Seen by proponents as especially scalable and adaptable, the OST event format has been used in meetings of 5 to 2,100 people (in self-discovery work for smaller groups or even individuals[2]). The approach is characterized by a few basic mechanisms:

  1. a broad, open invitation which articulates the purpose of the meeting;
  2. participants’ chairs arranged in a circle;
  3. a “bulletin board” of issues and opportunities posted by participants;
  4. a “marketplace” with many break-out spaces that participants move freely between, learning and contributing as they “shop” for information and ideas;
  5. a “breathing” or “pulsation” pattern of flow, between plenary and small-group breakout sessions.

The approach is most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda, which sets the stage for the meeting’s participants to create the agenda for themselves, in the first 30–90 minutes of the meeting or event. Typically, an “open space” meeting will begin with short introductions by the sponsor and usually a single facilitator. The sponsor introduces the purpose; the facilitator explains the “self-organizing” process called “open space.” Then the group creates the working agenda, as individuals post their issues in bulletin board style. Each individual “convener” of a breakout session takes responsibility for naming the issue, posting it on the bulletin board, assigning it a space and time to meet, and then later showing up at that space and time, kicking off the conversation, and taking notes. These notes are usually compiled into a proceedings document that is distributed physically or electronically to all participants. Sometimes one or more additional approaches are used to sort through the notes, assign priorities, and identify what actions should be taken next. Throughout the process, the ideal facilitator is described as being “fully present and totally invisible”,[3] “holding a space” for participants to self-organize, rather than managing or directing the conversations.

Hundreds of Open Space meetings have been documented.[4][5] Harrison Owen explains that this approach works best when these conditions are present,[3] namely high levels of

  1. Complexity, in terms of the tasks to be done or outcomes achieved;
  2. Diversity, in terms of the people involved and/or needed to make any solution work;
  3. Conflict, real or potential, meaning people really care about the central issue or purpose; and
  4. Urgency, meaning that the time to act was “yesterday”.

According to Owen, originator of the term and the approach, Open Space works because it harnesses and acknowledges the power of self-organization, which he suggests is substantially aligned with the deepest process of life itself, as described by leading-edge complexity science as well as ancient spiritual teachings.[6]

( source : Wikipedia)