making the most of a very short OS

Doersam, Laurel Laurel.Doersam at
Tue May 29 11:35:52 PDT 2001

Hi Laurie,

I've done several Open Space events of only three hours.  What usually
happens is that the method itself is quite infectious and folks come away
energized and wanting more.  Three hour events have invariably led to
one-day events, which seem then to lead to a series of events.  Rather than
having only one session, I've found it better to have a couple of shorter
sessions of, say, 40-45 minutes.  I've got the opening down to an art, with
my intro to OST taking under 10 mins.  With a group of 15 - 20, The
marketplace takes about a half hour (or less) for posting topics and
self-organizing.  So that should leave ample time for a closing circle.

Regarding your theme, I wonder if "What can we realistically do this year
and who is going to do it?" is the tone you want to set.  If you're aiming
to energize folks and focus them on the future, putting the theme in that
context sort of puts a damper on creating commitment, excitement and
passion.  Sticking to only what is "realistic" and setting the timeframe
within the next year may not be the best way to find the creative solutions
that OST is so able to accomplish.  I'd be leaning toward something "sexier"
like "Making Ithaca dollars the currency of choice"  or "Enhancing community
spirit in Ithaca with local currency" - with that type of theme, you'll have
both the structural types and the promoters finding their common ground
(passion!) and then being able to build from there.

At any rate, I know that you'll be surprised at what you can accomplish in
three hours and I'LL certainly be surprised if they don't come away from the
event want more!  Good luck and have fun with this one.

-----Original Message-----
From: Todd Saddler [mailto:Laurietodd at]
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2001 11:11 AM
Subject: making the most of a very short OS

Dear OS folks-

Both my husband Todd and I have studied and used Open Space in our work, but
he is usually the one posting to the listserve.  Your willingness to provide
helpful advice has been very appreciated.  Now I'd like to take the
opportunity to tap into this base of wisdom.

I am the only paid staff of a local currency system here in Ithaca NY.
That's right, we mint our own money here in Ithaca.  It's negotiable within
20 mile radius of Ithaca and is accepted by 1500 individuals and businesses
in full or partial payment for goods and services.  The whole point of the
system is to encourage people to support the local economy, which builds
community and creates jobs.  It's a really neat system and has been around
for 10 years.

It was begun by a visionary, radical local icon who worked very hard and
scraped together a bit of funding to live on.  He remains very active and
central to the running of the system, but two years ago turned the operation
over to a board of directors.  They're all good folks, although with quite
different styles and career/educational backgrounds.  They are also all
extremely busy and harried.  So what was once the responsibility of one
fellow working all the time as his personal mission is now the
of a group with many other activities, like jobs and families, more central
to their lives.

I was hired as coordinator of volunteers, but soon realized that before I
recruit volunteers the board has to do some prioritizing and planning.  I
suggested OS as a way to energize folks and focus them for the future.  Some
board members have been concentrating on making the organization more
structurally sound, while others are impatient to get on with actually doing
the work of promoting the local currency.  There is definite tension on this

The board has allotted me three hours for an evening OS next month.  I know
this is far too little time to do the method justice, but it's what they are
willing to spend.  Despite the time constraints, I still would like to try
with them, because they really need to be energized and shaken out of their
standard ways of dealing with organizational issues and each other.  We hope
to invite the board and a few other key supporters of the currency system
are willing to take on some tasks, not just give advice.  So there should be
around 15-20 people in attendance.

Now to my questions:
1) Can we with some opening remarks, creating the agenda, just one break-out
session time slot, and a closing circle accomplish any kind of satisfactory
planning?  Is there anything I could do with this schedule to make the
meeting more fruitful?  Or is it a mistake to even try OS during a 3 hour

2) How can I formulate a theme?  The big question I'd like to see answered
"What can we realistically do this year and who is going to do it?" Is that
too broad? Is it too specific?  We have a list of tasks, huge and little,
that board members have signed on to for the year, but not much
prioritization or many specifics on the big tasks.  Plus there's the issue
recruiting volunteers, who are greatly needed, although it seems that many
the "volunteer" jobs really ought to be done by well-trained staff, so it's
hard to know how they'll get plugged in.

Thanks for your patience with my explanation and for your willingness to
share your knowledge with me.

All the best,
Laurie Konwinski

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