Monday, October 31, 2005

How do we map the application subnetworks of open space

I was at an extraordinary 4-day congress in Washington DC last week on organisational democracy. Almost every speaker raised conflict issues that could have called for an open space. I also met John Engle -circles of change - (for my first time) who many on the open space listserve will be inspired by for his relentless community openings in Haiti.

So that I can play snap between open space alumni and their contexts, and people from other networks occupied with big humanity issues; I feel the need to start cataloguing some of the open space application subnetworks. can you help me

If we start with John's example we could call this continuous community building in a country or across many communities that are chalenged by the same conflict, oppression, underdeveloped human rights.

While we are on other practice of space type applications, which other types are there:
-bringing together parties that are overtly at war; the first gifts of establishing space

-sustaining reconciliation by establishing as many layered open spaces as possible, as often as possible -almost an educational role in developing communal trust when a generation may have no experience of this

-supporting a group whose diversity is discriminated against in violent or extreme ways

Please tell me if you already use classifications in this PoP arena of open space before I post another arena's mail in a serial attempt to go into the subnetworks of another major application area

PS One reason why I would love to discuss this is that I beleive that as one piece of a ssyetmic intervention, open space needs to interfaces with other systemic interventions. But which? may vary by application area. Indeed this was clearly apparent for some maps I started to draw about different concerns of Organisational Democracy, so I can't see why Open Space's support for humanity will be different in this design

Friday, October 21, 2005

Nuts and bolts of holding space

I'll post this at the OSLIST as well, but here's a question that has cropped up lately:

What do you say during an event when people ask "How do you think it's going?"

welcome to the present

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Crime against personhood: to have lived and not to have been in an open space

I sincerely belief this bold statement from my 2nd open space on

I also realise that the rolls royce open space of 3 days - much needed if the invitation connects people in deep conflict - is a handicap to getting widespread awareness of what open space is and how natural its practice is

This is another reason why I believe we should look for opportunities to do 60-90 minute open spaces qualifying that they are not the whole thing but letting people see how lively communications processes involve everyone's flow

Here are just 3 situations that I would love to see 60 minute experiments; the first can be done anywhere you are with friends, the second and third I'd love to hear if you find an inaugural stage

1 when you meet friends over coffee; why not bring a set of postits and play the game of gravity pursuit: instead of small talk, what's the biggest issue we could all enjoy talking about today; make the market of what people see that as involving with the postits stuck on the table in front of you; go round the table choosing one postits perspective of the issue; if the coffee hour ends without all topics discussed-ask those who post them whether something's been left out so people can pick up the conversation next time or 1:1

2 I feel it's particular crime that open space isnt used frequently if at all in schools; at least twice a year near the start and near the end would be a good time to get a students open briefing ; probably for every age group up from 9; again apart from the longer period needed to explain this for the very first time, a class could spend an hour getting out the topics of concern to the age group; and at least peers would see how many joint concerns they had; and thoughtful teachers might see that there are life issues that the schools curriculum has siloised, and needs to do better next time. How these issues trended across age groups or over time at a school would be fascinating. What these issues are should also be front page news wherever parents are concerned about their children's upbringing. Why do we do market research but not people development research? This theme is getting the more vital, the more teaching is taught by multichoice standard books. I really dislike this parroted facts format that my nine year old is going through at the moment compared with the way I was taught at 9

3 And what about a company. Why couldnt the start of each working week start with an agenda half hour. OK no time to converse there and then but at least the issues concerning people would be continuously flagged up and transparent management would use this as their input rather than play guessing games. I wrote a book in 1995 about how companies that were serious about leading with an unique purpose and culture and values that supported this would permit interdisciplinary Q&A - as well as custom questions, our research showed 10 that would always be useful to permit people to debate- eg what would the world uniquely miss if our organisation ceased to exist tomorrow-probe by stakeholder, segment, perspective and get all the view out there. This methodology had a surprising sting in the tail. The questions that a particular management group would let everyone converse round told us more about the organisation's purposeful health than I would ever have imagined. There is something similar about not letting employees start the week -or any week of their working life - with a half hour of agendas they want to see open posting.

There are probably zillions of other ways open space's molecular freedoms could be brought to the public without having to start with a 3-day event. Any suggestions anyone?

We have a London open space blog that looks at these extended methods - we often call these collaboration cafes; and over the 2 years that I have been talking this way hundreds of Londoners have experienced a cafe who might not have ever got to an open space; and through our clubofcity blog that co-syndicates ideas between citizens across all hemispheres collaboration cafes have become one of the ongoing discussion topics. So much so that London now googles as the number 1 knowledge collaboration city - not that intercity collaborators are competing as long as the awareness of the value of open collaboration is on an upward exponential everywhere.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Entering the circle

A quote that a participant read in the closing circle of the OS i opened yesterday:

We clasp the hands of those who go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us;
We enter the little circle of each other's arms,
And the larger circle of lovers
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast
That no one hears it except in fragments.

--Wendell Berry

The closing circle was very moving. The group had grown smaller over the day and everyone pulled their chairs in really tight. I walked around slowly telling the story of the gift of the talking stick and then put the 'stick', a purple marker, in the centre. I moved back outside of the circle--it just seemed like the right thing to do. The first person got up and spoke right from her heart. Then person after person did the same. They all spoke. And as they spoke, Spirit flowed into the room so strongly. Such a beautiful close feeling of community and care was generated. It was an honour and privilege to be able to share in it.

The poem inspired in me the thought that not only are we linked in ever widening circles of care and love, but that these circles extend beyond the present moment and connect us to that vast and timeless open space wherein dwell the ancestors and the unborn--and even perhaps, our past and future selves.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

heart space

"When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space."

(thank you to's Quote of the Day)

Ice Heart
another photo by my friend & teacher, David Ford, LAc

Will those with global power ever meet the people in OS?

One of the questions that I would always love to hear from other open spacers on: how to get top decision-makers involved particularly on globalisation issues that the vast majority of people can see are spinning destructively

I have been to many globalisation change open spaces but never seen people with biggest power there. One of the ideas in my mind is that if we can get people to develop a fantasy league of which business sectors concern them most for the future of the world, then maybe we can get enough news for leaders of those sectors to come and meet the people in open space.

A long-shot, probably. But has anyone got another idea to try? Meanwhile I have started assembling some content on sectors that are sustaining and de-sustaining the world, and views on why globalisation needs to involve every person’s participation at

I would love to be emailed contributions, especially those that help people see why we must all grab hold of globalisation at the same time if the 21st C is one that our children will be proud of us for starting

dances of universal peace

I have attended the dances of universal peace off and on for eight years.

OSS (Open Space Sangha) got me thinking about how these dances are connected with the daily practice of living in open space.

i have to thank you, again, Wendy for starting this blog because it invites me to really consider os as a practice, not just something one does for groups.

The dances today had a much deeper dimension for me as a consequence.

It brought me to think about how i/we choose to participate in the dance not only effects what i get out of it but also the collective as a whole. Ever breath, every step, ever muscle. i noticed that my typical desire to get the step right distracted from the larger experience and i let go. And what a world then opened up.

Today's dances were devoted to the two planets: mars and venus- male and female energy. We walked the martian march: the soldier who blindly does what one is told, led by the solar plexus, just follows orders. How scary it was to access this male energy! And then we were invited to access venetian energy-- the walk of the woman who knows she's beautiful.

these were elements of male and female energy that i had never worked with before and they didn't seem to complement each other, but i tried to just let myself be open to this work.

Later we danced the gods Shiva and Shakti. This dance focused on Shiva as the shatterer of illusion and as the lord of creation. We also danced Shakti as source of creative energy. Shatterer of illusion. i imagined as a mirror breaking into many pieces. Where is the creation there, I wondered? Might this shattering of illusion be that very letting go that precedes open space?

In this dance, Shiva helped Shakti to deliver Ganesh. We learned of an instance when men have given birth, not in a physical sense but in a psychological involved the man has become in the pregnancy.

What is the teaching here?

i was hungry for more. i realized there is so much more on an archetypical level to these gods and what they have to teach us.

Can we smell and taste the creation that is happening around us the whole time?

Today i went for a walk in Sokolniki Park and was dumbfounded. It had rained overnight and the forest floor had transformed. Where there ground had been covered in maple and birch leaves, there was now a new layer: of pine needles. The scent of the air was sweet.

And yet the courage is in letting go of this sweet experience. To say, "that's nice." hang the hat and walk on.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

lost and found

Though I first heard of Open Space Technology and experienced something that was called -but, in hindsight, didn't feel like- an Open Space Technology meeting in the mid-90's, I think I chose open space as a path (and practice?) maybe sometime last year or early this year.

In open space have I "found" myself? Home at last?

And one of the paradoxes I am trying to hold is that to feel more and more at home, to be more and more "found," I have to "lose" myself more and more. And that's scary. I walk into that wall all the time.

It's like the way up and out is by letting myself fall even further down the bottomless well.

I frame part of this process as becoming a man. I am not sure I am a man yet. Still a boy.

I first began thinking about this process of becoming when Open Space on Open Space 14 co-organizer and virtualist, Mikhail Pronin asked a young woman at a trainer and consultant conference when she knew she was no longer a girl and was now a woman. That question asked some three years ago over lunch stayed with me. While I know very little about virtualistics, I understand that much of it is about how we choose to become. Since then, I have thought about the different roles I play in life and wondered when I really took on those roles.

Sometime in April this year I took one small step towards becoming a man. It just happened, I just felt it. That process of transformation began sometime in February and continues.

And what I find is that an important part of becoming a man is to open wider space, both inner and outer. And part of the "how" there is to give more space to expression of the playful boy in me. Danish Spacenik, Alexander Kjerulf, wrote a little about play recently:

This article by Pat Kane on the play ethic is one of the most inspiring, electrifying and just wonderful manifestos for play, fun and happiness at work. My biggest problem in blogging it was to choose a quote from it because the whole damn thing is eminently quotable. Here's an appetizer:

Welcome to the play ethic. First of all, don't take 'play' to mean anything idle, wasteful or frivolous. The trivialisation of play was the work ethic's most lasting, and most regrettable achievement. This is 'play' as the great philosophers understood it: the experience of being an active, creative and fully autonomous person.

The play ethic is about having the confidence to be spontaneous, creative and empathetic across every area of you life - in relationships, in the community, in your cultural life, as well as paid employment. It's about placing yourself, your passions and enthusiasms at the centre of your world.
So to call yourself a 'player', rather than a 'worker', is to immediately widen your conception of who you are and what you might be capable of doing. It is to dedicate yourself to realising your full human potential; to be active, not passive.

Another part of this question is the matter of practices of open space. [Thank you, Ashley for pointing me (back) to Michael Herman's website for the resource on open space practices ].

And I struggle with my how to bring discipline and consistency in the practice of being open, in understanding what it means to be open. The little I read of Michael Herman's site led me to think that this is a very simple/complicated practice.

In the Four-fold Way Angeles Arrien cites Gabrielle Roth, author of Maps to Ecstasy. Gabrielle
teaches the five rhythms that are elemental when any human being explores dance:
1. The flowing rhythm is a teacher of fluidity and grace.
2. The rhythm of chaos is an announcement of creativity seeking a form.
3. The staccato rhythm is the teacher of definition and refinement.
4. The lyrical rhythm is the teacher of synthesis and integration.
5. The rhythm of stillness is the teacher of contentment and peace.

When we are comfortable with all five rhythms, the separation between inner and outer experience is closed. Folk wisdom from East Africa describes the essence of this unity by saying, "One leg cannot dance along" (Feldman, A World Treasury of Folk Wisdom).
I see a lot of the rhythm of chaos in me. And know that part of my work is to accept that. And to cultivate and listen to the other rhythms in me that are also seeking form.

Sometimes it just helps to stop and breathe "trust!" And I feel very blessed that Sokolniki Park is just a 5 minute walk away. A refuge of peace and healing!

Monday, October 10, 2005

response to Tree's Always in Open Space

I can't get the comments to work so I'll just respond wtih a new post (crossposted on the Open Space Sangha blog and on my personal blog, Humanize the Earth). Tree wrote in
always in open space about only wanting to collaborate with people that constantly aspire to bring forth open space in their daily lives. I'm finding this as well, though didn't have a way to name what was going on until I read that post.

In my housing co-op, I want those most interested in gardening to do the gardening, and not worry about consulting with those that don't care so much. Same with creating an organizing scheme for the basement. Hopefully everyone will participate in keeping things organized, but not everyone needs to create the scheme.

I'm strugging in another area, helping a friend with her project. She seems to want to put a lot of structure in place and I'm having a hard time even understanding the purpose, let alone the structure. Maybe I can find more ways to open space in the process. Thanks!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

awakening space

Thomas offers these words from architect Christopher Alexander's Book One, The Nature of Order:
In this sense, what is going on is that life--an emergent thing in space itself--appears as the space wakes up. When something works, or is "functional," its space is awakened to a very high degree. It becomes alive. The space itself becomes alive.
We do not have function on the one hand, and space or geometry on the other hand. We have a single thing--living space--which has its life to varying degrees. It is the space which comes to life. All that we do. . . is then to arrange and rearrange this living space, in such a way as to intensify its life.
which resonates with the Taoist view that the land, and all space, is full of living energy. The specific forms and arrangement of a place--the way that the mountains cradle a valley, the shapes of the hills and exposure to wind, the patterns of streams and rivers--determine whether the energy there is harsh and rough or pooled and stagnant or harmoniously flowing. So, too, we can site ourselves, arrange ourselves within and in relationship to space, and in relationship to the living that's going on in that space, "in such a way as to intensify its life."

Saturday, October 08, 2005

always in open space

I s'pose some folks reading this blog have already heard a bit about Spirited Work, which is a seven year experiment as an open space community of practice. Spirited Work is in a kind of hiatus just now, no longer meeting four times a year for long weekends.

My three years of membership in Spirited Work has just about spoiled me. I find myself only wanting to collaborate, on any project, with people who steadily aspire to have the principles of open space alive in their lives, work or personal. There is nothing finer than to sit in a small work group and know that each member is collectively trusting that 'whatever happens is the only thing that could'. The more collectives (two or more people) consciously practice being aware of open space, the more powerful the collective energy/wisdom can become.

Open space is my practice.

What do other folks in this thread think are the common elements of an open space practice/approach to life&work? I think that if one spends even just a moment or two each day thinking the simple principles of open space, that individual's experience of open space expands. Aspiring to practice the principles of open space is a contemplative practice, I think.

What do others think?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Micro Open Space: The Cooperation Invitation to Every City

Whilst I personally love atending 3-day open spaces, I hope its OK to describe a micro open space that is becoming popular with citizen networks concerned with urgent and big change agendas

Here's roughly what happens in these 90 minute formats

Between 10 to 20 people come together in a circle

Each person introduces self and a network or community that they can recommend has hi-trust to the other change agents assembled. We discuss how we could cooperate across these networks, and identify who is committed to what specific change agenda prioritisations. We open space by making market of topics people would like to host but agree that there isnt time to go off and do the conversation now. (This can be done by email later or in a separate group meeting convened by those who want to put this in their diary)

We now have time to network having seen who's who in terms of network introductions and suggested agendas. We use blogs in each city so that we can both arrange local follow up meetings etc and match with other cities who try out The Cooperation format. Here's London's attempt at The Cooperation. If I can help your city to try this format at any stage please mail me - chris

always open space

Christy has got me thinking...(Thanks, Christy, i love that!) with her question, "If it's entirely open, then how could it, why would it, ever end?"

I would like to propose that it never does. To take a line from one of my spiritual paths, whenever we 'close' a circle we say, "the circle is open, but unbroken..." I have a hard time thinking of the ending of an OS day as the closing. More and more often now i think of it as a grounding. We ground Spirit, and embody the space, what was unborn gets born...the space made manifest--embodied in the participants as they use their legs and disperse into the larger world. It seems to me that this partially explains why Spirit seems to re-enter organizations and groups after an Open Space. It literally gets carried back there in each person. If we really 'closed' the space at the end of the day, we would close off the channel to Spirit too, and what would be the point in that? We release the containment field...we don't close the space.

Hmmmm....more thinking....the space is always open and infinite...we create the container, cupping some of that space inside, so that self-organization can happen. Because uncontainerized (oooo, new word...) space is a vacuum, emptiness...self-organization requires a nutrient-rich environment, the cupping of space allows the nutrient field to operate and support self-organization. And a big part of that nutrient field is Spirit. As your teacher says, Christy, separation is the very act of creation. By separating out a container of space, we create the conditions that foster self-organization and in-spiriting. Just like the container of the cell wall allowed for the arising of the ten thousand things...

And isn't paradox wonderful? I not only embrace it, i may be addicted to it. Opening space is about containing...holding space is about being open, unattached, and unfolding...groovy

I notice your teacher is a Kabbalist, Christy. I have gone back to studying it quite often of late. It is full of the wonderful paradoxes that transmit mystery so beautifully. paradox--mystery--the gate to wisdom...As somebody said (and i wish i could remember who) When it's no longer mysterious, it's no longer true.

Three cheers for the mysteries of open space!

Holding Open Space

Wendy writes: "This is intended as a place to share your encounters with Spirit, mystery and Open Space." I love that!

Here I'd like to toss in my current, still fragmentary, encounter with the mystery of how it is that "open space" is something that is "held"...once you've got your hands/arms/heart around something, isn't it somehow separated from whatever's outside, not being held, and then how is that held space still Open? What are the Open qualities of that held, cared for, intentional space? Is it open to some things and not to others? Open to some people or kinds of people and not to others?

If it's entirely open, then how could it, why would it, ever end?

I have understood, and experienced, that "closed space" equals "controlled space"--subject to imposed structure rather than naturally responding to inherently arising structures.

Thought fragments that go along with this:

*Separation is the very act of Creation, my teacher always points out

*"The first rule of magic is containment" (Julia Cameron)

*The vessel, the container, is a crucial component of the alchemical process of transformation/distillation/concentration

What are the differences, or the relationships and intersections, between closed space, held space, infinitely open space?

(cross-posted to the new, live in open space, easily amazed forum)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

a hello

I think it is wonderful that you started this blog. And that you have the courage to let us co-create this space from the get-go.

It was encouraging to see how much energy even yesterday's short OST meeting on homelessness generated.

All OST meetings are alike yet different. This was the first OST meeting where I didn't actually witness people visiting the marketplace to decide which sessions they wanted to participate in. The sessions sort of happened. It made me a little nervous, which meant it was time to go for a walk.

Also, this was the first time I saw people carry tables to the session areas so that they wouldn't have to go anywhere for their tea, coffee, etc.

And even in this short meeting we had written reports!

And I am glad Larry Peterson responded to my post on this.

Other thoughts post-meeting:
I wish I had made it clearer that we are the ones to develop new ways of tackling homelessness. It's nice to expect that someone will develop those methods for us, but it is really our responsibility.

Two recent questions re-emerged from a conversation post-meeting:

1. Marketing OST- there is no better or more effective way of marketing OST than offering public OST meetings. That is what I have found to be true. And I have found that OST is hard to "sell" via a website.

If I could go back to Heavenfax, I'd pose the question of where in our community/organization are the resources/wisdom around "marketing" OST.

2. OST and other large group intervention toys- are there articles out there that attempt to come to some general principles from the application of blended approaches in using OST and other similar toys (AI, World Cafe, etc.)?


Wendy, btw I just posted the announcement of your and Chris's workshop to the Intertraining listserv. Now, it is unlikely we will have anyone coming to BC from here. But one member, Dina Muxamedova, currently lives in Toronto (and is job-seeking, by the way). In that message, I asked what connection do Wendy and Chris have to us? Well, Chris introduced the talking stick. And you introduced the zen fart parable indirectly to a storytelling session this year at Intertraining's annual conference. That parable in a small way made its way to our strategic planning discussions when one IT member prefaced her comments by saying, "Now, you may want to say "fart fart but..." "Fart fart" in Russian is "pook, pook."

I wish you luck in your upcoming workshop. I will be with you in spirit and am intrigued by your design.

p.p.s. If you write something addressed to OST facilitators (or future OST facilitators) in Russia and other former Soviet states, I can post the workshop information to more places.

p.p.p.s. Wendy, the OSworld wiki pages have a location for listing OS blogs. Might you want to have this listed there, too?

p.p.p.p.s. It may have taken some friendly and intense interest in OS Sangha for you to get this started earlier than planned. But you getting her started was enough for me to cybersquat this.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A beginning

Well some enthusiastic friends have already been peeking around in here, so i guess i had better launch this--ready or not...

This blog began as an idea and an intention flowing from my experience at OSonOS 13 in Halifax. While there, the conviction grew in me that the practices that support Open Space are also very strong practices for life in general. That they could form a part of a strong spiritual path--much like meditation enhances whatever spiritual path you are on and brings great gifts to your life. I have found that the practices of opening, inviting, holding, and grounding support me in much more than just opening space. And once i began to open space, i wanted to live that way in all areas of my life, not just in my work.

And also in Halifax it seemed to me that there were a lot of other people who were experiencing something similar. That just as we believe that Open Space helps to bring Spirit back to organizations, it seems to do the same for people. And that the people who are engaged in actively opening space are a community of Spirit and could use a place to share those aspects of what we do. So here it is. Make of it what you will.

This is intended as a place to share your encounters with Spirit, mystery and Open Space. It is a place to share practices that you find support you in opening space. It is a place to wonder about what this marvelous gift, called Open Space, might be. And mostly, it is a place to connect, commune, and support each other in our big questions, little discoveries, and daily encounters with practice.

This is a group blog. If you would like to join in the fun, just email me at the link up on the right and i will send you an invitation and instructions. At the moment we don't have comments enabled. If we find that we want to add them at a later date, we can do that.