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Knowledge Cafe - The Group
Open Space (also known as Open Space Technology or OST) is a method for convening groups around a specific question or task and giving them responsibility for creating both their own agenda and experience. It is best used when at least a half to two full days are available. The facilitator's key task is to identify the question that brings people together, offer the simple process, then stand back and let participants do the work. The process is admirably described in a number of languages at
Problem solving - bringing stakeholders together to understand a problem and seek a shared solution.
Strategic planning - Identifying goals and actions.
Sharing and synthesizing knowledge - reflecting on what has been learned and understanding how it applies to work going forward.
Community, team and network building - working together in small and large groups to help build relationships - secondary benefit.
Open Space: When and Why?
"Open Space works best when the work do be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and the time to get it done was yesterday. It's been called passion bounded by responsibility, the energy of a good coffee break, intentional self-organization, spirit at work, chaos and creativity, evolution in organization, and a simple, powerful way to get people and organizations moving -- when and where it's needed most.
While Open Space is known for its apparent lack of structure and welcoming of surprises, it turns out that the Open Space meeting or organization is actually very structured -- but that structure is so perfectly fit to the people and the work at hand, that it goes unnoticed in its proper role of supporting (not blocking) best work. In fact, the stories and workplans woven in Open Space are generally more complex, more robust, more durable -- and can move a great deal faster than expert- or management-driven designs.
What will happen?
We never know exactly what will happen when we open the space for people to do their most important work, but we can guarantee these results when any group gets into Open Space:
All of the issues that are MOST important to the participants will be raised.
All of the issues raised will be addressed by those participants most qualified and capable of getting something done on each of them.
In a time as short as one or two days, all of the most important ideas, discussion, data, recommendations, conclusions, questions for further study, and plans for immediate action will be documented in one comprehensive report -- finished, printed and in the hands of participants when they leave.
When appropriate and time is allowed for it, the total contents of this report document can be focused and prioritized in a matter of a few hours, even with very large groups (hundreds).
After an event, all of these results can be made available to an entire organization or community within days of the event, so the conversation can invite every stakeholder into implementation -- right now.
AND... results like these can be planned and implemented faster than any other kind of so-called "large-group intervention." It is literally possible to accomplish in days and weeks what some other approaches take months and years to do."
Tell Your Story of this Method
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Who is using this method at CARE?
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The World Cafe
More Information/References/Related Resources:
The Open Space community at
(Try to include the appropriate CCASS indicators. For a list of possible keywords, see
) communication, creation, facilitation, reflection, relationship, socialization, synthesis
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