[OSList] Whistleblower and Transparency Conference… How Open Space could not be broken.

Kas Neteler kasneteler at gmail.com
Mon Feb 27 08:19:48 PST 2012

Hi OS Listers,

Recently I had the opportunity to facilitate an Open Space on
whistleblowers and government transparency – a benefit for Bradley Manning
– at University of California at Berkeley.

The event began with a Friday night panel discussion followed by a sermon
by Rev. Billy Talen (performance artist Rev./Church of Stop Shopping). The
Open Space took place all day Saturday and Sunday. It was a mixed crowd of
about 200 participants including many long-time activists & prominent
whistleblowers like Daniel Elsberg (1971 Pentagon Papers), Ray McGovern
(ex-CIA), Ann Wright (retired Army Colonel) ...and a whole bunch of young
Occupy folks from the university. My favorite was a young man with a gas
mask attached to his belt who wore an Anonymous mask throughout the day.

At one point on Saturday the conference was threatened to be shut-down by
the police. Apparently the Occupy Cal folks wanted to set up their tents on
the front steps of the building in support of the conference -- not
realizing this would impact and possibly shut down the conference. Long
story short, the Open Space was "occupied" and a (Occupy-style) General
Assembly broke out to discuss and find consensus. Yes as the facilitator I
was breathing and holding space (without a paper bag -- thank you :-)...
eventually everyone came to a consensus that the tents would be set up on
the building's front lawn and not in front of the doors. We missed Session
3 of the day... but we were able to reconfigure the final time slots to
accommodate all the topics.

In addition to being "Occupied" there were O.S. Space Invaders -- luckily
they invaded the session right before lunch, so I did nothing and let them
go all the way through the lunch break. Half of the conference was meeting
in this circle and from my perspective they just needed to keep going. They
came to a natural conclusion and went onto the next sessions.

For me it was an exhausting Day 1 and I went to bed that night at 8pm. I
needed to rest, dream and reflect on facilitating Day 2. Sunday I woke up
to my radio alarm clock (tuned to my local public radio station) announcing
that "Last night Occupy Oakland marched to UC Berkeley to join Occupy Cal
in support of a conference happening on the campus." ...yep, that would be
"my" conference. I thought to myself (in the words of Harrison): What is
one less thing I can do today to make this better?
And that is what I practiced throughout the day -- in my humble opinion
Sunday was one of the best OS days I have experienced.

Here's the thing, no matter how whacky things got, I kept seeing Open Space
working... participants were connecting, telling their stories, supporting
each other and so on and so forth. Individuals were constantly coming up to
me and confiding that they were getting a lot out of the conference. In the
opening circle we share the principle of "Whatever happens is the only
thing that could" -- on this occasion I would amend it to "Whatever happens
needs to happen."

If you would like to hear more about the conference, my client included me
on a group interview about the event. You can listen to the podcast here:
some point in this podcast I go into Open Space and try to do it

Well, that is the story for now. I look forward to what continues to come
my way via OS. Next stop facilitating the OS on OS (San Fransisco) in March
-- join us if you can.

--> Kas

Kas Neteler
MBA, Sustainable Enterprise
kasneteler at gmail.com

I'm cycling from SF to LA June 3 - 9, 2012 to help end AIDS. Click to
donate and learn more about my journey.
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