Yesterday my husband and I attended an all day event entitled Rising from the Ashes: How Do We Create Peace from Chaos, Confusion, and Conflict. It was an un-conference sponsored by our local Jeannette Rankin Peace Center (JRPC). Designing it as an un-conference is a reference to something called Open Space. From their website:
Open Space Technology, or Open Space, is a meeting format discovered by Harrison Owen. There is much written about Open Space available in books and on the internet, and yet often the format defies description or explanation. It is much more easily experienced that written about.
The basic process of Open Space helps those participating in the event co-create an experience based on responsibility and passion. It is a very welcoming and very frequently fun process, and also one that can be challenging in the same way a good game is challenging. Open Space invites the participants to engage to a high degree.
Never having attended an Open Space setting before I could only imagine what to expect in terms of format and set-up. I was, like many others, a little nervous. The Five Principles of Open Space set me a little more at ease:
1. Whoever comes are the right people
2. Whenever it starts is the right time
3. Wherever it is, is the right place
4. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised!
5. When it’s over, it’s over
And the one law of Open Space is called the Law of Two Feet:
If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.
In this way, all participants are given both the right and the responsibility to maximize their own learning and contribution, which the Law assumes only they, themselves, can ultimately judge and control. When participants lose interest and get bored in a breakout session, or accomplish and share all that they can, the charge is to move on, the “polite” thing to do is going off to do something else. In practical terms, Owen explains, the Law of Two Feet says: “Don’t waste time!”