According to Harrison Owen, “The key ingredients for deep creative learning are real freedom and real responsibility.” The Open Space Technology framework creates a safe and open forum where participants are free to identify, discuss, and solve issues that matter most to them. Participants are responsible for making the event successful. The Open Space Facilitator’s job is to serve the participants by maintaining or “holding” the space.
The Open Space Facilitator is formally authorized by the Open Space Sponsor to facilitate and administer the event. Ideally the facilitator should have no other authority whatsoever within the organization. In turn the Facilitator formally authorizes the Open Space Participants to identify, discuss, and solve issues related to the Theme.
The Facilitator prepares the room in advance so that the participants will have the environment and support they need for creative learning:
- Chairs in a circle facing the middle of the room which is empty except for some blank pieces of paper and markers.
- A large empty wall where session descriptions may be taped or pinned – the agenda will take shape here.
- Posters around the room displaying the Theme, the Five Principles, and the One Law along with reminders to “Be prepared to be surprised.”
The Four Principles (plus one)
- Whoever comes is 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
- Wherever it happens is the right place
The One Law
- If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet and go someplace else.
After being formally authorized by the sponsor, the Facilitator welcomes the participants, explains the process, and holds the space.
The Facilitator provides basic guidance about the mechanics of Open Space:
- Any Participant may become an Open Space Convener by proposing and scheduling a discussion about a topic they are passionate about and making sure that the discussion is documented for future reference in Proceedings.
- Participants will be invited to select and attend the sessions that interest them.
- Mention the Four Principles and One Law.
- “We’ll see you all back here for the closing session.”
Then the facilitator gets out of the way, trusting and expecting the Participants to self-organize.
During the rest of the event the Facilitator continues to help the experience by doing whatever is beneficial to maintain the atmosphere of Open Space. This may mean walking around to see what is happening. It may also mean picking up trash and otherwise removing distractions that might interfere with the atmosphere.
At the end of the event the Facilitator creates the conditions for the Closing Circle and invites Participants to share what they learned…and what actions they plan to take.
Written by: Mark Sheffield, OSA-Certified Trainer