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Open Space Technology in Nutshell

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Chapter 1: Open Space Technology in Nutshell


Dialogue receives immense importance in today’s world. It has been proved as a vital tool to overcome differences that has otherwise been not possible to resolve by using other methods. In this background, the Open Space or Open Space Technology (OST) emerged as a vital method for running/organizing meetings, workshops, interactions, gathering, events etc. As against the prevailing scientific notion, here Technology implies to a tool, a process, and a method. The credit of re-discovering the concept of OST goes to Harrison Owen in 1985.1

OST is a self-organizing practice of inner discipline and collective activity which releases the creativity and leadership inherent in people. It convenes large groups of people, engages them in constructive conversation on a focused topic/issue in a highly participative manner. Through Open Space, the participants themselves construct the agenda and schedule during the meeting. They take the responsibility to incorporate the issues they care about and establish a Time / Space matrix (marketplace) for posting, inquiring, reflecting and learning, which bring out the best in both individuals and the whole.

Thus, OST enables groups of any size to address complex, important issues and achieve meaningful and sustainable outcome. Its participatory process ensures maximum ownership on the issue discussed and the outcomes. It functions best where more structured, hierarchical and traditional meeting formats fail: in situations which needs outcomes which is relevant and appropriate within the conflict, complexity, and diversity of thought of the people.2


Practitioners have defined OST as below:

“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, 2000


“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.


"A meeting room prepared for Open Space has a circle of chairs in the middle, letters or numbers around the room to indicate meeting locations, a blank wall that will become the agenda and a news wall for recording and posting the results of the dialogue sessions."-- Chris Corrigan, 


"It's a creative problem solving process where nobody knows the answer and all the participants are experts.... It's a safe space for people to contribute and co-create. ...It's a bottom-up process with meaning, because people put their energy behind things that mean something to them in the organisation...It's driven by individual passion and responsibility." Kerry Napuk and Eddie Palmer from 'The Large Group Facilitator's Manual - A Collection of Tools for Understanding, Planning and Running Large Group Events'Gower Press, 2003'


"[Open Space is] passion bounded by responsibility: Passion gets you out of your chair, responsibility moves you to action. Things only get done by individuals, and nothing gets done unless people want to do. Passion is great, but goes nowhere until the feet take it somewhere."--Michael Herman, 


Open Space Intro by Harrison Owen from Harrison Owen on Vimeo.

- Harrison Owen welcome and shares about the OST in his recent video message.


For more section from this chapter:

1.1 Philosophies, Approaches and Guiding Principles of OST

1.2 Purpose of Open Space Technology

1.3 Stages of OST’s gatherings 

Notes and References:


2 http://en.wikipedia.oamdrg/wiki/Open_Space_Technology.


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