OSLIST FAQ Version 1.2, or whatever

Birgitt Williams birgitt at mindspring.com
Fri Feb 9 15:28:51 PST 2001

Hi Chris,
I love the unfolding of this frequently asked questions segment. To add to
the unfolding, I would like to suggest that if we are equating the unfolding
FAQ List with "givens" that we might consider holding true to "what is
really a "given". Givens are kept to their basic simplest minimum always
using the question "is this really a "given" or is this a goal or value or
desire. A simple way to handle this would be to take the concept out of your
introduction that these are "givens". OR, and this would be the bigger
challenge and one that I think would be a great exercise for the OS
community on this list, work at getting the list down to what truly are
"givens". Nothing less than I would ask of any organization that I am
working with. AND, my experience has been that management struggles hugely
with getting at organizational "givens"--but when they do, amazing
creativity is possible regarding that which is not a "given". Defining the
"givens" tends to define the space.

Love and light and big smiles as I place this before you,
  -----Original Message-----
  Sent: Thursday, February 08, 2001 8:02 PM
  Subject: OSLIST FAQ Version 1.2, or whatever

  Following the good advice of a good half dozen folks, here is another
version of the OSLIST FAQ.  It should be clear by now that this thing will
evolve over time and that is a good thing.  Keep the comments coming.  I'm
happy to be an agent of "include and transcend."

  Welcome to the OSLIST Frequently Asked Questions List

  This FAQ has been prepared to outline some of the “givens” around the
OSLIST, the online list for Open Space Technology practitioners.  This FAQ
does not represent the official position of the OSLIST membership, but
rather, is the result of obersvation and participation by a few list members
who had the passion to create a FAQ.

  1. What is Open Space Technology?

  You'd be surprised how contentious an question that one can be.  Over the
years on OSLIST list members have gone through spells of defining Open Space
Technology both explicitly and implicitly.  In fact one of the benefits of
being subscribed to this list is that over time a definition will emerge for
each individual that makes sense.

  Having said that, in 2000 a group of list members wrestled with the
challenge of crafting an Open Space Technology definition that was 25 words
or less, and among the results were the following:

  “Open Space is based in the belief that organizations and communities run
on passion and responsibility.  It allows groups of any size to
self-organize around what they really care about to get things done.”  --
Peg Holman

  “Open Space Technology is a natural communication process that recognizes
that people take responsibility to pursue what they are passionate about,
and it ensures that what is important to each participant will be
discussed." -- developed by a small group during Birgitt Williams' Open
Space training workshop in Halifax May 15-18, 2000

  That is the short answer.  How this happens is the interesting part

  Open Space Technology meetings begin with all the participants sitting in
a circle, and no items on the agenda.  The meeting opens with an agenda
setting exercise following which the group self-organizes into smaller
discussion groups.  Discussion group convenors are responsible for providing
a report of the discussions, which is immediately added to a book of
proceedings.  At the conclusion of the meeting, or very shortly thereafter,
participants receive a copy of the proceedings including all of the
discussion groups’ reports and any action plans that were developed.

  Open Space Technology meetings operate on four principles and one law.
The principles are:

    a.. Whoever comes is the right people
    b.. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
    c.. When it starts is the right time
    d.. When it’s over it’s over

  And the law is known as The Law of Two Feet (sometimes referred to as "The
Law of Mobility").  It states that “If you find yourself in a situation
where you are neither learning or contributing, go somewhere where you can.”

  As a result, Open Space Technology meetings are characterized by
self-organization and high degrees of freedom for participants.

  If you want to know more about Open Space Technology visit the site of the
international Open Space Technology community at
http://www.openspaceworld.org (a companion site to this list) where you can
find an Introduction to OST in many languages and resources and links to
other materials about OST on the Web.

  For the record, Open Space Technology was developed by Harrison Owen, a
Maryland USA based consultant who was searching for a way to create better
meetings after hearing that the best parts of a conference he organized were
the coffee breaks.  Open Space Technology meetings are still known for
capturing the "buzz" that permeates the gathering and turning it towards
action.  Harrison wrote "the book" on Open Space Technology, called "Open
Space Technology: A User's Guide" which serves as an important articulation
of the mechanics and meaning of the process.

  2. What is OSLIST?

  OSLIST is the international mailing list for Open Space Technology
facilitators and those interested in the process.  It is a lively forum with
313 members (as of January 2001) and generates around 10-15 messages per
day, during its most active times.

  To join OSLIST, or to change your settings, visit
http://listserv.boisestate.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=oslist&A=1 and fill out the

  You may also join OSLIST by sending a message to the following address:
  listserv at listserv.boisestate.edu.  IN THE BODY of this message type ONLY
the following text: “subscribe oslist” (don’t type the quotes!).  Enter
nothing in the SUBJECT field and nothing else in the message (including, for
instance, signatures, addresses, etc.).

  Upon successfully registering for the list you will receive a piece of
mail containing useful information about OSLIST including how to
unsubscribe.  It’s worthwhile saving this treasure!

  3. Is the list archived?

  Yes, the list is archived, and all material posted to the list is also
posted to the archive.  The archive is publicly accessible, so you may wish
to keep this in mind if you choose to post to the list.

  The archives can be read and searched by visiting

  4. What is the etiquette for posting to OSLIST?

  There are no hard and fast rules about what to post to OSLIST, but in
general people appreciate the following:

    a.. Questions about working with Open Space Technology
    b.. Answers to relevant questions
    c.. Stories about Open Space Technology meetings
    d.. Poems (there is a regular poetry contest that happens every six
months or so)
    e.. Notices of upcoming Open Space Technology training or conferences
    f.. Resource material that may be of interest to Open Space Technology
    g.. Opportunities and calls for OST facilitators.
    h.. Introductions from new subscribers
    i.. Discussion about theories and ideas that can help to improve the
understanding and practice of Open Space Technology
    j.. Experiences working with Open Space Organizations
    k.. Accounts of other ways of "opening space.".
    l.. Posts in languages other than English are acceptable.  OSLIST has
readers who speak German, Swedish, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and French
among others and items have been posted in all of these languages in the
  In general, OSLIST users seem to prefer that people avoid the following:
    a.. Attachments.  Please either post these to a website and provide the
link to the list, or ask people to indicate if they wish to receive them off
    b.. Flaming.  We are a pretty congenial group, and flaming is relatively
unknown amongst us.  It would be nice to keep it that way.  If you have
negative things to say about individuals it would be appreciated if you
could keep them off list.
  It must also be said that the jury is still out on small personal notes of
appreciation or support to individuals.  Some feel that these are a waste of
bandwidth and add to an increasingly heavy personal email load.  Others feel
that personal messages of support sent to the list provide valuable
affirmation to individuals by recognizing them within the worldwide
community of Open Space Technology practitioners.  It’s best to use your own
judgement on this.  If you do post notes like this to the list, be aware
that the reception of others may be mixed.
  5. What other online discussion forums are there for Open Space Technology

  The two most heavily visited online forums are as follows:

    a.. Worldwide Open Space at http://www.openspaceworld.org.  Registration
is free.
    b.. The Meta Network at http://www.tmn.com/new.  Follow the link to
“make a new account” and fill out the form.  Where you are asked for your
host or sponsor on The Meta Network enter “Openspace”
  6. Where can I find out more about Open Space Technology?
  The best place to start is at the Open Space World website which can be
found at: http://www.openspaceworld.org/.  Here you will find resources for
facilitators, links to websites of Open Space Technology practitioners,
stories, poetry, training opportunities, conference information and more.

  7. What is OSonOS?

  OSonOS stands for “Open Space on Open Space.”  It is an annual event that
gathers together 150 or so Open Space Technology practitioners to spend two
or more days discussing issues related to the practice of Open Space
Technology.  More information on OSonOS IX (Vancouver Canada, August 18-21,
2001) can be found at http://www.openspaceworld.org/osonos.html

  8. Does the OSLIST really have a Poet Laureate?

  Of course!  The title of OSLIST Poet Laureate is awarded to the winner of
the Biannual OSLIST Restricted Form Poetry Contest.  Anyone may enter this
contest, and all list members have an opportunity to vote for the winner.
The winner is responsible for organizing the next contest.  The current
OSLIST Poet Laureate is Jeff Aitken.

  Updated February 8, 2001
  Please email any additions or changes to Chris Corrigan <
corcom at interchange.ubc.ca >

  Consultation - Facilitation
  Open Space Technology


  108-1035 Pacific Street
  Vancouver BC
  V6E 4G7

  Phone: 604.683.3080
  Fax: 604.683.3036
  corcom at interchange.ubc.ca

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