Open Space facilitators and process input

Alan Stewart alan.stewart at
Fri Feb 26 18:22:25 PST 1999

Greetings from Adelaide. Have recently resumed membership of this
list after being away on a spin around this little planet, which took
in a spell in Monterey at the OSonOS there. And was married on
Valentine's Day, using Open Space principles and cyberspace, to
Carmen who also participated in wondrous learnings on the beach
in central California.

I wish to take up an issue prompted by the conversation on dual roles
of the facilitator in Open Space and triggered by the comment of
Harrison that "As for Open Space Technology, I believe the sooner
it disappears the better."

I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment and yet see little sign
- yet - of it happening. This observation is based on my ongoing
noticing of the absence of process skills in the groups for whom
I have been invited to facilitate an Open Space exercise.

And periodically I have intuited (sic!) a need to contribute input
on 'process' rather than 'content.' It was this latter, in my
understanding, that was at the core of the recent conversation
on the role of the OS facilitator.

For example, a month ago I was invited to facilitate an OS gathering
for a small community based school. This took place over 3
successive mornings. The issue they wanted to explore was,
seemingly, how to recreate their sense of collegiality.

On this topic I felt no desire - let alone role - to participate in the
content. After all it was their issue and their show, and my experience
and passion for the topic were not relevant.

Nonetheless I did see a role for me in introducing to the group ideas
on what are 'conversation skills and practices' and, for example, what
are some distinctions to be made between debate and dialogue, ideas
that are widely available to those who notice their significance.

I found, to my astonishment, that this group - made up of people who
may have been considered to be 'aware' of communication and group
skills - were well 'behind' in their knowledge and application of these

And so I made some of this available to them in the form of handouts
and in brief 'inputs' during the opening and closing news sessions
each morning.

And one of the points I offered, in the final closure, was that they
appoint a 'process monitor' - which could be a rotating role - with
responsibility to remind the group when they were reverting to their
old patterns of interacting.

And I sense from their feedback that the group found my contribution
about process of value for their purposes.

I appreciate that this issue of having some input wrt processes that
be of value to the ongoing functioning of the group for whom one has
performed an OS facilitation may have already been addressed on this

Nonetheless, I wonder if you have any thoughts on it?

Good connecting


Alan Stewart, PhD
Professional Conversationalist
Creative State and A Fresh Map of Life

Tel (61 8) 8232 6393 Fax (61 8) 8232 0241
PO Box 6250, Halifax St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
alan.stewart at

'Our conversations shape who we become. We grow as we notice
and participate and flow, together.'

>From  Sat Feb 27 09:37:42 1999
Message-Id: <SAT.27.FEB.1999.093742.0500.>
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 09:37:42 -0500
Reply-To: lpasoc at
From: Larry Peterson <lpasoc at>
Subject: Re: Open Space facilitators and process input
In-Reply-To: <36D756E0.A9EC476E at>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
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Alan and all:

I much prefer to give input on process skills or approaches before or after
Opening the Space. Then the group can decide how it will make use of it as
it self-organizes. To given input on group process during an Open Space, be
it in words or materials, re-asserts the "expert" role of the facilitator.
Yes it is expertise about process, but that still interferes with the
self-organizing responsibility of the group which is both about content and
process. Even in evening news, the role, as I see it, is to get the group to
continue to take ownership for both process and content not to provide
input.  It is the "input" that concerns me as it re-enforces the
facilitators power role rather than holding the space. I would give the
input before or after the open space. I have often done this in events where
particular information or skills are needed--given input. However, it is the
day or evening before not during.


Larry Peterson
Associates in Transformation
41 Appleton Ave., Toronto, ON,
Canada, M6E 3A4
Tel:/Fax: 416-653-4829

lpasoc at

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