[OSList] What is Open Space?

Lisa Heft - via OSList oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Tue Jun 2 16:10:55 PDT 2015

Hi, Ms. Amerie.
I always say if it is not full-form Open Space, to please drop that name, calling it whatever they want (or no name at all). Because to support organizations’ and communities’ capacities, it helps to properly name our tools. Just as we would want someone to know that a hammer is good for building things but not so good for cooking soup.

And by full form I mean (as we’ve often mentioned here on the list):

- Opening Circle (agenda co-creation process at the start, without the facilitator helping / synthesizing / suggesting / reducing topics)
- Facilitator’s explanation of principles and law (calling them them guidelines, invitations, whatever)
- Multiple conversations ideally happening around the same big space, ideally several discussion sessions across time (without the facilitator helping those groups)
- Closing Circle (comment and reflection)

The ‘ideally’ part maximizes things but not being able to have those things does not un-make it Open Space.

Putting things on a wall. Sitting in circles. Creating an agenda together. Writing topics. All are used in many different forms of facilitation, dialogue and learning. That does not make any of those components used out of the full-form…. Open Space. 

I find that at the best, clients / colleagues really ‘get it’ when I say ‘it helps people know which tools to use, this proper naming of tools, and dialogue processes are different tools used for different and specific objectives and outcomes’. And at the worst (which only happens in my head, I suspect), they think I am very up tight and controlling and the Names Police. That is okay. I am passionate about proper sourcing, proper naming. 

Among other things ;o)


On Jun 2, 2015, at 3:48 PM, Amerie Rose via OSList <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org> wrote:

> Hi all,
> Just one of my usual quick one-liners to add to Harrison's thoughts on Law of Two Feet. I went to a wonderful Open Space event here in Exeter run by Kaleider where the team had sensitively re-named this to 'The Law of Mobility'. OS is all about inclusion after all :-)
> I have my own question to pose, related to this theme. What IS Open Space? 
> More specifically, am I meant to DO anything when I see a person or organisation use the words 'Open Space' to name something which is, to be frank, not. I am in a tricky situation of being on the far edges of an event which keeps using this term when the actual mechanics of the thing they are planning merely hints towards the process we are all inspired to uphold. I have had brief opportunities to explain my understanding of this tool and have signposted them to useful articles (I will send your link to them now Martin, thank you). At the moment I am taking the approach of giving them due respect for figuring it out just like the rest of us!
> With best wishes as always,
> Amerie

Lisa Heft
Consultant, Facilitator, Educator
 - President Emerita, Open Space Institute US
 - Fellow Emerita, Columbia University Center for International Conflict Resolution
Opening Space

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