
used to house lakes and rivers before the last earth shift and was reminded
about how big nature is and how insignificant mankind is in the greater
scheme of things. I laughed hard when our bus (an 800 km trip in the outback
from Uluru to Alice Springs) came to a full and sudden stop. The cause, in
the middle of nowhere, was not a kangaroo or a camel or an emu as we had
been warned about---but road construction. The sight was so funny because
there was a man standing with a stop sign because that was his job. On a
road where we hadn't passed any cars and if one did happen along the dust
from it could be seen for at least 100kilometers. We all piled out of the
bus and had to wait for the paving machines to do their thing---for whatever
reason on this corrugated dirt road, there was an initiative to pave this
500 meters of it. And the man kept holding his stop sign. I was in Sydney
for the oil spill in the harbour and realized how vulnerable nature is and
how significant mankind can be in the greater scheme of things. And then
decided that in the end, nature would take care of herself and when she had
had enough of mankind, could eliminate us all for the harm we have done.
Nature will be healed. We may not make it.

All this rambing is my way of saying that I learned a great deal about
myself on the trip and who I am in relation to Open Space Technology, what
it means in my life, my commitment to enabling organizations to operate as
Open Space Organizations if they wish this transformation, and my sheer joy
at being able to work with people with Open Space. I have my own
interpretation of what Open Space Technology and the Open Space Organization
are. I am clear and talk about Spirit and Soul, no matter who the audience.
I am happy to tell the story as I understand it to be, and if it fits for
whoever hears it, good. If not, that is okay too. my Australian friends on the list....thank you. And a special thank
you to Harrison for supporting me in my work and learning and encouraging me
to do the training. And a special thank you to Brian Bainbridge for working
so hard to get word out about Open Space Technology so that more and more
people and organizations in Australia are using it. And my best wishes to
the Open Space Institute of Australia to work with all of the interest that
we have kindled so that people can connect, network, build relationships,
and be supported in their quest to do and use OST.

Light and love to you,
Birgitt Bolton

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