Dear Nick,

first, thanks for opening this thread.
Contributing this way expands the space for many issues from various perspectives.

Nudged by Tova (greetings to you in Israel), here is my take on "twists"... those that I observe among us around the stuff that takes place before and after an actual ost-event and that characterizes my "practice". This stuff has worked on so many occasions that I can wholeheartedly recommend it. You are invited to copy it and see how it works for you. A very detailed account of this can be found in "Meine open space Praxis", with lots of pictures, alas, in German (here is the online shop of Westkreuz for stuff around OST, and the specific link to the book I mentioned)

Here a short outline of what happens before the events:

1. When I get a call from a sponsor/client (often it is a call, not so often an email), I suggest a face to face "contact meeting" with the clear message that its purpose is to allow for a decision "open space, yes or no" in his/her judgement. And, that this decision need not to be taken at the contact meeting but after everyone involved has had a couple of nights sleep. Part of the contract at this point is that there is no fee involved but that my expenses for getting to the meeting, etc. are paid for. The time for the meeting is 60 to 90 minutes.

2. At the contact meeting all those closely involved with the decision on whether they will have an OST or not come together (sometimes 3 often 5 and rarele more), without having to go to the next higher level in their organisation. Basically, I offer to take a close look on whether the prerequisites are in place to actually have an event in which the force of selforganisation can unfold. These include: Burning business issue, urgency, complexity of the challenge, diversity of particapants, level of conflict, open question (no one person has the answer), voluntary participation. Usually, it turns out that at this stage the understanding among those preent on what the "business issue" is all about is rarely "common ground"... that is, this is the first time it is actually articulated among those with, speaking traditionally, "in charge". After all of this which takes about 35 minutes, the group wants to hear something about the process, what actually happens at an OST event. If it turns out that one or more of the group have participated in one, they tell the others. (here, I hear some very interesting things about so-called os events). If asked on outcome/results, I point to the Action Planning part of os-events and that Next Meetings need to be planned before the event takes place and need to be part of the invitation to the event. At the end of the meeting I suggest that they give me a call in a few days on whether they want to go ahead (which then means organizing a 3,5 hour Planning Session with a larger, more broadly representative group)... and have a 3 minute "How was this contact meeting" feedback session that focuses on the time just spent together. I have had plenty of "lets go ahead" and plenty of "no goes"... and often had calls a year or even later from "no goes", with a new request. My take on this is, that not giving the mearest impression on "selling" them on OST has something to do with this.

3. At the Planning Meeting, which in my experience has 6 and up to 30 participants (it always takes 3,5 hours, regardless of number of participants) including those that were present at the contact meeting, the agenda allows for:

A) A Break at the beginning
B) Opening Circle, with a very short introduction of each participant (My name is..., I works as..., Now, I am here, to...) (sitting in a circle) C) Presentation of the schedule and agreement on it (sitting in a half circle with access to the working surfaces on the open side of the half circle) D) Creating a mind-map on what is expected on the day after the OST event (the group produces this mind map) E) Creating the "Theme" (individually, in very small groups, in the whole group) F) Creating a list of who all need to be at the OST event so that the expectations observed in the mind map under the "Theme" that was just formulated, can actually be met G) Agreement on what needs to be done and who does it in preperation of the event (invitation, venue, documentation at the event, catering, etc.), including deciding on the date of the event (if not set already) and the date of the first "Next Meeting" after the event.
H) Closing Circle (sitting in a circle again).

The Planning Meeting gets results involving everyone in such a way that no further planning meetings are needed (in rare cases, follow up planning meetings are needed before the event; for the 2108 participant event in W├╝rzburg, we had 3 additional meetings for coordination, etc.)

As it turned out the main effect of the Planning Meeting was that the participants became a "group" of folks very actively supporting and promoting the event in their system (school, business, parish, neighborhood, network, etc) and expressing that they now see what open space is all about... even though the Planning Meeting was not an OST-open space but had a given structure (often adjusted in the actual Planning Meeting process).

In this whole process, to take up on Tova's note, language and stance and spirit need to be congruent with open space, including the art "to say no if you want yes to mean something" (Weisbord/Janoff: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!, page 163).

Greetings from a sunny early spring day in Berlin with bees buzzing and butterflies presenting their beauty

PS: You are invited to include yourself in the Open Space World Map, so that I (and the rest of the world) can "see" you next time I write to you (see details in the signature below).

Michael M Pannwitz
Draisweg 1, 12209 Berlin, Germany
++49 - 30-772 8000

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