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Open Space

Agile Open California uses Open Space Technology (OST) as our conference framework.  OST provides a framework of time and space in which people self-organize their learning and planning.  In this framework, participants with common interests work together on the issues they feel passionate about and for which they take responsibility. The conference agenda reflects this approach – it is not pre-planned but created “live” by the participants at the start of the first day.  OST reflects an Agile spirit in it’s use of self-organization and the “just-in-time” nature of the approach.

Harrison Owen originated Open Space Technology in the early 80’s as the result of an “ah ha” moment.  He had designed and planned a conference, and when it ended, he learned that all the best work - collaboration, networking, idea generation, etc. - was done in hallway conversations and coffee breaks, not in the formal sessions.  He used this insight to develop OST, an approach that allows that same coffee-break energy to be present at all times.  OST has been used successfully around the world by local and international groups, small or up to 1000 people, to address complex and varied Themes.

Opening Session

The opening session is where the “space is opened”; it occurs on the first morning with everyone attending.  Open Space is introduced and the Principles and Law of Mobility & Responsibility are explained.

The Four Principles:

  1. Whoever comes is the right person
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. When it’s over, it’s over

The Law of Mobility and Responsibility (also known as the “Law of Two Feet”):
“If you are not learning or contributing where you are, find a place where you can learn or contribute.”

Creating the Sessions

When the introduction is over, participants will be invited to present a session they would like to convene.  All you need to do is come forward and talk briefly (less than a minute) about your proposed session.  There are many types of sessions possible, so you don’t need to be an expert to convene.  You might propose a session about a question or topic you want information about, concept to be developed or idea to discuss.  You should have an appropriate level of topic knowledge if you plan to explain or teach it.  After your proposal, you will select a time and location for the session from the available options and post a session notice on the wall.

The Marketplace

When there are no more sessions to propose, the Market Place process begins. Participants move to the wall to browse the posted sessions (the Marketplace), and sign up to show interest (not commitment) in attending.  Sessions are sometimes moved around or combined at this point while people mill about and discuss what they want to attend.

The Marketplace may be updated (new or moved sessions) at any time during the conference.  Although there will be a few opportunities to announce changes, it’s a good idea to check the Marketplace frequently.  Existing sessions may be moved only by the session convener; new sessions may be added by posting a notice in an open time/location.

People leave the Marketplace whenever they are ready - the space and time are now open for holding sessions.

See also the conference Schedule.  For more information on Open Space Technology, see Open Space World .