OSLIST FAQ Version 1.22

Chris Corrigan corcom at interchange.ubc.ca
Wed May 2 14:07:00 PDT 2001

Hot on the heels of our recent change in the Poet Laureate, and the
beginning of the month comes another installment of the OSLIST FAQ.
Romy and others have suggested some changes which I haven't yet got
to...but they are on my list.



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,

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:

   * Whoever comes is the right people
   * Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
   * When it starts is the right time
   * 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

Open Space Technology meetings have been held with groups as large as
1200 and as small as 5.

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 339 members (as of May 2, 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 form.  You may also unsubscribe using this page.

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:

   * Questions about working with Open Space Technology
   * Answers to relevant questions
   * Stories about Open Space Technology meetings
   * Poems (there is a regular poetry contest that happens every six
     months or so)
   * Notices of upcoming Open Space Technology training or conferences
   * Resource material that may be of interest to Open Space Technology
   * Opportunities and calls for OST facilitators.
   * Introductions from new subscribers
   * Discussion about theories and ideas that can help to improve the
     understanding and practice of Open Space Technology
   * Experiences working with Open Space Organizations
   * Accounts of other ways of "opening space.".
   * 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 past.

In general, OSLIST users seem to prefer that people avoid the following:

   * 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 list.
   * 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 practitioners?

The two most heavily visited online forums are as follows:

   * Worldwide Open Space at http://www.openspaceworld.org.
     Registration is free.
   * 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

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 florian fischer, "open!space

Updated May 2,  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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