Beginners Guide to Open Space

Working on What matters

Open Space is a powerful process for people to come together to explore and plan the issue that they most care about. As with the World Café approach, there is an over arching question (‘wicked question’) which is developed by the initiating group.
Open Space is effective when people are passionate about something, there is a wide variety of perspectives, when there is potential for conflict and or if the issue needs to be addressed quickly.
The same questions that are used for focusing the World Café Process are useful here.

  • What is the topic or issue we want to address or explore?
  • Who needs to be invited to participate in this conversation?
  • Who represents both the conventional and the unconventional wisdom?
  • How long do we have for the inquiry?
  • What line(s) of inquiry do we want to pursue?
  • What themes are most likely to be meaningful and stimulate creativity?

Open Space is based on four key principles which are:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
  4. When it is over it is over.

Open Space has one key law which is the ‘The Law of Two Feet: “If you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t learning or contributing, go somewhere else.”’

It is ok for participants to flitter from one question to another, cross pollinating ideas. People who do this are called ‘bumblebees’.

An ideas market is held where participants are able to pose a question that they would like to discuss. Anyone who has a question is given an opportunity to explain it briefly and invite others to the conversation. Each question is allocated a space and the person who posed the question is the facilitator using the four rules and one law of open space.


Acknowledgement – Ted Smeaton (dec)

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