Open Space does not mean Voting

I am at the Online Community ‘Camp’ today. It was ‘inspired’ by Mashup Camp (where i facilitated) and the ’emerging “open space” conference format’. Open Space is hardly “emerging” having been invented 20y ago and evolving since then. The organizers tried a format quite different then open space or camps where everyone gets to put forward their topics and no one gets ‘cut’.

Here people got to ‘pitch sessions’ and then there was voting about which topics to do. It was frustrating to watch because more then 1/2 of the topics got cut out of the schedule (there were only 9 slots). The topic I put forward along with someone else – Open Standards for Identity and Datasharing are critical issues and highly relevant to online community even if only 15 of the folks voted for it to be one of there three choices they got to vote for. I put a session on at lunch an only 4 people came (well 5 one joined at the very end).

I totally understand that it is hard for organizers who have never been to an open space event to know what it is, how it works and to trust the process. Reading about it in a news article without a description without details is not enough. I just wrote this description for a partner on an upcoming Open Space event.

Open Space Technology is an energizing and emergent way to organize an agenda for a conference. Those coming to the event can post on a wiki ahead of time topics they want to present about or hope others will present about. The wiki can also be used to share who is coming because we know great people who will be there and it is the attendees who have a passion to learn and contribute to the event that will make it.

The event begins with face to face schedule making which allows for emerging developments in this rapidly moving field to be covered. The opening includes time for attendees introduce themselves and orient to the whole group. Participants are then invited to come to the front of the room and write the name of there session topic and their name on a 8.5×11 paper. They announce the title of their session to the whole room and then post it on a schedule on the wall. Then once all the sessions have been posted the community standing in front of the schedule wall negotiates the schedule and moves sessions around. Sessions are about an hour long with 15 min breaks and an hour for lunch. The day closes with the all participants gathering in a circle one room and sharing for 20 -30 min the highlights of the day.

I am committed to writing more how to’s about aspects of the process Open Space Technology Methodology – particularly when running them in the Information Technology/Tech/Geek context. I found this post about what open space is about on a deeper level from practitioners who have been doing it for years.

  • Appreciating
  • Inviting Choice
  • Supporting Connection
  • Making Good

I hope Jim will consider really doing open space for the next camp.

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