Maiking "SAFE SPACE"

Larry Peterson lpasoc at
Sun Jul 25 12:47:28 PDT 1999

Brian:  I loved your clarity with regard to making space safe. I think you
are right on in describing how the process and principles do create a sense
of safety. The facilitator's personal presence is also critical.

This safety is of a certain kind, however. It is creating safety for "truth"
to emerge. That truth still requires risk and personal openness or it may
not be experienced as "safe". It may challenge preconceived ideas and power
arrangements, and those who have had the power may not feel as "safe" as
they did before the space was opened. This does not mean a challenge to
physical safety in most cases.  However I have seen it lead to some people
who were in the room trying to regain control of what has been unleashed
after the event is over. (Particularly in the church and voluntary sectors.)


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

lpasoc at

-----Original Message-----
From:   OSLIST [mailto:OSLIST at LISTSERV.BOISESTATE.EDU] On Behalf Of Fr Brian S
Sent:   Sunday, July 25, 1999 9:17 PM
Subject:        Maiking "SAFE SPACE"

Dear Peg (Holman)
Some reflections - for thinking about and agreeing with or otherwise -
about what makes the space we use in OPEN SPACE "safe", as I see it.
1.      The CIRCLE is a boundary with space inside it which creates
acceptance and allows/encourages active presence by those present.  As we
use it, that space is always "open" or "empty" and uncluttered by any
meeting things like desks, chairs, tables, etc - its real space.

2.      There is therefore freedom to move about within that boundary, in
and into groups and between groups.  The "permission" given by The Law Of
Two Feet realizes this.

3.      Accepting other participants' "issues/passions" relating to the
theme, and acceptance of my "issue/passion" relating to the theme - and
even acceptance of the absence of an "issue/passion" relating to the

4.      The clear option/invitation to explore one another's

5.      Someone is there to focus on the "space" of the circle within a
"time" context - i.e. there is a finite end to this space of time.  The
"space-maker's" role is vital.

6.      Within that space/constraint, there emerges an evenness of
participants which then allows focus on issues and outcomes.

7.      It's just like the safety of a coffee-break - I can do whatever I
think is worth doing and has value (until the end of the coffee break).

8.      Other formats and structures set out - often consciously - to
contain and control the spirit of a group (which can't be permitted to
get out because it will likely create "problems").  Experience shows that
the circle, set up in Open Space fashion, actually encourages the
emergence of spirit and the relevant creativity.

Respectfully submitted and contributed.    BRIAN S. BAINBRIDGE

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