BNS & Open Space

Det var en gång …

Det började med att Tine Winther som praktiserat Open Space-tekniken tidigare föreslog att vi skulle använda den i samband med en BNS-träff på berättarfesten i Härnösand. Sedan kom snön, så Tine fastnade i Göteborg. Men hon beskrev hur man gjorde på telefon och jag gjorde en så kreativ missuppfattning av det hela som jag kunde. Det visade sig vara förvånansvärt likt det som Tine själv ledde på Ljungbyfestivalen några månader senare. Där fick det heta Öppet Forum. Erfarenheterna hittills har varit så pass lovande att vi kommer att fortsätta att utveckla den här mötesformen, nästa gång i samband med Fabulafestivalen i Stockholm. Där kommer temat att vara något kring muntlig berättarkonst.

Vi kommer att skriva mer om hur man gör så småningom. Fast egentligen går det inte att förklara bara i ord, det måste upplevas. Så om du tycker att följande beskrivning (som jag saxat från Wikipedia) verkar krånglig, så är det inget att oroa sig för. I praktiken kommer det att vara smidigt, trevligt och användbart 🙂

Typical Meeting Process

At the beginning of an Open Space the participants sit in a circle, or in concentric circles for large groups (300 to 2000 people and more).

The facilitator will greet the people and briefly re-state the theme of their gathering, without giving a lengthy speech. Then someone will invite all participants to identify any issue or opportunity related to the theme. Participants willing to raise a topic will come to the centre of the circle, write it on a sheet of paper and announce it to the group before choosing a time and a place for discussion and posting it on a wall. That wall becomes the agenda for the meeting.

No participant must suggest issues, but anyone may do so. However, if someone posts a topic, the system expects that the person has a real passion for the issue and can start the discussion on it. That person also must make sure that a report of the discussion is done and posted on another wall so that any participant can access the content of the discussion at all times. No limit exists on the number of issues that the meeting can post.

When all issues have been posted, participants sign up and attend those individual sessions. Sessions typically last for 1.5 hours; the whole gathering usually lasts from a half day up to about two days. The opening and agenda creation lasts about an hour, even with a very large group.

After the opening and agenda creation, the individual groups go to work. The attendees organize each session; people may freely decide which session they want to attend, and may switch to another one at any time. Online networking can occur both before and following the actual face-to-face meetings so discussions can continue seamlessly. All discussion reports are compiled in a document on site and sent to participants, unedited, shortly after.

In this way, Open Space Technology begins without any pre-determined agenda, but work is directed by a ”theme” or ”purpose” or ”invitation” that is carefully articulated by leaders, in advance of the meeting. The organizers do outline in advance a schedule of breakout times and spaces. The combination of clear purpose and ample breakout facilities directly supports the process of self-organization by meeting participants. After the opening briefing, the facilitator typically remains largely in the background, exerting no control over meeting content or participants, though possibly supporting the compiling of whatever sort of document is produced by participants.

Small groups might create agendas of only a few issues. Very large groups have generated as many as 234 sessions running concurrently over the course of a day and longer meetings may establish priorities and set up working-groups for follow-up.

Guiding Principles and One Law

In his User’s Guide, Harrison Owen has articulated ”Four Principles” and ”One Law” that are typically quoted and briefly explained during the opening briefing of an Open Space meeting. These explanations describe rather than control the process of the meeting. The four principles and Owen’s explanations are:

  1. Whoever comes is the right people …reminds participants that they don’t need the CEO and 100 people to get something done, you need people who care. And, absent the direction or control exerted in a traditional meeting, that’s who shows up in the various breakout sessions of an open space meeting.
  2. Whenever it starts is the right time …reminds participants that ”spirit and creativity do not run on the clock.”
  3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have …reminds participants that once something has happened, it’s done—and no amount of fretting, complaining or otherwise rehashing can change that. Move on.
  4. When it’s over, it’s over …reminds participants that we never know how long it will take to resolve an issue, once raised, but that whenever the issue or work or conversation is finished, move on to the next thing. Don’t keep rehashing just because there’s 30 minutes left in the session. Do the work, not the time.

Owen explains his one ”Law,” called the Law of Two Feet or ”The Law of Mobility”, as follows: If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else. In this way, all participants are given both the right and the responsibility to maximize their own learning and contribution, which the Law assumes only they, themselves, can ultimately judge and control. When participants lose interest and get bored in a breakout session, or accomplish and share all that they can, the charge is to move on, the ”polite” thing to do is go something else. In practical terms, Owen explains, the Law of Two Feet says: ”Don’t waste time!”

Ideal Initial Conditions

According to Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide and other books by Harrison Owen, Open Space Technology works best when four conditions are present:

  1. a high level of complexity, such that no single person or small group fully understands or can solve the issue
  2. a high level of diversity, in terms of the skills and people required for a successful resolution
  3. real or potential conflict, which implies that people genuinely care about the issue
  4. a high level urgency, meaning the time for decisions and action was ”yesterday”

Further, the recognition of these conditions by leadership typically implies some level of letting go of control and opening of invitation. In different ways and to varying degrees, leaders convening Open Space meetings acknowledge that they, personally, do not have ”the answer” to whatever complex, urgent and important issue(s) must be addressed and they put out the call (invitation) to anyone in the organization or community who cares enough to attend a meeting and try to create a solution.

Tips för den som ska leda ett Open Space

Harrison Owen menar bl.a. att ledare för Open Space behöver kunna släppa kontrollen över processen – läs fler av hans råd här!

Andra tekniker

Det finns en uppsjö av liknande tekniker som ibland förknippas med begreppet ”unconference”, dvs helt enkelt alternativa konferensformer. Några av dessa är:

Källa: Wikipedia



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