The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.

Joseph Joubert (1754—1824)
French writer

Open Space Technology (OST) is a group facilitation technique for a larger amount of people (min. 35). It’s very dynamic. Despite its freedom in the execution participants work very disciplined by themselves – with outstanding results. However, the minimum time to plan is half a day (about 4 hours).

Why Open Space Technology?

What’s the best part of conferences and congresses? The tea breaks, naturally! Why? Because you talk to people you want to talk to and about the topic you want to talk about. If you have chatted enough you leave and go to another group of people standing there in discussion. Open Space Technology (OST) is a moderation method for large groups and is focused around this idea. The American author, academic and photographer Harrison Owen (*1935) developed it in 1992. Since then it has become very popular worldwide.

Open Space Technology in the open.

Though this methodology allows complete freedom for the participants, I have never seen people working in a more concentrated fashion. Furthermore, Open Space offers a market of ideas and evolves according to supply and demand. This together makes it the primary tool for a participatory way of leadership! So, let’s have a look:

The topic of the Open Space Session can be left open, or you give a very broad topic, which gives people enough freedom to introduce their own ideas. You could use it for few hours or even several days. The size is not limited: from experience it works best with at least 25 people.

How to go about it?

The moderator introduces the methods to participants. This takes about 20 minutes. He or she has to explain the following:

This is a completely free method. You are free to suggest topics of discussion and free to move. There are only two constraints:

  • The start and end times of the session have to be defined.
  • The one who suggests a topic is the moderator of the session. He/she has to stay in his discussion circle.