Collaborative Research into                     

Open Space Technology, Self-Organization and Emergence














Toronto, Canada





November 28 – 30, 2003



DRAFT    -       For distribution to

Open Space of Canada Institute web site






Dialogue Report #1


Subject:       :  Effects of On-Line OST and Face to Face OST on the Communication Process


Initiator:      Judi Richardson


Participants:          :  Osho


Key Points:


Judi has participated and assisted in 4 on-line conferences in OST using Gabriela Ender’s software.  Osho’s Zen Centre uses email as an extended teaching method.


Some participants need a while to figure our chat space.

What is lost when we are not in each others’ physical presence?

What is found when we are not in each others’ physical presence?

Speaking to a few participants after On-line OST, there can be the suspension of habitual patterns.  For some it is liberating as bumblebeeing and butterflying is easier – no one “sees” me stand up and walk away – there is no need for social conditioning of making excuses to go – there is no physical evidence.


Some also notice a liberating space in the reply.  You can’t blurt out a response as easily – keyboarding needs to happen.


For some there can be a suspension of the expert status and easier to ask “what do you mean”?


When I read your statement or question I read it in my voice – you can’t push my buttons physically.  I can choose to take it as a confrontation if I wish to.  Another wonderful way to see my own mind.


Osho’s center gets 30,000 hits per month and they have students around the world. 


Whatever you’ve got to work with – do it the best you can.


What feedback can be built in?


With search engines, etc., this kind of use of the technology is more accessible, easier to find.


As technology is becoming more prominent – this is a great research topic.


We don’t see this as an either/or, we see it as an AND – lets look at both methods, not versus.



Dialogue Report #2


Subject: Research Criteria: what is needed to make OST research meaningful and relevant to organizations and executives?     


Initiator:     Jean-Pierre Beaulieu           


Participants:          Christopher, Sharon, JJudy, Rodger, Sheryel, Judy, Kelvie, Miriam


Key Points:


·        We want the research to be meaningful to 3 audiences: the academic, practitioners and end users

·        Purpose of research: to demonstrate that OST is powerful and identify the conditions that make it effective.


·        The criteria are as follows:

1.       Academic legitimacy

2.      Longitudinal studies

3.      External captured

4.      External analysis

5.      Comparative research approach

6.      Multiple sites

7.      Hard data

8.      Meaningful to the 3 audiences


The research could, should address the 3 phases on an interventions:

·        Beginning: enabling readiness for practice, i.e. openness , awareness and trust

·        Middle: OST

·        End : Sustaining effectiveness: what are the conditions, success factors, role of leadership and set of skills required.





Dialogue Report  #3


Subject:        Are overlapping self-interests, combined with the sense that you can’t do it alone (spirit/ community) 2 of the operating principles in self-organization and emergence? What are some of the operating principles?


Initiator:      Pat Sniderman


Participants:          Glenda, Frank, Osho, Monica, Judi, Audrey


Key Points:


·        Self-interest can be viewed in a negative light. In self-organization and emergence, it can be positive as part of mutual self interest with others. People identify and create patterns of overlapping  mutual interests that make a difference for them – an exchange that helps drive merging self-organisation.

·        Mutual interests exist in the context of the relationship between or among the parties. When emergence happens, relationship itself is viewed as something separate from the parties and is respected. (Container)  Once the respect for the container/ community/ relationship itself is lost of forgotten (i.e. by one party thinking he or she is in control of the other, or can do it alone) it becomes unbalanced and emergence is blocked. To stay in the relationship/ emergent/ community/ organization parties need to feel they are giving and getting value for value. (If you are not learning or contributing, use your two feet.) When exchange balance is upset, sometimes we become overly controlling or we withdraw altogether. Martyrs, burnout, sacrifices.

·        Out thought patterns cause us to believe we are separate and in control when in fact we are part of the whole. We just prefer to believe we are not. Once we recognize and accept the whole, emergence is possible.

·        We get locked into the familiar and tend to replicate patterns when re recognize similarity and think this is “normal”. People who grow up in war torn countries, for instance, see this as familiar. We need to interrupt, ask different questions, find new spaces, places. Need discontinuity and a change in historical connections (sparse prior connections)

·        Need an open flow of information throughout any organization. The termite queen sits at the top of the…. Laying eggs. Worker termites sit around her seeming to fan her. Scientists have recently discovered that in fact they are giving her information about the kinds of eggs she needs to lay. She has no power but is central to the colony’s survival. (bulletin board)

·        The circle is an underlying principle of emergence and it serves the purposes of  finding mutual self-interests, respect  for the container and sharing information. This has been understood by many cultures i.e. Hopi for ever.

·        The possibilities for finding mutual self-interests require a variety of currencies in the container. People seek different kinds of currencies from the exchange relationships. Emergence happens when there are many possible currencies available to meet different needs. Work organisations could facilitate the possibility of emergences by offering a variety of currencies i.e. more time, time off, respect, additional resources for research

·        Cannot force self-organization from the outside

·        Self-organizing systems both attract and repel.














Dialogue Report #4


Subject:        TOOT


Initiator:      Judi Richardson


Participants:          IrmaJean, Jean Pierre, Shikai Osho, Monica, Judy Robertson


Key Points:


·        TOOT – Time out of time

Noticed that similar to my practice of meditation, OST as a portion of time away from the normal provides a container for the group to “see” itself”.


Individual letting go of time, being fully present and fully attentive to the group.


How do we as individuals bring ourselves to a conclusion to move forward to next part. Relationship and build trust with self.


Spoke about the undercurrents – 2 day OST “Managing Money Better”, different from daily work in silos – met as a team, now bonuses based on team work. Stated in closing circle that no one forced them to so what they didn’t want to do; discovered common ground.


Time out of time – time to see my habitual patterns, to let go of the roles I have placed you in.


Conditions for self-organizing – doing something a little different?  Like when we travel and can let go of roles, feel free of labels – expand our consciousness.


Take simple and make it complex. In this moment, am I having a good time – if not – go somewhere else.


One 13 year old son said felt frustrated – and said needed a time out – self-organizing!


Evolutionary steps – we see someone else is in the room, conditions change, now how do we work so everyone benefits. If everyone gets up and uses the law of two feet because I’m taking over the conversation – it is in my face!!


Work in indigenous peoples, wisdom traditions, shamanic societies – many of these conditions are part of being. In restorative justice circles – processes are similar. Natural leader emerges in the culture to facilitate meetings. Ho’oponopono and Maaori Ohana Gathering used for families. Processes similar to open space – the breath in the opening circle is similar to prayer in these customs. As a facilitator we are not manipulating a group or forcing our beliefs – we do have our own practices of spirit.


Questioned the inclusivity of OST – in some cases people feel they don’t fit in, cultural norms are not to sit in a circle and meet eyes, different learning styles don’t mesh with the process. Is the process biased and exclusive> My way of the highway? Like a cult – we have the answer – everyone to it this way. And yet evolution happens through difference. Is there enough openness?


Provide space and opportunity for you to talk about what you are comfortable with – some components may not work for others.


Worked in some cultures where it is an insult to disagree with someone – you always agree.


Discussed OST with children – in schools, OST in the classroom, maiken practice, appreciative practices.

Time Out Of Time – time to see how we put people in roles, slap in our beliefs!


Interesting to see what comes up in time out of time – not it is time for lunch!!




Dialogue Report # 5


Subject:        Open Space as an Evaluative Research Method


Initiator:      Irmajean Bajnok


Participants:          Sybil, Miriam, Michelle, Larry, Harrison, Becky, Irmajean


Key Points:

·        Open space as a methodology to evaluate and monitor an intervention

·        Assumes an action reflection model of research, with a view of incorporating research results into ongoing change processes in real time

·        Acceptance of OS as a research methodology depends on your view of research

·        Need to keep in mind that the open space event itself as an evaluation method would itself cause change

·        Within the evaluative research event, evaluators would track themes overtime using events and themes as evidence.  In addition what happens after the OS evaluation event would also be important

·        If OS is to be funded as part of an evaluative research proposal, we need to use language that connects research world with OS. In research terms OS could be seen as “multiple self organizing focus groups”, that yield data that could be analysed using qualitative methods.  Basically the participants would (other than for the basic question), define the more specific research questions related to the issue.

·        It is important though to differentiate between focus groups and OS. 

·        Focus groups are selected, and usually discuss or respond to a set of questions, identified by the researcher, with an outside facilitator

·         With OS the issues and or questions would be those relevant to the participants

·        Major difference between Focus groups and OS is creating the question.  The themes identified by the group become the questions.

·        In data analysis researchers can look at issues, responses, trends over time in relation to the issues, and who thought what about what

·        Concerns re OS as a research methodology

·        There is a danger of  stifling the freedom and openness

·        Need to continue to be transparent with all participants receiving all information

·        Need to enable participants to work on results that come from the OS process so they have buy, otherwise what is in it for participants to be interested in evaluation


#1  Tentative model of OS as an evaluation methodology based on discussion


·        General question asked i.e. What are the themes and or issues that are related to the impact of _________ on __________?

·        OS used to define themes and explore using multiple self organising focus groups

·        Results shared with all

·        Results used by researchers to begin to monitor impact

·        Repeat process as above

·        Researchers begin to monitor changes over time

·        Other data collection means can be used such as measures of standard indicators, surveys etc.

Opens space has an advantage of providing snap shots of issues, and response to issues in real time


Two other models identified


#2.  Larry’s Model

Change Made


Environment               OS used to identify issues                               OS to measure results





Oval: Issue Unclear,More  OS#3   Harrison’s Model

Issue Clear, But Needs more Work, for Action


Right Triangle: Action





Could use this process to monitor organizations over time to determine changes and movement toward agreed upon goals





Given assumptions of an action reflection model of evaluation research,  and 

thinking of OS evaluation research as  using multiple self organizing focus groups, OS can be looked as a methodology for action research


OS used in this way engages the participants in defining the issues to be evaluated and monitored over time


OS provides a means of collecting data, defining the questions, and monitoring and analyzing the data over time


Three models were identified





Dialogue Report #6


Subject:        Power and Open Space


Initiator:      Glenda Eoyang










And others.  We didn’t take the list. 


Key Points:

  • The ones you think will have it don’t.
  • Patterns of power change over the time of the event.
  • The story we tell ourselves about the power structures are different from the reality.
  • Power in a self-organizing system is in the connections and in the information and each feeds the other.
  • Power (structure and function) emerges from people, task, and environment.
  • Do non-positional power people simply set the agenda, OR does a new power structure emerge?
  • Can the transition be managed?  Should it be?  The transition includes:
    • How we talk and what we talk about
    • What we do (accountability, management, aligned action)

In the talk we explore options and practice the act of effective inquiry shared.  Through passion and responsibility, the talk informs the action.

·        Steps of learning appear to be consolidated and speeded up in open space (data collection, exploring options, executing change).  So, open space becomes a simulation of reality.

·        We are always in self-organizing (Open Space).  The asymmetry of power may be problematic here. 

·        Emerging research questions:

o       How does the leader’s role change as a result of open space?

o       How does the organizational culture change as a result of OS?

o       How do you “dance” between chaos and order?

o       How do you find fit/adaptation as a guide for action?

o       Does it work?  (We know it does, how do we tell others?)

o       Are the lessons of OST transferable, and if so to what?

o       Why does it work?

o       How does it work?

o       When does it not work?

o       What theory(ies) explain why it works?

o       What does OST tell us about human systems dynamics?

o       Does OS speed up organizational change?

o       How can we speed up open space?

o       How does OS support common organizational dilemmas (mergers/acquisitions, strategic planning, marketing, logistics, etc.)?


·        To answer these questions, we need to define indicators:

o       People follow the OST rules

o       Things get said that wouldn’t be said otherwise

o       People feel good about the event.

o       Things are different after than before (impact)

o       New innovative ideas emerge.

o       New innovative ideas are implemented.

o       The organization is more aligned after than before.

o       Less conflict after than before.

o       Expectations are exceeded.

o       Capacity for problem solving is improved (skills and will)


·        We need to find ways to integrate the research with the service delivery.  Perhaps our clients will pay for both at the same time. 

·        Methods of research that are available to us.  It is important that we use multiple methods and approaches to enrich the learning and get multiple perspectives.  We will also need to be testing and adapting the research methods as we go.

·        Case studies

·        Before and after performance (money, productivity, etc.)

·        Stories

·        Phenomenological approaches

·        Action learning—prospective inquiry

·        Results reversal

·        OST as a research method






Dialogue Report 7


Subject:        Kinds of Evidence


Initiator:      Larry Peterson


Participants:          Michelle, Doug, Christopher, Agnes, Becky


Key Points:

For Larry, “Evidence” refers to the way we articulate, describe measure what happens.


Why people came:

·        There is evidence in the stories, what can you do to make the evidence more powerful

·        Evidence is a tool that helps with clarity

·        Need to draw on practical experience (evidence) and codify for particular audiences

Larry proposed that we look at Open Space Events and what happens after the event from the perspective of 4 integrated quadrants.  (This could be done before the event as well.)


Evidence can be gathered in each of the quadrants or domains.  Each quadrant likely requires a different set of research methodologies, based in different disciplines – from spiritual discernment (I) to complex adaptive systems theory (It plural).


Larry then told a story of a current opportunistic “research” initiative.




  • It isn’t research until you are clear on the question being researched.
  • We need to get more specific on the conditions for success
  • A consultant is working to the client’s definition of outcomes and attempting to exceed them.   That is different than the perspective of a researcher.
  • We want to develop a common research methodology for aspects of OST which could be shared by some practitioners and researchers, and that we commit to pursuing with the permission of our clients.




Dialogue Report #8


Subject:        Funding Open Space Technology Research


Initiator:      Michelle Cooper


Participants:          Monica, J.Judy, Audrey, Meg, Kelvie, IrmaJean


Key Points:


·        Funding for project will likely depend upon the question, purpose organization/ sector for research

·        Benefit to multi-faceted research in different sectors – like a web




















Oval: OST Research

Social Services






         Share and compare results among sectors

         Different funders have different interests

         What is the “buzz word” – right now capacity building work

         We need to have a question – most foundations/ funders are likely to be interested in the outcome of interests that we are studying – capacity, healthy systems, effectiveness, etc.











         Strategic partnerships with universities/ colleges an opportunity – many are looking to do applied research – How do we discover that, who might be good targets? Ryerson as an example sponsoring this workshop

         Position the Open space Institute of Canada to form partnerships with collaboration among practitioners – that practitioners interested in research are part of something bigger – a community of practitioners.

         Some current funders in Ontario –

         Trillium – currently funding a three year capacity building project that Monica is involved in to help organizations develop policy, procedures processes – OST and whole person process facilitation is the process – Have also funded stakeholder consultation meetings with OST as the process (Michelle)

         Human Resources Development Canada currently funding a project called participative voices – includes academics, practitioners

         Other possibilities:

         Bill Gates Foundation

         Canadian Centre for Philanthropy can search funders with interest in particular fields

         Ontario Hospital Association change Foundation

         Check with Linda Lee O’Brien-Phassas re: health care human resources development funding

         Chris Corrigan has done a lot of work in Aboriginal communities – might have some ideas

         Put this out as a general question to the OSList – likely need a question/ focus to sort this out

         Accessing foundation funds is time consuming for proposal development – preparation and then approval timing

         Suggest a proposal template that could be used

         If we looked at several funder requirements, could probably build a good foundation that could be tweaked for specific organisations

         ?Role for OSIC to host this template

         Project Idea:

         Seek out organisations that are either considered on cutting edge of innovation of perhaps on the precipice of failure and see if they would like to be part of a “grand experiment” to become highly effective, healthy organizations… they don’t need to know our labels of self-organizing systems, but what would be their “WIN” for participating

         Design a research/intervention process and implement – follow over time – e.g. a three year commitment to see what happens

         Win for organisation would be documentation as a leading edge organisation in book, become highly effective workplace – the outcomes of interest that we are promoting – build internal capacity to lead change

         Hire a project leader; would make a great PhD thesis and research team

         Companies could provide some funding t support outcomes – e.g. consultant time – search for a large project funder – something for this scale could be funded – particularly if it was in international consortium of companies


         Interest in evaluation of Ost itself may not generate interest – e.g. program evaluation was not widely recognized in its early phases – now it is well recognized and accepted

         Kelvie recommended setting up an international foundation with a primary purpose of funding research on/ using OST. This was part of the initial idea of a Would cover a wide range of possible topics and sources. Invite corporations who have used OST with success to be part of the board and make the initial investment. Once project get going, could be the vehicle for sourcing funding from other foundations to include specific research. Need to define: what would attract corporate money to the foundation. Set up the structure and leadership (added note from Michelle – of course, we would want this foundation to operate as a “conscious open space organization” or whatever label it is referred using the principles that define OST as the operating system)

         Find leadership to inspire this



1.      Start with strategic partnerships – starting with small areas of interest – just do it – Smaller funding sources – Perhaps OSIC can have a role as a flow through agency for funds where funders require it in the absence of partnerships – would need to know if the current str4ucture support that and if it is desirable.

2.      What we learn from the smaller work could feed into bigger projects.

3.      Place for sharing, contenting this dialogue – Partner agency such as Ryerson could add validity.

4.      Look at the bigger picture “Go Big or Go Home” (Judi Richardson) – international foundation

5.      Funding linked to questions – once we know what we want to research, the funding sources will be clearer.













Dialogue Report #9


Subject:        What do participants in Open Space sessions discover that is most effective in dealing with their interests? – some implications for OS research and practice


Initiator:      Frank McLean


Participants:          Miriam , Osho, Larry



Key Points:


1)      What is the nature and context of the invitation to participants?

a)     What is the nature of OS as the inherent state of an organization – a self-organizing and emerging system

b)     What are the explicit and implicit influences operating on prospective participant to participate or not participate

c)     Hewlett-Packard experience; already existing, OS friendly policies and practices; voluntary participation, implemented law of two feet, saw increase in quality of OS outcomes vs. an organization with low tolerance for openness

d)     Content: that the internal client (champion) has a mandate to address

e)     What will happen with the participants’ OS results?

i)       Champion’s and others’ roles for session and ripples flowing out of it

ii)     Types of management commitment, e.g. to review recommendation vs. employee empowerment to move ahead from OS session within certain parameters.

iii)   Is ii) addressed in contract between OS practitioner and client?

f)       Under what conditions should an OS engagement proceed/ not proceed?

2)     How is Space opened and handling of results described?

a)     Sponsor’s description of purpose, process, opportunities and accountabilities of all parties involved in OS mandate

b)     Management/ employee responsibility, resources, timetables for action etc.

c)     Potentials that exist for ripple effects and their unpredictability

3)     What is a way to view individual, group and organizational elements the OS session and landscape – during and after an OS process (See “Kinds of Evidence”, dialogue report #7)

4)     What happens after OS process?

a)     Outcomes transferable to day-to-day?

b)     Outcomes result/ not result in change and/or transformation

c)     What are the organization’s reactions to the outcomes of the OS?

5)     What are the participants’ reactions to the outcomes of the OS?

6)     What is the level of safety and kinds of consequences for participants speak truth to power?

7)     What value does the organization’s culture place on diversity, variety and novelty?

8)     What are the upside opportunities and downside risks; how are they identified and managed?

9)     Under what circumstances would it be useful to introduce small bites of OS-like processes as preparation for OS?

10)  What are the opportunities and risks associated with:

a)     Pre-, during and post OS session stages and

b)     How can these be assessed given that this process is a moving target taking place against a background of organizational emergence?

11)   What are the key process of transformation, including those arising from OS?

12)  Are standards, practices of tradition of “objective” research – e.g.,

a)     Application to relatively constrained or static subjects

b)     Inadmissibility of certain types of evidence, e.g. anecdotal stories

c)     Focus on generalizing as broadly as possible

Inconsistent with capturing the essence and studying the behaviour of self-organizing, emergent organisations?

13)  How can the visceral experience of emergent organizations, including the ripples from OS processes be honoured in a context of inclusivity of evidence rather than rejected by a context of exclusivity of evidence?

14)  What role could arts-informed research play in giving voice to the experience of participants in emerging, self-organizing change?

15)  What is at stake for the participants, organisation and other stakeholders and how does it affect self-organizing emergent behaviour?




This discussion unfolded raising issues and questions for further consideration.






Dialogue Report 10


Subject:        Using Open Space Before and After the OST Event


Initiator:      Christopher Comeau


Participants:          Sybil, Roger, Sharon, Judi, Jean Pierre, Dorothy, Doug


Key Points:


·        Extending the OST Methods/Process beyond a meeting technique but still providing infrastructures by which anyone can do this?  Moreover, what needs to happen 1) before the beginning and 2) after the usual end [of the OST meeting].

·        There are differences between the term ‘Open Space’, which is one of the 2 qualities of space (open vs. closed), ‘opening space’, which is an activity undertaken by people in their experience of space, and ‘OST’, which is a set of instructions that anyone could follow to achieve an outcome

·        How can the activity of opening space be used more broadly to achieve greater benefit, especially 1) pre OST meeting, to get buy in of the key individual(s) to sponsor the event, and to set the expectation of releasing control, and 2) after the meeting to carry over commitment and clarity into the final stages of planning and implementation, and to provide enablers to supplement the skills of the participants in performing detailed planning, and even in making reasonable and informed commitments to which those taking action can be held.

·        Pre-OST meeting, have to define boundaries and clarify the intent of the overall engagement, and to set the expectation of what OST does.

·        Cannot presume to perform the follow-on work with traditional hierarchy, silos, and command and control structures once a group has been through an OST meeting.  Often management can come back in and kill the initiative.

·        OST is one of a set of tools to meet certain needs.

·        Need to be clear about defining terms, particularly if researchers are to become involved.  Language needs to be specific.

·        Some discussion around differentiation between OST and other tools.  Some felt speed and ownership (reducing resistance through buy-in) made OST unique, others felt that other emergent tools could be shown to be as effective in these 2 qualities.

·        Convergence is not always a feature of an OST meeting.  It would only be used if the meeting generated actions, whereas a learning discussion may have no convergence discussion.

·        We also need to be aware of the tendency to automatically imply that the ‘traditional’ methods (e.g., strategic planning processes) are necessarily bad.

·        Is OST an intervention only?  Is it realistic to extend it to be a research methodology?

·        Are outcomes predictable or not?  Depends on what attributes of the outcome.




Dialogue Report 11


Subject:        Creating Living OS/OST labs in the Corporate World


Initiator:      Christopher


Participants:          n/a


Key Points:


·        OST practitioners may be willing to operate collaboratively with academic researchers to provide access to corporate environments when their clients agree to participate in a particular research initiative.

·        OST practitioners would benefit from the guidance of academic researchers in developing survey or evaluation instruments that could be used during OST engagements on a regular basis.   The results of any standardized use of such instruments should be shared with academics and other practitioners.  Perhaps the Open Space Institutes could play a role in facilitation the sharing of such information.

·        Given the different “bottom-line” focus of different types of organizations, OST research should strive to look at the impact of open space in government, non-profit and corporate organizations.  Of these, results in the corporate environment are most likely to have the greatest benefit to the OST Community of Practitioners.

·        Any collaborative research into OST should consider that both an academic and a corporate audience will want to easily understand the results of such research and the types of business decisions that are informed by it.






BOTH OST Practitioners and academic researchers should collaborate on future OST research directed at informing decision makers in government, non-profit and corporate organizations.


Standardized evaluation instruments should be developed and consistently applied by OST Practitioners perhaps under the guidance of Open Space Institutes.




Dialogue Report #12


Subject:  Benchmarking / Evaluating Effects of OST in the organization


Initiator:      Judi Richardson



Sheryel, Jean-Pierre, Glenda and others


Key Points:


Most important is a powerful question – here they are…

·        Discussed benchmarking from inside the organization and outside and how that might look.

·        Analysis – would it look different?

·        Would the tool be different from other interventions?

·        Can we measure the positive effect on the organization

·        Critical reflection on the value of an intervention

·        Introduce norms, embed with future work and positive impact

·        How would we measure the ROI?

·        Discussed levels of evidence – do we have evidence?

·        Necessity of subjectivity, formalize the reflective tool, Deputy Prime Minister in UK – kit online.

·        Develop intervention against outcomes

·        OST  accepted or respected

·        How measure – like grocery shopping, buy food, use food – how measure it?

·        Define success against stated outcomes? What happened?

·        Consider after intervention and so may months out – longitudinal, academic, practitioner, comparative, external connection and analysis

·        We are searching for research language

·        Need to build it into the organization

·        National and global strategic research plans

·        Build research into facilitation

·        For example – research in health – clearly defined levels of evidence – what research doing

·        Question here – do we have evidence or stories – triangulate stories?

·        Research looks for what is there

·        Are we looking for research or promotion?

·        Here is what we know – how do we look at it?

·        Are the right people in the room – few researchers!!

·        What are the terms of reference for an intervention?

·        We experience structure around process vs. structure around content

·        A ready fire aim approach

·        Some see it as a different kind of consciousness, way of life

·        Does OST always work?

·        As a group process is it always a good way of making a decision?

·        How do we feel with feelings of vulnerability?

·        Today we have more practitioners than researchers – lack knowledge of how to do the research and form the question.

·        Research is often linear!

·        Process research is very unique and we tend to polarize quantitative and qualitative research

·        Are we trying to drive an agenda called Open Space Technology?

·        Is the cornerstone missing – evidence?

·        Action Research was practitioner driven.

·        People want word of how good OS is “out there”.

·        Want people to know OST is a meaningful, relative and effective method

·        Is it worthwhile to have a research component in projects?

·        Is our research theory building and/or theory testing.

·        Most research tools are set up to study systems that are closed

·        Research is emerging to measure non-linear systems

·        What levels would we measure?

·        Many times mistaken assumption of linear transformation

·        OST constrains and collapses the numbers of variables, while providing freedom for transformation

·        OST holds similarities and differences!

·        Provide set of conditions and emergent patterns





Dialogue Report 13


Subject:        Diversity and Using Open Space Philosophy to diagnose /understand recent examples of self-organization and its destruction in our organizations.



Initiator:      Becky Peterson and Pat Sniderman


Participants:          Judy R, Osho, Miriam, Judy G., Dorothy, Sybil


Key Points:

Open space allows us to speak with our own words, articulate our own perspectives and not work totally within the “managers” paradigm.   But it also allows us to walk away from discussion.  We are practicing self-regulation in terms of our own goals in the event. 

Open space unfreezes the “we” in the organization.   When there are real power differences in the room, are we still able to “unfreeze” the ideas. 


Sometimes the diversity isn’t heard, in that the recording isn’t a perfect replication of the even.    We can also discuss the situations when “open space” didn’t work as well as we had hoped, i.e. maybe the conditions weren’t right for the actual open space event to be as successful as we had hoped.


Sometimes the event may not work as well as hoped because the person opening the space didn’t have the full respect or participation of those in the room, maybe because they are internal to the group. 


What are the conditions for opening space that enables the diversity of ideas and opinions to emerge?    We need to feel safe to open up in the situation. 


An example of a woman who had felt unheard in an all male situation was given as an example of the diversity emerging in open space.  It was noted that there are other processes that allow this diversity to emerge, and open space is not the only approach that allows this to happen.


What are the ways that diversity can emerge in other processes?  Through pre-interviews, etc. 


It was noted that “liberation of thought may be a better way to think about this than using the concept of diversity.”




What are the conditions that liberate diversity of views and how can we create more of those situations?


Connections could be made to the work of Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich in terms of liberating thought.  We could link Freire’s work on marginalized voices to OS principles.








Dialogue Report # 14


Subject:        Impact of Using OS on Sustained Change


Initiator:      Irmajean Bajnok


Participants:          Harrison, Jean-Pierre, Roger, Doug, Dorothy, Osho, Judy  G., Monica


Key Points:

·        It is not about sustaining one change, rather it is really about:

·        Creating conditions for continuing ability to navigate change

·        Building a sustained set of skills to deal with change

·        Changing the ideas of what change is

·        Creating chaos resilience


·        Two different views were presented:


·        One view…support and follow-up

·        Important to have support from the organization

·        Need to move OS and results into the infrastructure

·        Follow-up necessary

·        Sponsorship of OS and results necessary for change to occur and be sustained


·        Another view is that results will occur in a variety of ways and you may never know.  OS is meant to set the conditions for the organization/people to become what they truly are.  That something will occur is a given, we may not know what it is.  Sometimes only a tiny thing always begins to change


·        Stories before and after the event may be the best way to measure this

·        Other ways are how much action has occurred

·        A good way to find out is to ask “What weird things happened as a result of OS”

·        It is hard to predict where system changes occur and when

·        Because of the ownership of the group for the issues it is more likely there will be buy in and action

·        Any action as a result of OS may depend on the depth of cultural embededness to overcome

·        One way of monitoring and documenting evolution in the organization is through stories.  What were the stories, what are they now.

·        OS can drive cultural change very rapidly

·        Approach used by Harrison is to do a quick cultural scan through asking potential participants:

o       Who are you?

o       How did you get here?

o       What is this place to you?  (tell it through a story)

o       What would you like it to be


A research question may be:

“What is the impact of use of OS in a setting on participants’ views of skills and ability to navigate change”  


“What is the cultural evolution in this setting following OS as evidenced through stories of participants over time before and after”




Dialogue Report #15


Subject:        Collaboration/Institutes/Teams


Initiator:      Larry Peterson


Participants:          Kelvie, Roger, Becky, Monica, JJudy, Christopher



Key Points:

Our Purposes for Research, Gathering Evidence or Documentation 

(Each of us may share some or all of these purposes.  The conversation did not start here but got here.)


  • Increasing the level of adoption
  • Expansion of Knowledge
  • Expanding the conversation
  • Improve practice
  • Expand understanding of the impact on the wider society
  • Deepen our understanding
  • Understand better the change processes in organizations
  • Understand self-organizing processes
  • Acknowledge what cannot be understood


Researchable Issues (a cycle not a lineal list)

·        Pre-OST event

·        Post OST event

·        OST organizational change process

·        OS/T organizational change theory

·        OS Social Change Theory

·        OS Consciousness Issues


Some Assumptions  (where we began the conversation)

·        An Education Funder became willing to change their research protocol to allow for the addressing of emergent questions with Monica’s help.  The research and practitioners can influence the nature of “academic research”

·        We may need to develop our own funding as Kelvie and others were exploring.  (

·        CDN institutions view authority differently that in the US?  Less positive toward Emergence  (especially in management of academic institutions) and may be less of a source for funding

·        Feminist Research Methodology has defined some research approaches differently  -- more room for emergence?

·        There are ethical issues around data gathering.  More freedom to use stuff that is already published in some form.

·        Need to clarify who “owns” the research processes and the data.  How do OSI practitioners also “own” what they explore and learn?

·         Stakeholders in the research:

·        Sponsor: Owns much of the data

·        Facilitator:  Owns their behaviour

·        Participants: Depends on the kind of meeting and issues addressed (What about the anonymity of the participants?)

·        OSI

·        Harrison

·        Researchers

·        If you know you are being researched, what is the “placebo effect”?

·        Need to develop clarity as to how and when research tools are to be used, when you need sponsor sign-off on methods, tools & timing

·        Two kinds of Research

·        On our own practice (easier to get permission)

·        Their performance in relation to our practice or OST

·        Measurability/Evidence

·        Multiple approaches

·        Not all numeric








OST practitioners develop a research “protocol” for us to commit to each other to use for a time:






e.g. an evaluation tool, for all stages of OS with instructions on the web


We develop this with academic resource persons and testing to ensure we maximize the credibility of the information gathered.


We commit to each other to use the tool and share the results for a particular time frame, given the willingness/sign-off of sponsors as stated above


We share the data and analysis


NEXT STEPS (Developed in Convergence)


Conference Call to take further

  • Decide on components
  • Volunteer to develop draft
  • Connect to the theoretical frameworks group
  • See research tools on UK Deputy Minister’s Web Site


INTERESTED (Now):  Larry, Christopher, Glenda, Judy G, JJudy, Judy R, Becky Jean-Pierre, Audrey, Michelle, Monica, Meg



Sunday Dialogue Report  #16



Subject:                                  Theoretical Frameworks for OST



Initiator:                      Sybil Wilson



Participants:   Glenda, Pat, Miriam, Sheryel, Dorothy, Michelle, Doug, Audrey, Meg


1.      Ken Wilbur – (Discipline-Philosophy)


2.      Per Bak - Self organized criticality  “avalanche” (Discipline mathematical)


3.      Barabasi – (Discipline Network theory) – dynamism Linked


4.      Eoyang, Glenda  (Disciplines - Information systems, Philosophy, Physical Sciences, Math, Human Systems Dynamics.) CDE Model for self organizing   


Container: In Open Space these are the rules, questions, physical space, participants, laws and principles of OS                

Differences that make a difference: In OS these are what we write

Exchanges: In OS these are the conversations, notes, non-verbal communications


5.      Ralph Stacey – (Disciplines -Management )

Shadow Systems and Complex responsive process)


6.      Stuart Kauffman (Discipline- Computer  Simulation Models, nk, landscapes)


7.      Phenomenology – The narrative. How do you understand one’s lived experience?


8.      Ecological models – What are some?


9.      Northrop Frye-Anagnorisis.  Recognition, Discovery.


10.  Popper – (Discipline- sociology) Open society & its enemies,


11.  Pragmatism – (Discipline- philosophy- Aristotle) “What – so what?


12.  Economic Model (Adam, marketplace, supply and demand)


13.  Action Learning/Action Research


Other ideas that came up:


·         When are we talking about evaluation and when are we talking about research? These are two different things. Resist the temptation to find evidence that OST works. Rather research it.


·         What is the function of “control” in OST? Some voices do not get heard. Sometimes agreement is assumed when it has not been tested. OST ignores the importance of and need for process facilitators at times.


·         What is a pattern?  Convergence is weak in OST. Reports do not represent consensus.


·         OST seems to have a strong “American “focus embedded in psychology, behaviourism and individual technology. The “Canadian” approach tends to be more sociological and adaptive


·         When is OST the appropriate (process) strategy to be used?  No one best way to intervene (i.e. OST.) Better to select the intervention and processes that best suit the situation.




Dialogue Report  #17


Subject:       Sunday Morning Group

Survey Open Spacers around the Globe


Initiator:      Glenda Eoyang


Participants:          Becky, Audrey, Monica, Jjudy, Michelle, Judi, Kelvie, Meg, Larry, IrmaJean


Key Points:


Purpose:  We will construct a survey to collect information about the people in the OST network and the work they do. 




·         Experiment with document sharing on-line so that we can all review and revise the survey together. (.pdf,, surveymonkey, WIKI, .ftp, and so on)

·         Attend to concerns about ethical treatment of human subjects by writing an explanation/permission and having it reviewed by a committee at a university.  Explain the purpose of the study and how the data will be used.

·         Explore different perspectives in terms of “successful” OSTs, including customer, leader, participants

·         Ask them what they consider to be their most satisfying OS and what criteria they use to assess them.

·         Include parts:

o        Demographics and info about them and their practices

o        Information about what they consider their “best” OS in the past year

o        Information about what they consider their “worst” OS in the past year

o        What are your questions about OST?

o        Would you be interested in being involved in further research?


Next Steps:

  1. G will draft the survey and distribute it for review.
  2. G will draft a permission and send it for review.
  3. All will review draft, permission, and provide lists of people to receive the survey.








Convergence Topic : Set up another conversation to continue
talking about theoretical models - research agenda.


Initiator: Pat Sniderman


People Interested: Miriam, Doug, Becky, Meg, Larry, Judy R, Michele, JJudy, Monica


Next steps:  We agreed to have a conference call the week of Dec 8th (date and time to be decided) at which point we would discuss which authors we would focus our reading
on. We would have a second conference call in January to discuss next