Monday, February 12, 2007

Open Space: New Stories from the Field

The discovery of Open Space Technology by Harrison Owen in the eighties has been one of the greatest gifts to the communities of Change Practitioners. Never again since has a tool so much excited - but also sometimes divided - people who care about change in organizations and communities, maybe except The World Café. Open Space Technology is the most elegant but also the most radical approach to self-organization of groups. It might not apply everywhere as some of the opinion leaders (for which I have greatest respect) sometimes seem to suggest. It might not always be the right indication for an organization issue to be addressed. But I am pretty sure that the full potential of Open Space Technology for transformation of organizations and societies yet will unfold.

I have collected a series of case studies – new stories from the field. They have been published by Open Space practitioners in the OST mailing list or elsewhere. They demonstrate the spectrum of cultural, thematic and organizational settings in which OST is applied – and the passion and creativity with which the facilitators have approached their task. These are stories from all continents about how to motivate a high-performance staff in an Israeli technology company, how to mitigate the traumas of war in Chechnia, how to plan for social housing scheme in Canada, how to organize a district plan in Northern Mozambique, how to give 1700 street kids in Bogotá hope for their future, how to network for multi-cultural adult education in South-Eastern Europe, and many more.

These stories do not only show that the spectrum of occasions in which OST can be applied is probably wider than for any other Change Management methodology – they also reveal some of the challenges you will face, once you decide to work with Open Space Technology. Overall, they provide evidence for the old mantra of Open Space facilitators: “Open Space works!”, without denying that the process and the outcome of an Open Space conference often deviate from what the client and the facilitator had expected. Open Space is building on self-organizing forces of a social system; you can’t put these forces into a box, shake it and get exactly the cocktail you had ordered. On the other hand there is no other methodology, except maybe Appreciative Inquiry, which gives so much room for new ideas and innovation. That is why OST is the approach of choice for clients who have are fed up of doing “more of the same”, i.e. responding to new challenges with old solutions.

Download the PDF here.

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