Why Open Space is People Power in Action

So What is Open Space?

‘Open space’ events are so-called because the agenda at them is set by the people who come along. At the hub we use open space principles at many events we run as it puts the responsibility for tackling issues on us – the artists, promoters, venues, technicians, advocates and others who make up the arts and culture sector.  Open Space assumes we all have a responsibility to tackle big issues, and if we’re going to do that, we need time and space on an equal footing to explore, discuss and identify how we can affect real and lasting change.

So what happens at an Open Space?

The process will start with a circle of people, people who’ve come along because they care about tackling a particular issue, a circle of people that’s unique, and who have never and will never again be together in exactly this grouping.

Open Space ‘technology’ is simple. It’s people. At the outset of the session there’ll be a chance for anyone with a burning issue, big question or great idea to timetable a conversation about it. You’ll post a topic on the wall, it will get timetabled, the agenda for the event will come together, and over the course of the event people will join the conversations that ‘speaks to them’ the loudest. It’s people power in action.

At any one time, there might be 2, 5, 10 or even more breakout conversations going on at the same time, with people in each one working hard on the topic at hand. The ‘law of 2 feet’ (or of ‘personal mobility’) means that you can dip in and out of conversations as you want; you might sit through 3 from start to finish, or move like a bumble bee between loads more than that, adding a few ideas to all of them as you go. The choice is yours. The responsibility is yours. Then, at the end of the event, everyone comes together again, to share their reflections, learning and the actions they want to commit to after the event. We end as we finish, sharing what’s important to us all.

More than just a talking shop, the aim is to get things and people moving

At ‘open space’ events all of the thinking, all of the ideas, all of the actions get documented in some way. Because we want our events to feel like a beginning of something bigger not an end in themselves, we usually produce a manifesto, report or blog after an event that shares the thinking and actions coming out of it.

‘Open Space’ isn’t about any one person or organisation taking control or promising to solve everything; it’s way of bringing together people who want to address a complex issue, by  focusing on what matters to them, making essential connections, and doing what they think must be done. It’s about a culture of shared responsibility through which ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things. .

We love the ‘atomic collisions’ that occur when you bring together people with different ‘norms’ and starting points to explore and invent new ideas and alternative realities – thinking that wouldn’t have come about in any other circumstance, and ideas are generated that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. In our experience, after an ‘open space’, everyone involved leaves a little bit changed – and re-charged – by the experience.

By the end of an Open Space event, what will have happened? Our hope is that everyone WILL go home a little bit different, with some new insights, some new potential collaborators and friends, a spring in their step and some clear action points to keep them busy and connected in the weeks and months that follow.

But who knows?! We certainly don’t. That’s the whole point, the beauty of open space, and what makes it so exciting! Friends and colleagues know already that our favourite question is ‘what if’, and that the phrase we most overuse is ‘that’s a good idea’. Small wonder we love Open Space!

Open Space is a way for you to have your say, make your mark!

Forget the old boys network. With fear and hang ups checked at the door, ideas, energy, curiosity and generosity are the only door policy you’ll find at this club!