Open Space Technology

Open Space Technology (OST) is a broad and deliberately vague method of collaboration. Open Space events, while organized around a specific problem or theme, begin with no set agenda and are predicated on the principle of self-organization.

Problems and Purpose

According to Michael M. Pannwitz, one of the earliest practitioners of OST, "Open Space is the only process that focuses on expanding time and space for the force of self-organisation to do its thing. Although one can't predict specific outcomes, it's always highly productive for whatever issue people want to attend to. Some of the inspiring side effects that are regularly noted are laughter, hard work which feels like play, surprising results and fascinating new questions." [1]

Origins and Development

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Participant Recruitment and Selection

The OST format has been used in events of as few as 5 to as many as 2000 participants. Events can be open to all or by invitation only depending on the host. All OST events require that all participants be informed of the meeting's purpose or theme before beginning the discussion. 

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

OST events obviously vary in their structure since they proceed spontaneously and organically, however, all events use — to one degree or another — the following 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." [2]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

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Analysis and Lessons Learned 

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See Also


[1] Pannwitz, Michael M. (2015, June 3). [OSList] What is Open Space? OSList.

[2] Wikipedia Contributors. (2020, July 27). Open Space Technology. Wikipedia.

External Links 

Open Space World - What is Open Space Technology?

Open Space Technology: A User's Guide 

12 Tools for Transition: No.10. How to Run an Open Space Event (Transition Culture)

Transition Network - How to run an Open Space event