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OPEN SPACE TECHNOLOGY

Open Space Technology is based on the work of Harrison Owen (Open Space Technology, a users guide, 1997).

Open Space Technology is best suited to situations where there is confusion and conflict and a large group of diverse participants are needed to find innovative and productive solutions. It is a process that is used when specific results are needed. Open Space Technology’s strength is its “ability to unite groups of enormous diversity (Owen, 1997, page 8).”

Participants are invited to participate in Open Space because its success is in bringing together passion and responsibility. Participants are informed of the topic or theme of the event and make the choice to participate. Choice often results in greater commitment. Open Space Technology starts with a circle because a circle supports open communication. A circle is without hierarchy or head or foot: a circle allows people to communicate at the same level. From the circle, group members announce topics they are interested in exploring and post a time and place for discussion. Once topics are identified and the place/time matrix is complete, participants are able to work independently of facilitators, who are there only to provide initial structure and logistical support.

A most important value of Open Space is the process of capturing ideas, recommendations, discussion, and real time reporting. Leaving Open Space, participants often have the results of the meeting in hand.

There are four principles and one law for Open Space (Chapter VII). The principles include:

  • Whoever comes are the right people.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time.
  • When it’s over, it’s over.
  • The one law is the “law of two feet.”
  • When the topic no longer holds interest participants are free to move to another topic.

New Heights Group, LLC uses Open Space alone or in concert with other technologies and processes.