Open Space facilitators

owen owen at
Fri Feb 26 06:14:35 PST 1999

>Is conveneing a session whilst facilitating the event abandoning (albeit
>temporarily) the role of space holder. Is it confusing for the participants?
> I have seen Harrison doing it although that was at an OS on OS for
>facilitators.....ANy responses?

I rather suspect that we are in a territory susceptible to no one right answer.
It is very clear to me that the facilitator assumes what I can only call a
"sacred trust" to hold the space for all participants, and so Joe's comments
are quite to the point. This is  particularly true when  it is a first time
experience of a group in Open Space. But as the group moves from the status of
"first-timers" to "old hands," my experience is that the situation changes a
bit. There is in fact a learning curve, and groups do become more proficient in
the subtle arts of Open Space navigation -- which I take to be a very good
thing. For the next stop is Open Space "mentality" and eventually, I suspect,
Open Space Organization.

For me, Open Space Organization is the brass ring. Get that one and you really
have something. And Open Space Organization is not about using Open Space
Technology every day (or whatever) -- it is a fundamental shift in the
understanding or what it means to be organized, and who "we" are anyhow.  The
only word that captures this shift for me is Transformation.

This shift is less about "doing Open Space" that a recognition that all of life
is Open Space, and the sole contribution of Open Space Technology is to allow
us to perceive what is already there. Nothing new, nothing added -- just what's

If we replace the words "Open Space" with "self-organizing system" -- or in the
words of Stuart Kauffman from the Santa Fe Institute, a Complex Adaptive
System  -- things may be a little clearer. For me there is no such thing as a
NON-self organizing system. There are just a number of people who think (I
believe erroneously) they did the organizing. The sticking point is control and
the hope that we might have it in some absolute or total manner. I believe the
world is showing us our error, and Open Space Technology enables us to see that
the loss of control is not  such a terrible thing.

So -- to bring all this to something like an end -- I suspect the day will come
in many organizations when having an Open Space Facilitator is about as useful
as teats on a boar, as a good friend from Kansas used to say. As for Open Space
Technology, I believe the sooner it disappears the better.


Harrison Owen
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, MD 20854   USA
301-469-9269 (phone)
301-983-9314 (fax)
email owen at
Open Space Institute website
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