open space once again plays in Peoria

Chris Weaver chris at
Fri Feb 2 07:22:33 PST 2001


Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful story, timely for me and full of nuggets of
wisdom for facilitators.  Thank you for posting it.


From: "(David Koehler)" <Nsdmk at>
Subject: [OSLIST] open space once again plays in Peoria
Date: Fri, Feb 2, 2001, 5:55 PM

Dear Friends:

We just concluded two nights of open space for neighborhoods in Peoria,
Illinois USA.  We had over 75 people representing a geographic (within the
city) and ethnic/cultural diversity.  If I had a dollar for each time I
the word "spirit" used in the closing circle, I would be quite rich.  I'll
try to hit the high points.

Some learning's:

1.  It worked well to take the responsibility off my shoulders and put it on
the participants in the opening.  What I said is, "I feel no pressure on
whether or not this is a good or successful event.  That's your (the
responsibility.  So this is fun for me."  In the evening news on the second
night I re-enforced this when I was asked, "Now what are you going to do
all this information?"  My response was "Nothing, ...what are you going to
is the question."  The response from the group was "Ah," with some applause.

2.  After the first session, people were standing around talking and not
going directly into their next sessions.  Four people came up to me (all at
once and together) and demanded that I make people go to their groups.
"Nope" was my reply.  (Actually folks were taking an OS coffee break, and I
wasn't about to interfere.)  I mentioned to the delegation of four that
people were doing some important networking and that I predicted in five
minutes or so people would begin to regroup.  And that's exactly what
happened.  (Then I had to spend some time cleansing the "cockiness" feeling
from my system.)

3.  As luck would have it, as we began the closing circle, (I was holding a
beautiful carved wooden walking stick that one of the participants had
offered when I had asked the night before if someone would like to provide
the talking stick), a Native American woman came up and inquired about the
stick and began to tell me about how it was used in her culture.  I
immediately ask her if she would share it with the group.  She did.  I had
tears in my eyes when she was done.  She walked around the circle and spoke
of the true meaning of the circle and how we were all equals.  She talked
about how the elders would enter the circle from the East and would hold the
talking stick and speak.  It was a very powerful and spirit filled moment
set the tone for an incredibly deep and rich closing.

4.  Real convergence took place on a couple of issues.  It happened
naturally, which I think is the best way.  While the first evening had been
chaotic and frantic, the second evening was reflective and serious in mature
kind of way.  After the event was over, several people indicated that they
are planning to open space on some very specific issues that grew out of the
discussion.  I think one was on the need for green space and parks in the
inner city neighborhoods.

A final thought...

In the closing circle, a conversation took place, through the various
comments, in which some of the younger people talked to the older veterans
neighborhood activism.  They expressed their respect for their years of
persistence, in some cases 30 or 40 years of involvement in battling
slumlords and druggies, etc., and they thanked them for their wisdom and
their stamina.  The older members of the group praised the younger people
thanked them for their intensity and their energy and the hope they
 It was a real moment of magic.  Spirit touched soul.  I felt I had been on
the journey that T. S.  Elliot talks about, in returning to the place that
began, and seeing it for the first time.

Dave Koehler

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