Opus Training Development & Design
Opus Training Development & Design

working in open space

Open Space is a method for holding meetings that means people self-organise to have the conversations that matter to them.


There are no speakers, no set agenda and timings are loose. The people who come create the event on the day. They suggest the agenda and they organise their own discussion groups. They then set their priorities for continuing action at the end using ‘dot democracy’ via coloured stickers. Often a follow-up group is formed.


Open Space works best when: ‘a major issue must be resolved, characterised by significant complexity and diversity, the pressure of potential or actual conflict and a decision time of yesterday’ (Harrison Owen, designer of Open Space method).


It focuses on a key question that matters for the groups or communities involved. The people who come suggest topics for discussion around this question that matters to them – their passions – and they take responsibility for the discussions and for the resulting action. They do not create a ‘wish-list’ for other people to do.

Both passion and responsibility are key to the success of open space. This means that each participant needs to make sure they are contributing and/or learning at all times – if not, the ‘law of two feet’, or law of mobility, means you move on to another discussion which you can contribute to or learn from. Being self-organised means you organise your own time so that you get the most out of the event.


Harrison Owen, a US anthropologist, developed and popularised Open Space from 1985. He felt the best bits of conferences or meetings were always the breaks and aimed to create those kinds of conversations all the time. He drew on ways of holding meetings he saw in West Africa and in other traditional communities. So aspects of Open Space may feel familiar to you. To find out more visit: openspaceworld.org .



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