Open Space Institute of Canada
Open Space Reports
From Passion to Action
March 13, 1999
Bruce Craig, sponsor
Winston Kinch, facilitator
Larry Peterson, report collecting
Ellen, Marcelene, Diane, Larry, Bruce, Sharon, Sharon, Ann, Bruce
Stories of experiences people in the circle have had with respect to ensuring the energy continues beyond the Open Space event include the following with highlighted "nuggets":
Ellen – OS with a community which she is an internal decision maker on nurturing the organization was followed with another OS using the outcomes from the first one to create a synergistic operating plan with a vision and mission developed.
Marcelene/Larry – working with a community in OS, reports were sent to staff of the organization to discern who would work on what for operationalizing the ideas.
Diane – a government dept (federal) used OS with 250 managers who had experienced a lot of pain through downsizing, etc. OS re-energized them. Feedback mechanisms from decision-makers to ensure actions are taken need to be established up front if everyone is not going to participate in the OS.
One ADM who had participated took the microphone and spoke with passion about the action steps in the circle, a sharp contrast from the speech-making approach used by those who had not participated in the OS. RESULT: ensure up front work is done to prepare mgmt team for results, especially if they are not going to participate in the OS and if possible emphasize the importance of the OS and the participation of the mgmt team. Use stories where this was not done as an example to other clients of what not to do!
Another outcome or decision from this event to continue momentum was a newsletter (some form of communication) that fed regular updates about the progress of the teams.
Bruce – Include a more facilitated process ended the OS to decide who was going to do what, by when, who would be part of this step, next meeting, etc. which helped to provide structure to those who are more comfortable with knowing this as they go forward. Knowledge of next steps in this case was empowering and energizing. Also mentioned that the up front work is critical (this was reiterated by several in the group); he uses structured facilitated process at the back end – therefore it is a more structured convergence (this is a matter of personal style and the needs of the organization). What is important is that everyone knows what will be happening at the beginning
Marcelene – decide who is the champion and will take responsibility for the various actions/report areas.
Larry – in a group of 500 people, 95 reports were generated and these were fed into previously determined teams. What they found was that within three months, these were not the right teams to be doing this and the teams were reformulated to achieve what was needed using the right people rather than using the (arbitrary?) organizational structure
Sharon shared an innovative way to communicate results – creating a visual metaphor for the project developments. She described a tree with "fruit" (this was a toy company so the "fruit" were potential new products – i.e. toys). As they fell closer to the ground they were nearing completion, or implementation.
Sharon suggested scheduling a follow-on event before the OS so people know in advance.
Larry reminded the group that convergence is not just a to-do list but leaves people going away doing the things they have passion for
Concern What happens to reports – sometimes the material generated is sensitive and can be misrepresented by people who were not part of the OS and even people who were in the OS event.
Also need to think through and establish when it is appropriate to distribute all the reports and to whom.
Marcelene, Larry, Bruce, Ann, Ellen
Diane described how she and her colleague Jacqueline Pelletier, have used an alternative method with small and large groups. Comments from this group discussion were incorporated in the description that follows. The basic concept of this approach to convergence in open space, also called the planning phase, was developed at the 1997 Toronto OS on OS . It involves opening the space again on the last day to plan follow-ups, building on the previous discussions. This method which uses the tree analogy, circumvents a difficulty created by dot or computer voting: votes for similar topics get spread and sometimes these topics do not make it to the top list although their combined totals would have reflected that this issue is a priority for most. Experience has shown that the facilitator attempting to combine topics before the vote can face the discontent of the conveners or other participants who may have a different interpretation of what is similar. A different approach to setting priorities is available. Participants vote with their feet.
Parameters announced at the opening of the OS are repeated. Ideally, the organizers have indicated at the outset that they will give feedback on all the suggested actions within a reasonable delay, specifying what that time frame is. Experience has demonstrated that to ensure follow-up and give credibility to the organizers’ commitment to follow-up, it is almost essential that a coordination group be formed in advance: with decision-makers that can help move things forward and with representatives - champions - of the priority action areas identified during the open space meeting. A more inspiring name for this group was suggested: "Stewardship team"
What does the "tree concept" look like? A tree trunk with long branches is drawn with masking tape on a large wall. The theme of the open space and/or the front page of the discussion reports are placed in the center of the trunk. Participants are reminded that action planning is rooted in the previous discussions, it is not separate from but a result and a continuation of.
Each branch represents a common area for action. A colored sheet of paper is placed at the beginning of each branch to later identify the main subject of the branch. Participants having read the reports name topics that now appear to them as important areas for action. The question to guide the setting of priorities can be "What issue do I feel is important to act on?" Other suggestions of questions from our discussion: "Where do I want to put my energy and enthusiasm now?" ...something about which you would feel excited if it got done.
The concept of convergence as represented by the tree can also be depicted as a mind map or by creating clusters of topics, instead of branches. The topics are placed around the central subject of the cluster. The cluster image has proven to be more practical when space was limited, for example when cork boards had to be used in lieu of a wall.
Participants go to the center, write their topic and their name, announce it and post it on a branch without attaching a post-it for time and place. All discussions will take place at the same time and determining the meeting site is done later on so that topics groups of a same branch can meet in the same general area. Topics in the tree analogy are leaves on the branch. Participants are encouraged to not duplicate topics. If they want to post a different wording they tag it under the similar sheet. Similar topics get put on a same branch. When a few are up, the facilitator invites a participant to suggest a name for the branch that reflects the affinity of the topics.
A flip chart page for each branch is posted on each side of the tree. Members of the support team or volunteers note on each flip chart page, branch topics as they are announced. These will later be placed at the branch meeting sites for reference. This way, groups will have a list of the related topics of their subject (branch) without dismounting the wall which is an important source of information for the whole group and for bumblebees in particular.
When all topics are up, it is time to assign rooms. With large groups, logistics need to be different. The intention is to locate groups of a branch or cluster in the same area so that they can more easily combine if they wish to do some planning on a branch/subject basis. Near the tree, post-its with room names are grouped by color, a color for each subject/branch. The facilitator can ask for a quick show of hands of who is interested in each subject/branch so that if a subject attracts considerable participation, the plenary room for example can be chosen to accommodate larger numbers. Since the principles of open space still apply, people can raise their hands for more than one branch subject. Once the general areas for the branches have been identified and announced, a support team member assigns the post-it meeting sites for each of the topic sheets and other support team members note those sites on the branch flip chart pages which they will then post in the respective general meeting areas during the break that follows. Participants are also invited to come to the wall to consider their choices during the break. To save time, especially with large groups, they do not sign up on the wall but in each of the discussion groups. Since there is only one discussion period for planning, not signing on the wall has less of an impact on the self-organization capacity of the group.
Conveners are responsible to post their topic at their individual meeting site. After 45 minutes of action planning discussions by topic, the open space bells ring and participants or groups who wish to do so, regroup as a branch/subject. The new "subject" group can identify links or areas for concerted action. In plenary before breaking out, each branch group was asked to identify and note on a flip chart, 3 key points they wish to communicate in plenary. A spokesperson for the branch is chosen and reports are typed up as soon as possible. If the groups do not meet as a branch, each topic group is invited to present one key point from their action plan.
Back in the plenary, verbal presentations are brief (3 minutes for 3 key points per branch) followed by questions and comments from the circle. Participants are invited to sign up to the branch key point sheets if they were not able to go to that group but have a passion for it and want to get involved. They can do this during a break or at the end of the meeting. With large groups, this verbal presentation occurs after lunch followed by the closing circle.
Copies of the action plan report are made and distributed as soon as possible or at least before participants leave the meeting. This has a very powerful effect on participants. Credibility, ownership and commitment just shoot up. Momentum is not lost. Participants have said about getting the action report before leaving: "now this makes it real!"
A minimum of a half-day is needed to read discussion reports and complete this planning process. If time is really short, planning discussion groups can be done by topic only (leaves of the branch), skipping the branch coordination meeting. Some organizations will only prioritize - fill the tree - and do the actual planning at the work place or in a subsequent meeting. This planning approach is a work in progress. Experience will allow it to grow.
Mary Ann Maruska
Mark, Monica, Christine
Consider combining other processes of group facilitation and cooperative learning as needed. (They should be consistent with the philosophy of Open Space.)
Effective learning takes place when three levels of the person are addressed:
It is valuable to give instruction in effective processes, eg. guiding young children in how to discuss their respective points of view when arguing.
A good teacher is not so much a master of techniques; it is one who
Christine had great success coaching baseball, about which she knows very little, by giving her team the following directions:
"You know the rules. You decide who plays where, etc. the only things that I insist on are no swearing, cheer wildly for your teammates, successes, and no bad-mouthing anyone, including our opponents."
Effective ways to create community after open space meetings with group
Debra Joy Eklove
Sharon, David, Janine, Bruce, Larry, Sharon
Grieving process when group ends since groups knows it won’t continue. To continue contact, people need to focus around their passions, or deeper connections, even transcendent issues emerging from a group
Sense of meaning important for buy-in – sense of meaning changes over time as time passes or other priorities arise. Important to recognize that events are different from the daily living, and it is reasonable to expect that contact with others all the time?
Group coming together over passionate issues inevitably there is a shadow that needs to be brought to light and gone through to keep process going and bond solid. How to form community? Need to go through shadow. In companies the end result may not be valued enough to form community around. A workplace/company creates a structure of people to come together where there is buy-in.
Task oriented people and process oriented people approach things from different perspectives and the need for valuing the diversity was stressed.
Size of community was mentioned – small groups can be more unified. But there are different levels of community - intimacy is one aspect, meaning of event is another. Need various projects to address needs of people to do things in different ways, and to be more effective not orchestrated ways, community needs to be emergent. The intention of the group is crucial and people come for together for various needs. Over time a process for decision making develops which is effective for that group.
Generally a group needs a focus - needs to be creating something to keep engaged.
The example of the Centre for Creative Ministries was given. Community was created by two people taking their ideas and with compassion creating projects " ministries", and also having regular events to nurture the community.
How do we define if we are in or out of community? If ones gift values one feels more willing to participate and share. The external communities we are in is a reflection of our internal state. Community is internal and the external groups we interact with is a manifestation of our internal needs.
Community - we are connected to everything else. Community is a particular enhancing and strengthening of those connections. Community goes through life cycles. One can participate on many different levels, and it is important to recognize that all organizations have cycles and are transitory. Feeling connected to all allows us to let go easier knowing that other groups will appear.
Part of individual’s journey is to deal with our own and others behaviours or actions without controlling, for controlling creates problems. It has been observed that if a person dominating group the energy will drop.
Forming, storming, performing – a description of the process of group and community. The need for connection or relationship is the basis for the creation of actions. Then to create and maintain opportunities without the risk making barriers or hard feelings. Willingness and take risk is what makes things happen.
Virtual community on the internet can be strong. E-mail transforming what we mean by community. But actually meeting people makes connections stronger. Interesting that people care about this. - the list of names and ideas is not enough.
Commitment to community is also an issue. If there are difficulties with group, commitment gives strength to persevere and then a deep strength and richness is to be gained.
In one group the once a month face-to-face sharing on spirituality and pot-luck dinner dissipated but a sense of belonging remained. The sense of belonging nurtured by valuing people where they are and use creative process as potent community binding agent. An example, expressive art therapy useful to overcome words - the building of the Bahai temple in India is an example of creative a project bringing people together
Open Space rules allows people to be butterflies and bumblebees - leave and flit around. Can this be accepted outside the open space framework. It may be helpful to learn something from knowing why people leave a group – asking people to tell their reasons for leaving if they can.
Christine, Janine, Debra, Monica
Theme: Making Connections, personal and inter-organizational
What are the similarities between Open Space and Cooperative Learning? How do they connect with other groups such as Life Long Learning for retired people, formal educational organizations, and education in the workplace?
Open Space and Cooperative Learning allow more free flow of ideas in these milieux. They see the overlap between life learning and school learning and encourage intrinsic motivation for learning. They move from rows to circles; there is power in the format of the circle; teachers become facilitators. As learners work to discover answers they are given responsibility and confidence. They form their own questions and the shape their own interpretations. They do not need someone to tell them the right answer at the end. Rather, each person in a small group is prepared to present ideas and information to a larger group, be it a classroom, a conference, or an organization.
Open Space and Cooperative Learning take into account that emotional blocks to learning need to be overcome. The Arts need to be integrated into learning; people need to work in groups at times. There needs to be an awareness that skills learned in school are necessary outside of school, both in the present and in later life.
Authoritarian models are not working anymore. A sense of awe does more for taking responsibility for one’s own learning. Facilitation must be more in tune with what the group needs and how each person learns. Space must be provided to make things work.
What falls between the cracks can be most beautiful. As in a stone walkway which in itself is barren, the growth between the flagstones can be flowering and fragrant. A facilitator/teacher can potentially see destructive behavior as a gift to be turned into something positive. In "Taking your soul to work" Honeywell says that willing souls didn’t live as long as unwilling ones. Those who took control of their own lives fared better than those who constantly tried to please everyone.
Rethinking teaching approaches is important. What works well for gifted students will also work for others. School tends to gear for girls. Boys rebel against being forced to sit for 4 hours. Yet girls could also benefit from a less sedentary environment. Even for academic students the things remembered are often practical skills.
Open Space and cooperative learning work in every subject. Learners benefit from explaining what they know to others in a group. Each person becomes accountable for learning and sharing what is learned with others. Poetry, math, science, art, history are all areas in which interactive learning can flourish. Connections between fields of learning are being rediscovered. The compartmentalization (by age and subject) of learning has made learning far more difficult by setting up artificial barriers in our knowledge about the world.
We have much to learn from the traditions of the Native Peoples. Europeans did permanent damage to North American aboriginal ways of life and we need to open up and be aware of what they can teach us if they are allowed to heal emotionally and culturally. Maori children, for example, behave much better and are enthusiastic about learning in school when their own traditions, culture, and language are valued by replacing the format and curriculum of the schooling of mainstream society.
Open Space and Cooperative Leaning both provide a space, literally and philosophically where human beings can achieve a greater sense of worth and wellbeing.
"Imagination; language of the soul". How can non rational, non verbal, body related processes such as the expressive arts contribute to convergence?
Mary Ann, Sharon, Monica, Deborah, Deborah, Ann, Mark, David, Larry,
Due to the nature of our discussion which focused on using a right brain approach, it is fitting that our reporting be also right brain. This innovative mind map was initiated and drawn by Deborah as we were brainstorming ways to engage the whole person in both Open Space and convergence.
We talked about ways that we could welcome creative expression without pushing it. We discussed specific ideas on how we could bring together the learning with group art, whether visually or with movement, and many creative ideas were put forward. We toyed with the idea of having bumblebees that would instigate or tease creativity, but we can’t make it happen. What stood out was the importance of freedom of choice, and of creating a safe container, particularly when we work with the expressive arts.
The net of it is that we can’t set it up, it is up to the group to find its own way. But if magic is in the air, and the spirit moves wherever it wishes, how can we enhance the environment to include those who are more comfortable with other modalities,? It was agreed that we can only provide lots of options and make materials available..
It seems that if the circle is conducive to open communication, the environment can invite magic. And it happens on its own volition. Monica, suggested that we do a progressive drawing where each person would add a mark to the evolving image. And voila! what emerged: A whimsical, mysterious creature with a life of its own. We gave it a voice, by responding with one word each and after pooling our words together, this stream of consciousness poem surprised us. There was no time to edit, it just arrived! Ann suggested dancing to the words, so we gave it more life with movement, drumming and sounds. "It" came alive and so did we. I am sure we can glean meaning from this spontaneous, irrational, poem even if unpolished. We can sense the power of the metaphor and from the newness of the image, we can also see that imagination and play are of the spirit.
I am free said the mystery fish
I’m free to be.
What is my destiny?
Diversity is my destiny.
I’m free said the whimsical fish
What’s the mystery?
Fantastical diversity and destiny.
Diane, Sharon, Ellen, David, Winston
We have been supporting Barry Owen's Geocities web site for WorldWide Open Space. It is great and has been a help. We were willing to put in $$ if that was needed or requested, but it has not been requested. There has been a lot of recent discussion on the ListServe as to the networking and linking of web sites in addition to supporting a master link. US OSI has its own web site. Diane expressed concern at sending potential clients to the WorldWide site first rather than to a Canadian site. A real Canadian site needs to have both official languages as options. Larry has received complaints from Jim Muckle and other recently trained Canadian folks who have been concerned about how long it has taken to change information on the site. Barry has been getting married, so we understand the delays. However, Sharon has just developed the Participative Design site and knows how we can get an inexpensive domain name. We have a substantial operating reserve at OSI Canada and thus could afford to develop an inexpensive site. It was decided to proceed with our own site to link to the WorldWide Open Space site and individual practitioner sites in Canada.
Possible Items on the Site
A doable simple site
Sharon, Larry, Winston, Diane, Ellen
Mary Anne, Sharon, Monica, Ann, Christine, Bruce, Diane, Alan
The discussion explored a number of ideas and experiences on how to ensure effective follow-up with a strong emphasis on the need to contract these activities up-front:
Summary by: Bruce Craig