Open Space Technology (OST) – An Approach That Works
We will be using Open Space Technology (OST) as a tool to facilitate a”Peace Talks of the People” along the Mississippi River in 2013.
The first Peace Talk was held in Alton, IL (near St. Louis) on September 7, 2013.
This Peace Talk in America’s Heartland was the first peace conference in the United States; more will come.
If you’d like to receive more information on attending a Peace Talk in your area, contact us via email.
Reminiscent of the natural, open-minded discussions of King Arthur’s Round Table, Native American tribal leaders, and the framers of the U.S. Constitution – OST is the way people used to discuss issues. It’s a “simple way to run productive meetings, for five to 2000+ people, and a powerful way to lead any kind of organization, in everyday practice and extraordinary change” (Owens).
OST focuses on a particular objective or goal, and then has participants discuss all of the issues surrounding that topic, as well as solutions and action plans.
The participants manage the process, as they gather in small groups, and then back to the larger group.
It’s all about learning and dialogue, and conflict resolution. Diverse peoples – culturally, socially, and opinion-wise – all get a chance to contribute their experiences and their best ideas “on a level playing field,” and help create something new and dynamic.
The process is highly innovative and collaborative, and the results are surprising and refreshing.
Everyone makes an investment in the process, and shares a stake in the outcome.
The process can use as little or as much technology as the group desires. The process is structured and flexible at the same time.
The Origin and Principles of OST
Harrison Owen is the founder of Open Space Technology (OST), which is based on “Four Principles and One Law.
The Principles include:
1) Whoever comes is the right people. The only requirement for participation is caring about the issue at hand. And, by showing up, that essential care is demonstrated.
2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, keeps people focused on the here and now, and eliminates all of the could-have-beens, should-have-beens or might-have-beens. What is is the only thing there is at the moment.
3) Whenever it starts is the right time alerts people to the fact that inspired performance and genuine creativity rarely, if ever, pay attention to the clock. They happen (or not) when they happen.
4) Lastly, When it’s over it’s over. In a word, don’t waste time. Do what you have to do, and when its done, move on to something more useful.
The Law is the so called “Law of Two Feet”, which states simply, if at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use you two feet and move to some place more to you liking. Such a place might be another group, or even outside into the sunshine. No matter what, don’t sit there feeling miserable.
The Power of Self Organization
Owen remarks: “Many people have viewed the results (of OST) as counter-intuitive, unbelievable, even magic. The results continue, however, in thousands of instances and 135 countries. But the ‘magic’ is not Open Space Technology, but rather the force that underlies it – the power of self-organization.”
Harrison Owen estimates that since 1983, more than 100,000 different “open space” meetings have taken place in more than 160 countries.
Refer to Owen’s web site for further details on OST.
To see Open Space Technology in action, watch this YouTube video.
The People Will Share Their Solutions After Each Peace Talk
As with any productive session, follow up is vital. After each of the Peace Talks on the Mississippi this Summer, all participants who choose to will form a Peace Action Group (PAG) for ongoing action.
Each PAG will have a section on The Peace Pirates website (and its own social media designations) to share their peace activities. The website will be a place to feature blog and video reports celebrating PAG successes, and encouraging collaboration between the PAGs.
Our social change philosophy is that “many local actions in unison lead to significant global change,” and a realization and embrace of the tremendous power of the people to alter our planet’s destiny.
There will be a schedule and sign up form added to this site. Until then, if you’d like to receive more information on attending a Peace Talk, contact us via email.
To see the launch of a new Peace Action Group , visit the Corpus Christi Peace Action Group.
© Susan Beaver Thompson – March 26, 2013