Educating for the Future: the Art of Open Space Technology

For the past several years, an Open Space for Creating Higher Purpose has convened at the International House, New York City, bringing together like-minded individuals to co-create a better world. Co-convened by Karen Davis, and Open Space Technology OST Founder, Harrison Owen, invited the attendees to see that the space being opened up actually paid homage to a self-organizing era that was interrupted by managing methods—in other words, control. Human beings, Owen told the gathering only need to be reminded of what they already know to be true: people care about a common thing and when they gather around such a thing, wondrous happenings issue forth. Build It, They Will Come. Here’s how:
1. Send a broadcast invitation not with an agenda, but something they care about.
2. When together, gather those present in a circle.
3. Let them understand the importance of their presence, their whole selves. Emergent essential leadership is supported in everyone.
4. Honor the passion and responsibility for what they care about in the assembly. It is about expanding the ‘now’ to pay attention to potentialities.
5. It is all about minimal structures: participants simply create the agenda based on issues and opportunities that they care about and they give birth to new direction, new possibilities.
6. Celebrate!
OST has been used in small gatherings to large summits of thousands of participants in 110 countries around the world over the past 25 years. On a personal level, I participated in a conversation prompted by Jeana Wirtenberg and other like-minded people concerned about sustainability and what kind of world we were leaving for future generations. We had so much passion that the conversation continued for more than two years virtually and attracted a global participation. In time, everyone was writing on their particular expertise and experience and The Enterprise Sustainability Fieldbook: When It All Comes Together was “born” published in 2008. Open Space lends itself to well, any space. For the past 18 years, I have intuitively been using it in my classroom: students take their midterm and final exams as a group. I do not assign roles for leader, scribe, etc. The groups self-organize to produce what is required –a test booklet with the essay answers they discussed in their group. If you walked into the classroom during an exam period and witnessed the energy, passion and lively discussions taking place, it’s likely you wouldn’t think that it was a test period. And what else happens? The students go far beyond what is required–they take initiative and gather information from outside sources to bring back to the group, they co-create, co-collaborate, share and simply have fun as a learning community displaying all the intercultural competencies desired in any discipline.

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