Dear Judy,

in my practice I have always suggested to the sponsor (when that topic came up) not to make promises regarding the support of any action that arose out of the ost gathering... other than to provide for what I called "Next Meeting(s)". The Next Meeting, 3.5 hours (between 4 and 8 weeks after the ost event), gives space to

--- visualize the progress to date for each action
--- have an exchange on the progress to date among all present
--- collect and visualise future steps ("And Now?")
--- exchange and add to "And Now?" by everyone present
--- agree to the specific Next Step in each of the action groups
--- have an exchange on the Next Steps and add stuff (ideas, I want to be part of this, etc.)

This design can be repeated until all actions originally planned are done with (mostly two such meetings suffice but there have been situations where up to 4 Next Meetings were needed)... participants together with the sponsor(s) decide at the end of each Next Meeting whether and when the next Next Meeting should be. (A detailed account on this approach can be seen on pages 181 to 192 with lots of pictures in "Meine open space Praxis"... the photos and German language skills will help. Its available as hard cover and eBook

This approach ensures that those gathered around an action take the whole responsibility to actually see the action through. Whatever ressources they need from the organisation they need to and will acquire themselves. In other words, stuff happens because originators of actions see it through... its selforganisation all the way down and if an action is not supported I have heard of ingenious ways to get approval after all.

This approach is based on various assumptions:

--- participants gathered around an issue that they care/are passionate about and that they are willing to work/fight for will make progress on that issue completely irrespective of prior promises of support --- prior promises by the sponsor reduce either the passion or responsibility or both for a particular issue and give rise to a plethora of proposals --- actions by participants bringing progress to particular issues, especially sticky ones, will benefit not only a particular issue but will support the infrastructure for future action in the organisation

Another assumption that I have worked with and which, over the years of practice has more and more left the realm of assumption is that resilient, robust action can be expected after an ost event that makes time for a whole day and a half, with the first day spent in ost and the second in Action Planning (Action Space)... optimal are 2.5 days (16 hours spread over 3 days and two nights sleep). And, following that assumption, I have always informed sponsors of the givens I just mentioned. In some cases this led to splitting the event in a 1 day ost gathering and a half day action planning a week later (this always led to having folks show up in the Action Space that were not at the ost-day... word spread that something important is going to happen).

I should not forget to mention that I often was asked about a 3 or 4 hour event. Result was always that the sponsor decided to follow my suggestion to rethink the matter and give me a ring later. That ring always came and more often than not, the sponsor continued the search for a different design.

And, if someone has a real business issue that requires immediate attention or hell breaks lose, if chaos and conflict can be seen right in front of you... even a space of less than 3 hours has to suffice to get actions in place... albeit, none of my 170 sponsors in the last 20 years faced such severe conditions but many wanted to reduce the time for a bypass operation from 7 hours to two.

Greetings from Berlin

On 16.09.2016 20:53, Judy Gast via OSList wrote:
 To chime in here, I agree with Birgitt.  The key to success is insuring
that there is a commitment to follow up through an officially sanctioned
and supported process and infrastructure.  And as Michael has said an
appropriate communications plan so that everyone who wants to come knows
the details with appropriate lead time and accessibility,  including how
to get involved in the implementation. And the results are linked back
to the meeting, and perhaps even the person or persons who initiated the
topic.  This is true for any open space, however these type of "public
forum" sessions have more propensity to be seen as an opportunity for
people to complain and grandstand their issues.

Look forward to reading more about it!


On Sep 16, 2016, at 12:15 PM, Birgitt Williams via OSList
< <>>

Hi Thomas,

I see that you are hoping to use OST and yet not totally sure if it
will be your chosen method. I believe that OST is the only method that
will be sufficient for what you want to accomplish. It meets all the
criteria for when OST works best. The most important factor for me
though, is the Law of Two Feet so that people can choose to stay or
leave if there is hard lobbying for particular issues. I trust that
with the Law of Two Feet and how it is explained, all such attempts
will have only the effect that there is energy for...and no more.

Long ago, Larry Peterson, Judy Gast, and myself were the three
facilitators for three different OST meetings in the same big building
at the same time. It is how the sponsors figured we could work well
with about 600 people in meaningful ways around a very conflicted
issue in the educational sector, in a short time. This allowed the
reports of all three sessions to be available simultaneously and there
were advantages in this for convergence of themes and the surprise
that surfaced at the similarities and also dissimilarities of what
came from the three separate OST meetings. Despite the conflicted
issue and people picketing outside and us being briefed on the
potential for violence and heave lobbying erupting in our meetings,
there was no violence and the Law of Two Feet took care of the
lobbying. I think you get a very different effect/outcomes if you have
three concurrent OST meetings with three facilitators than you do if
you have a sequence of meetings in which people who really want to get
their agenda through go to all of the meetings.

The givens are very important in relation to outcomes. When I work in
a political context, I negotiate ahead of time with the political body
who must 1. make decisions, 2. assign budget to future action and 3.
be held accountable by the public including media. There are endless
stories about successful OST meetings in which people feel so good at
the end of the meeting. However, the more important stories are the
ones in which after some months there was significant positive change.
It seems that the job is not only to open space for people to have
conversations and reach agreed upon is more
importantly to open space in a rigid system that is well entrenched,
political, and has certain accountability. I am rather curious about
how you have set up for this.

So...when I work in a political context, part of my negotiation is
about whether action items can move forward by anyone in attendance
ie: businesses, other organizations, individuals OR if the action
items have to wait for a decision/vote by a particular political body
like  a school board. My favorite and most impactful experiences have
been when the political body says right up front that any agreed on
recommendations that do not need to access extra budget through the
political body can go forward by anyone who has the passion and
resources to do so....without waiting for some agreement on a bigger
plan/budget. I admire political groups who are willing to open that
much space in their communities to take action on solutions,

Best wishes for a fantastic experience!

On Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 3:37 AM Thomas Herrmann
<>> wrote:

    Dear friends in Open Space____

    I write to share about an exciting project and to ask to have
    feedback/ideas/experiences assisting me to refine/decide on the
    design I am working on.____

    __ __

    The project is in a neighbouring town of about 35 000 inhabitants.
    They are inviting everyone living there to explore ways to
    contribute to enhance the learning amongst children/youth
    complementing/supporting what is happening in the school. The top
    politician in the town, responsible for education/schools is my
    sponsor. During the spring I had a couple of meetings with the top
    politicians and managers for the school system. Then we widened
    the circles and had some meetings with other interest parties , to
    invite more engagement for this idea. ____

    __ __

    We have a plan that includes follow up, to support what is
    emerging, decide on next steps and make sure there is report back
    to what is happening and not.____

    __ __

    A couple of  days ago we had our “final” planning meeting getting
    the theme etc. Still working on wording but something like “For
    the future of our children. How do we create conditions for
    enhanced learning for pupils in our community?” Of practical
    reasons evenings are considered the best options. Parents, pupils,
    teachers, business people, public workers etc etc are all busy
    daytime and weekends are not considered a good option. “Everyone”
    will be invited but it’s hard to say how many will come to each
    meeting. I guess between 10-200 J____

    Now the plan is to have three 3-hour meetings in three different
    parts of the small community. I have suggested a fourth meeting
    where all are invited for convergence/action planning. There are
    of course several challenges. I am not even sure I will suggest we
    use OST even though I’d love to. I think a 3-hour meeting is the
    bare minimum for the simplest form of an OST meeting. On the other
    hand I see possibilities for this to be looked at like an OST
    meeting consisting of three occasions á 3 hours + convergence in a
    fourth meeting for another 3 hours… That looks better, ey?____

    __ __

    There are some opportunities with this:____

    __1.       __More time for the divergent process before

    __2.       __People can choose to join several meetings, deepening
    their thinking____

    __3.       __People can get access to more ideas/material from the
    3 meetings.____

    __4.       __There can be continued conversations online in
    between meetings and approaching meeting nbr 4.____

    __5.       __There will be opportunities for people to create
    joint projects over “boundaries” in the community (meeting nbr 4
    and online)____

    __ __

    There are several challenges with this too. ____

    __1.       __There will be different people in all of the meetings____

    __a.       __There needs to be a proper opening each time____

    __2.       __3 hours is very short. My plan: Opening/agenda 45
    mts. Session 1 (45 mts). Session 2 (45 mts). Individual
    reflection/personal commitment (15 mts). Closing 30 mts.____

    __a.       __For the actionplanning meeting (meeting nbr 4) I will
    probably use re-opening, after a brief opening and reading
    reports/reflecting. A couple of action planning sessions, 1 minute
    reportback/group and then closing.____

    __3.       __How to bind everything together to one whole____

    __ __

    So far I lean towards this plan but I would love to hear to your
    ideas, thoughts, experiences and/or suggestions!____

    All the best____

    __ __

    Thomas Herrmann____

    Open Space Consulting AB____ <>____

    You reach us via phone: +46 (0)709 98 97 81 or email:

    __ __

    Open Space Consulting is a small company with BIG ambitions to
    assist leaders and organizations as well as local communities to
    tap into their full power to achieve their dreams. We bring
    practical tools and knowhow to empower you to find your way

    __ __

    *More info____*

    LinkedIn profile:

    Facebook Company page:

    __ __

    __ __

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