One of our preferred formats for conversation is...
Features of a virtual Open Space Technology meeting
Participants are arranged in a 'virtual' circle to facilitate communication. This is sometimes done by putting names around a circle on a whiteboard or the conversation is facilitated so that everyone gets speak as if it was around a circle. The role of the facilitator is to open the space and to hold the space open. This process acknowledges the potential for leadership in every person.
The agenda is created by the people present in the virtual conference. Passion and responsibility are the two keys to a successful meeting. Without passion, enthusiasm for an idea will soon wane, and without responsibility, there is risk that the ideas will never move forward.
There are four principles and one law for conducting an open space technology meeting which enables the participants to stay focused on the event at hand and acknowledges that the wisdom to resolve the issue is present in the room.
Four Principles of Open Space Technology:
- Whoever comes, are the right people (reinforces that the wisdom to achieve solutions is present in the room and the group is not to worry about who is not present nor to panic about who is)
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have (keeps the attention on the best possible effort in the present, not worrying about what we "should have done")
- Whenever it starts is the right time (reminds people that creativity cannot be controlled)
- When it is over, it is over (encourages people to continue their discussion so long as there is energy for it. This may result in a short session not filling the entire time allotted, or it may result in a session longer than the time allotted)
The Law of Two Feet (Law of Mobility):
The Law of Two Feet (also called The Law of Mobility) states that if participants find themselves in situations where they are neither learning anything or contributing anything, they are responsible for moving to another place, for example to another group meeting. The principles and law enable people to participate in ways that are most meaningful to them. They get to take responsibility and contribute according to their passions, talents, skills, curiosity and energy in the best way they can in any moment.
Building the Agenda or 'Marketplace'
Having explained the process, the facilitator opens the meeting to let the group create the agenda by identifying topics that are important to the individual regarding the theme. The individual puts his or her topic on a 'virtual whiteboard' or Agenda Board along with their name and then announces the topic to the group. There is a means of assigning room spaces and times for the topics that are generated.
When all the topics are up, everyone goes to this "marketplace of topics" and signs up for the topics of discussion that interest them. The facilitator gets out of the way. The group self-manages the discussions and produces a report of the proceedings at the end of their discussion for all to read.
The facilitator reconvenes the group as a collective whole at each session's end and if it is a multi-session event, at the beginning and end of each session.
Lastly, there is a closing circle, which further identifies the commitment of participants to the theme and to the future.