Moving Genuine Contact Forward Worldwide: An Open Space Technology Meeting

You are invited to join with other members of our International Genuine Contact Organization for an Open Space Technology meeting on March 28, April 1 & April 6. This 3-part OST meeting is intended to provide an opportunity for you to discuss what is most important at this time for Genuine Contact.

The theme for this meeting is:

“Let’s Play Together!
Issues and Opportunities for Moving Genuine Contact Forward Worldwide”

 

During this Open Space, participants can create and manage their own agenda within parallel working sessions. The goal of an Open Space meeting is to create time and space for participants to engage creatively around issues that are important n to them. Participants are invited to build the agenda for these working sessions together. You will be invited to propose sessions on topics that interest you, that you are curious about, and that you would like to share about. After the agenda is developed, participants can choose the sessions they would like to attend.

Sessions 1 and 2 are devoted to these conversations of topics that are of interest to you. In the 3rd session, we will be reopening space for action planning. This is a chance for you to make plans with your GC colleagues about the ideas that have come forward in Sessions 1 and 2. By the end of session 3 , we envisage new opportunities and clear next steps for working together to move Genuine Contact forward worldwide.

You are invited to participate in any of the available sessions - joining us once, twice, or even for all three!

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Session Details

Each session is 4 hours long and starts:

  • Session 1: Monday, March 28 @ 9 am EST / 3 pm CET / 6:30 pm IST / 10:00 pm KST
  • Session 2: Friday, April 1 @ 3 am EST / 9 am CET / 12:30 pm IST / 4:00 pm  KST
  • Session 3: Wednesday, April 6 @ 12 pm EST / 6 pm CET / 9:30 pm IST/ 1:00 am KST

Based on the results of our recent survey about best meeting times, the schedule for these sessions has been designed with the possibility to participate in at least 1 session within comfortable waking hours wherever you might be in the world.

Session 1: March 28

Join us for opening space and creating the initial agenda. There will be 3 parallel working times for you to post topics for and participate in. The agenda will already be open for Session 2 if you plan on attending later in the week too.

Session 2: April 1

The space continues for divergent thinking in this second session. You can participate in this second day even if you did not attend the first session. We’ll begin with a morning circle with the opportunity to post new topics for the day. There will be 3 or 4 parallel working times to post topics for and participate in.

 

After this session, the reports from Sessions 1 and 2 will be circulated to all participants and via the GC List for reading in advance of Session 3. While it is not necessary to read the reports in order to attend Session 3, you may wish to familiarize yourself with them to stimulate your creativity and consider what actions might be close to your heart and mind.

Session 3: April 6

Taking into consideration all of the contributions in Sessions 1 and 2, we will be re-opening space for action planning. You can join this session even if you have not attended Sessions 1 or 2. You’ll be invited to post new topics for this 3rd day to develop initial plans for moving Genuine Contact forward together worldwide. People interested in moving an action forward after this OST session will be asked to join together as a Council of Champions for ongoing support in achieving your vision.

Givens

  • A book of proceedings will be made for this event and shared on the GC List, in our GC Resource Library, and in GC-related social media channels.
  • Participants are welcome and encouraged to move any action forward that comes out of this Open Space Technology meeting. Formal decision making is only required if an action is within the considerations included in the Proposal Development and Decision Making Operating Given:
    • will have an impact on the approved organizational budget
    • will have an impact on the organization as a whole including new operating givens
    • requires a change in the Strategic direction
    • is meant to essentially change any of the existing resources such as workbooks, operating givens, logo, etc.
  • The leadership management team commits to connecting with the champions within 30 days of the OST to schedule a meeting of the Council of Champions.
  • There are no dedicated funds for projects that require them; we are open to working together with people to explore ways to find funding. 

What Is Open Space Technology?

Open Space Technology is the name given to a type of meeting characterized in part by the lack of a predetermined agenda. Developed in the late 1980s by Harrison Owen of Maryland, USA, this meeting methodology is now used around the world as an effective process for generating ideas and facilitating change in both organizational and community settings. 

Open Space Technology has one outstanding characteristic - the generation of energy and commitment. It also has one outstanding enemy - control. It will not work where the energy and commitment generated are not permitted to bear fruit. This is not to suggest that OST is an invitation to anarchy, far from it. Provided the constraints - economic, political, legislative - are recognized and spelled out very clearly at the start, and the areas where discretion and freedom to be creative (defining the space) are also made clear, Open Space Technology has proven itself to be a powerful tool for harnessing commitment and responsibility. Several organization-wide Open Space Technology meetings within a short time frame will start to shift an organizational culture from something that might be de-energized into a more vibrant, organic, networked community that is effectively producing results. Further elements of the Genuine Contact Program are used to complete the shift in organizational culture and sustain the new paradigm.

 Open Space Technology meetings are simple to organize, require very little lead time, are effective for any sized group from seven to one thousand people, are effective for established groups such as corporations, private sector and public sector organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations, coalitions, teams, or communities. They enable the building of energy, participation, and engagement in ways that few other processes do. Open Space Technology meetings create the conditions for interactive processes that allow leadership to surface naturally.

Open Space Technology Meetings are:

 

  • Simple to organize, requiring little lead time
  • Effective for small to large groups (7 to 1,000)
  • Interactive
  • Conducive for leadership to surface naturally
  • Effective for existing organizations, coalitions, associations, or helpful for those that are newly formed
  • Have been used in government and non-governmental organizations, private and public sector organizations
  • Less complicated than other large group methodologies
  • They enable the building of energy, participation, and engagement in ways that few other processes do

Open Space Technology is best used when there is an important issue to be addressed; there is a diversity of people involved; there is complexity; the sponsor genuinely wants input from the participants; when creativity and innovation are desired, and when decisions need to be made quickly.

Open Space Technology meetings can help individuals or groups:

  • Take risks and develop practical visions
  • Take responsibility for the meeting and agenda
  • Develop greater awareness of themselves, others, and the organization
  • Build team spirit and foster creativity
  • Rekindle passion for their work 

The Laws and Principles

Open Space Technology operates on four principles and one law.

The four principles are:

 

  1. Whoever comes are the right people. This reinforces that the wisdom to achieve solutions is present in the room and the group is not to worry about who is not present nor to worry about who is.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. This keeps the attention on the best possible effort in the present, not worrying about what we “should have done.”
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time. This reminds people that creativity and problem solving cannot be controlled or held to a strict agenda.
  4. When it’s over, it’s over. This encourages people to continue their discussion so long as there is energy for it. This may result in a session not filling the entire time allotted, or it may result in a session extending beyond the time allotted.

The one law is called The Law of Mobility, also known as The Law of Two Feet. This indicates that people can enter or leave an open space session as they choose. If the session you are in is not meeting your needs for either contributing or learning, use your mobility to find another session.

How It Works

An Open Space Technology meeting is announced. The duration of Open Space meetings is most commonly between one and three days, though they can be shorter ideally not less than three hours.

The venue is a large conference room with lots of “break-out” space or session rooms or an online participatory platform like Zoom + Miro.

When people arrive for the Open Space Technology meeting, they initially come to the plenary room and find the room is empty, except for a large circle of chairs. The circle is an invitation to join the community and communication without barriers (like tables). In meetings that are online people are asked to use their imaginations that they are invited to take a seat in the circle.

 The meeting or workshop begins with a welcome by the sponsor that is brief, highlighting the theme and the “givens” or constraints.

Then a facilitator briefly explains how the Open Space Technology meeting will operate including the four principles, one law, and process for the meeting. The broad purpose or theme of the workshop is stated again, as are the “givens” or constraints. An example of a broader theme might be “Issues and Opportunities for the Future of the Organization.” In the middle of the circle is a collection of newsprint paper, masking tape, and markers (or a blank whiteboard online).

Participants are invited to create the agenda. Anyone who has any ideas that are related to the broad topic is invited to take a sheet of newsprint and write their topic of interest along the top of the newsprint paper (or post the topic on the blank whiteboard online). People are asked to suggest ideas for which they have passion and for which they are prepared to take the responsibility of leading a discussion group and to make sure the discussion is recorded (report forms are provided).

 The sheets announcing each of the topics, along with the name of the person who put up the idea and a note of when and where the topic will be addressed, are posted to a blank wall, the Agenda Wall.

The next step is a “Market-Place.” All participants go to the marketplace to look at the ideas outlined on each sheet. Then the participants review and choose the small group they want to attend (for each allotted period). They go to the breakout spaces to participate in discussing the topics of their choice.

The next step involves participants going to the break-out spaces to participate in the topic of their choice. As far as possible, each session is defined by a circle of chairs and no other furniture, though it may have flip, charts, post-its, felt pens, etc. 

The person who posted the idea is responsible for leading the session in whatever way s/he chooses, and the group self-manages the discussions. The facilitator is not involved whatsoever in these breakout conversations to limit outside influence in stakeholder conversation. The only requirement is that, at the end of the session, the session leader turn in the report with a summary of session ideas, who has agreed to do what, and any other information requested as a part of the format/instructions. This is to be provided in a standard format, usually noted on pro-forma given to the session leader at the start of their session. It is important to record the highlights of the discussion in such a way that they can be understood by people who were not part of the discussion.

As soon as a report is ready (handwritten or typed into a computer), the facilitator posts a copy of it on a news wall so that all participants of the broader meeting can read about what has happened in each session.

 

A copy of all the reports is compiled into a “book of proceedings.”  In addition to all the small group reports, it should include the contact information of the participants so that they can reach each other for further networking. This book is made available to each participant of the meeting. In a multi-day meeting, the book of proceedings is handed to each person prior to a time of converging the various topics and getting further input from the collective about next step actions. In a meeting that is one day or less, this “book of proceedings” is available to participants within the week, usually electronically.

In a meeting where the intention is to move topics to action steps, the facilitator conducts a summarizing session for convergence, prioritizing, and action planning, including seeking input on next steps and follow-up. This is a feature of Open Space Technology meetings that are longer than one day.

 At the end of the meeting, there is a closing circle.