Open Space technology is a method for hosting large events, such as retreats and conferences, without a prepared agenda. Instead, participants are brought together under a guiding purpose and create the agenda for themselves in a bulletin-board fashion. These items become potential breakout sessions, and participants have the freedom to "vote with their feet" by moving between breakouts.
Open Space was founded by Harrison Owen in the 1980s out of a desire to "open the space" for people to self-organize around a purpose. Many meetings and examples have been recorded at Openspaceworld.org. Hosting a small Open Space meeting is fairly straightforward, but requires an amount of "letting go" on the part of the organizer, who must recognize that the participants will develop a richer approach and solution to the challenge at hand.
A day or longer
Perhaps the most important work of the organizer is developing a compelling invitation. The ideal invitation will frame a challenge that is urgent, important, and complex enough to require a diverse set of perspectives to solve.
It might sound as simple as "How can we revitalize our city's schools?" or "What's our strategic direction?"
At the start of the process, participants sit in a circle, or in concentric circles, to get oriented and start to create their agenda. Given the challenge of the meeting, participants are invited ...