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Highlights and Summary - June 2012

Meeting Date: 
17 Jun 2012

Open Space Institute – US (OSI-US)

Meeting June 18, 2012 – 5:30 to 6:45 EST

Attending:  Peggy Holman, Christine Whitney Sanchez, Harold Shinsato, Douglas Germann, Karen Davis, Ed Laboy, Suzanne Daigle, Chuni Li and Sharon Joy Chao

OSI - Special invitation had been extended to our Emeritus Board members Peggy, Christine and Lisa with a message that they would always have a standing invitation to attend our regular meeting and retreats.
We also wished a warm welcome to our new Board members Chuni Li of New Jersey and Sharon Joy Chao of Manila in the Philippines.

The meeting then began with a moment of silence and our habitual check-ins.

The group then took the opportunity to share on the following question as a way of getting to know each other through this transition on the board and to capture a bit of the history:

“How did open space come into your lives?”

Doug - I ran into it when I was program chair for a statewide organization.  The speakers for the upcoming month had to cancel because of a family emergency.  I had heard from someone that there was a weird way to have a meeting with no agenda.  Thought it would be a good thing and found it was called Open Space Technology.  I was given several documents via email about it and got him in touch with Michael Hermann and there was a guy named Albert in Indianapolis where his meeting was going to be held. When I read the Users’ Guide, why wouldn't it work? Why would anyone see it otherwise?  I had done circle work in different organizations and found it to be quite effective. And found it to be a natural thing. I did my first city-wide thing on the anniversary of 9/11.  That would have been 2001-2002 when I really found it and attended a whole bunch of different places and thought it was the way we should organize everything from cities and towns.  It turned my  life inside out.  I really enjoyed it. Doug then asks a question of Peggy:  “When you started this thing (Open Space Institute), where did you think you would be in 2012 with this organization?”

Peggy – Regarding the formation of the OSI:  I ran into open space in 1993/94 doing some work with USWest around the question:  “What does it mean to be a learning organization?”  Peter Senge's book had just come out a year or two before. I was an internal consultant tasked with finding what was the leading edge of learning organizations and bring these insights into the company.  Until then I had been involved in the area of quality. I talked to a friend of mine in Denver about the Organization Systems Program in Antioch in Seattle. She said “You might be interested in this thing that we just did in school.” She referred me to a three-page article in the Training magazine.  I picked up the phone and called Harrison.  I talked to him about doing an Open Space Meeting on the subject of learning - one of the first Open Space meetings was done in Goa India around the topic of business learning.  So we started talking about the possibility of doing Open Space at US West. In the meantime, one of the business units had a flood in Arizona. Someone at US West who was Union and doing OD kinds of stuff and working with management in AZ on major outages had convinced the company to use Open Space.  I went to a workshop in New York and experienced my first Open Space. I ran a 2.5 Open Space with 200 network technicians. I saw that the needs of individuals and the organization could both be met. I had to learn more. It profoundly changed what I did. I realized I didn't have to take responsibility for others experience.  It changed the way I worked. That was about 1994.  Somewhere in the summer of 1996, Harrison was on one of his world tours as a book came out and he came to Seattle. There were about 10 of us in a meeting. Harrison had stopped in Toronto on his way and Seattle was his next stop. He proposed the Open Space Institute as a research institute to help clarify the efficacy of OST, this “strange thing”.  In essence, he wanted to make the research case, to make the case to tell its story. He had done the same thing in Toronto so these two different groups (Canada and US) declared the Open Space Institute alive and well.  We decided to create a 501(c)(3). The cost was about $700.  We each put in $70 and that was the seed money to start the Institute. It took a different direction than what Harrison had envisioned it being a research organization. The last OSonOS that Harrison hosted, the 3rd being in Washington D.C.  There was also Australia with Brian Bainbridge. We had 3 Institutes (Canada, US and Australia). And we did an Open Space on what we wanted from an Open Space Institute. Three things emerged: People said they wanted mentoring and being mentored. It would also be a place for learning and researching and offering mutual support and connectedness.  I wanted a place to send my friends to –a hearth fire. As the idea of an Institute, I always thought of it as having potential energy with the capacity as a tiny placeholder that could involve thousands of people around the world. There was a need to unleash all that potential energy. Back in the beginnings when we were forming, I didn't think that far out (in answer to Doug’s question) , but I  did imagine that we would have members actively engaged and this being a place for sharing stories, for spreading the understanding about Open Space, and frankly doing research - which was something we never managed to get launched.

Christine - I discovered open space through girls’ clubs many years before I discovered the actual form of Open Space. I was trying Open Structure and in grad schools had lots of things to choose from. As I was mulling around trying things, I did not know self-organization back then, saw a pilot program called self-structure. We created a few givens for the kids and they structured their own program. I was in a group counseling class. I got my husband involved.  It was some time after that I discovered the form of Open Space. At an OD meeting, I heard people making comments about an Open Space type thing. I was curious, got the book and two weeks later, I facilitated my first open space. It was 1997.

Harold – My first open space like experience was the rainbow gathering in 1996, and I go regularly. The Rainbow Gathering started in 1972 as a peace gathering after Woodstock for folks who wanted to be for peace rather than against war. It was a music festival with 25 to 30,000 people. It's self-organizing with no formal leadership, and the event just comes together with many diverse elements to pray for peace. I then heard about something inspired by Harrison Owen. I had been interested in meetings not constrained by hierarchy (Bar Camp and UnConference). I first was exposed to the ideas of Harrison Owen indirectly through the technology world when I heard about FooCamp and then BarCamp. At the 2006 JavaOne conference in San Francisco, there was an unconference track that Kaliya Hamlin was hired to lead, and Kaliya told me the real thing was Open Space Technology. She invited me to her Internet Identity Workshop, where she introduced me to Lisa Heft who dazzled me with her slides and stories of open space around the world, including Israelis and Palestinians. It blew me away! That led me to take her workshop a few months later, and then to hold my first open space for my work colleagues in San Jose at Business Objects in 2007, and then five annual Missoula BarCamp's since then. I have since attended many OS meetings in the technology world. Also participated in Peggy’s “Journalism Matters”; I saw how the format can be spiced up with a bit more structure. I keep falling in love with Open Space more and more.  I met Harrison in Seattle at the Leadership in a Self-Organizing World event. It’s where I first met Peggy and Suzanne and other world class facilitators. There is something ancient, organic about Open Space. It works well for emergence. I saw that with high tech. It has been wonderful watching the leadership evolved in the high tech world. Later I was invited to join the board. I found the group to be so human, to see that something so amazing is being held by mortals, to see people doing this work and seeing how beautiful it is much like poetry, science and spirit. It's been a life changing experience and I hope to live more and more in Open Space.

Karen –For me, it’s as if I was in Open Space from the time I came out of the womb. It was some point in the early 80's that I invited Harrison to present at an OD network regional event.  I don't remember the topic.  It was when he was thinking about other ways of organizing conferences and doing things. He was planning to do something in Tarrytown  around organizational transformational. I knew that is where I was supposed to be. There was something about martinis and coffee breaks. 

In the 90's with Harrison and Devorah Gilbert we hosted our first Open Space four day program for facilitating OS.  One of my colleagues commented then that there was some theory behind the way that I functioned. There was some rationale now, a model. (in others words meaning that Karen has been living Open Space throughout her life).Anyway she's been involved forever and always will be. For her it was a gradual and progressive thing. I became more and more convinced about Open Space even if it's not called OST, convinced about leaders/non-leadersholding space for people, with people taking responsibility and acting on what they care about. That’s what Open Space is about

Suzanne - I was introduced at an Art of Hosting event in Florida. It was just a little sampling. It’s what triggered me to know more and to get to understand this. I attended  Open Space training in Ottawa with Diane Gibeault.  I invited two colleagues from our company NuFocus to come with me.  I immediately saw how powerful the process was. It brought everything that I had been about all my life together.  I could trace it back to my corporate life wanting all the voices in an organization to be heard, to bring the human side to work, to bring a quality vulnerability to leadership. Suddenly there was a structure and a container for this way of engaging – that was permeable with the right principles. I cannot ever get enough; it has introduced lifelong learning and I feel as if a beginning painter with a craft of which I will never tire. It took me along all kinds of trails. I went to a WOSonOS  in Taiwan and  from there, I threw caution to the wind. I had never been that impulsive in the past. It began my journey in Open Space. I see such potential in so many areas. It is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Ed – I was introduced to Open Space through a business partner who attended an open space meeting that Karen and Harrison had back in early 2000. His partner kept talking about it. At the time, they were working with a department in the government around homeless services.  There were major issues and they decided to use Open Space.  At the time, Ed was thinking: “Let’s see what will happen here”.   The commissioner, who was part of this meeting along with 200 other people from 9 different government agencies, wanted to control everything.  The goal was to come up with a way to best economically handle and assist the homeless. I was amazed and surprised. This was in 2002 or 2003 and each person came up with 2 to 3 basic solutions, many of which are still working today. It was so amazing to have so many different stakeholders, each with their own agenda, come up with a working solution that they developed it in just 2 days, all saying that they can do this. I realized then that this was something I wanted to be involved in. A few years later Doug called me and invited me to be on the board. I have been on the board ever since. It’s still like magic to me now. “How can you get so many different people in a room with different perspectives who are able to quickly work out something for the future of their organization. Open Space is the only thing that happens that way. I am an Open Space person the rest of my life.

Sharon - I have appreciative inquiry to thank for it. I found my way to OST through Appreciative Inquiry. I was doing research work, evaluating projects in 2009 in the Philippines. I thought then that there has to be other things that I could use in the Public Schools to evaluate performance. Did some research work and that's when I found Open Space. As I went through some of the materials, I thought that’s weird and it can't be real. It is beyond me. They self-organize.  There is no agenda. Then there was this opportunity in 2009: a WOSonOS in Taiwan just a couple hours from Manila. I felt called to attend. I got to meet Gail West. She has been my mentor in Open Space and a dear friend ever since. After WOSonOS, I tried on a number of OST gatherings in the company, with some religious groups, with people who have disabilities and also organizing communities who were displaced by typhoons. Then in 2010, my office got approval to do an international conference. We made use of OST and it was incredible. Harrison Owen attended. This international organization had been very stiff in the way it managed meetings before. Then here comes Open Space, which asks them to loosen up a bit and just be themselves. Before the conference, one person came up with a 15-page critique of Open Space and somehow Harrison got a hold of that paper. He felt that this guy must have his reasons for writing this 15 page paper. That started the conversation which happened late last year. Somehow we were able to get him to come to Manila for this conference about Learning for the Future.  It helped take the issue to the next level around the question of: “How do we move forward, tackling the issue of Learning for the Future. Harrison said this should become an annual gathering. I don't know. I hope with God's grace we will be able to do it again next year. In the future, we could also include other from outside the Philippines to get a sense of what is the future of learning and also to get more young people involved in the conversation. Sharon shares that the spiritual quest in her life is a practice of emptiness which is in alignment with that practice that we do in Open Space. Letting things be so that possibilities can unfold in our lives. I agree that Open Space is magic.

Chuni - I think I learned about it initially on a Maestro call that Christine was hosting. Harrison was a guest speaker. I was fascinated by the way they interviewed him. He was iconic. I then became fascinated by everything that he wrote about. I thought to myself: “This guy is interesting.  It’s very relevant to what we're doing here” A couple of days later, I came up to OST in NYC. We are a non-profit have no money. Karen said whatever you can pay you can come. I came and it’s where I met Harrison and Suzanne. At that meeting, I was totally shocked that for 20 years as a facilitator I had been leading the wrong way.  As I read Harrison’s book and saw what had been done at ATT, I was amazed that I had never heard of Open Space. I kept thinking why I had not heard about it while I was at ATT. I was in a different department. We had never talked about it. At the session in New York with Karen and Harrison, I walked up to Harrison and said: “Everything you are teaching here is telling me that everything I have done in my career was all wrong.” That triggered Harrison and we talked about this. Later I was introduced to Suzanne, which led to a partnership in New Jersey on revitalizing the economy. I had wanted to do more community-based work. Open Space became a natural vehicle to meaningfully engage with my community. It brings people together. I came to OD from back door. I have a degree in Education, but my work has always been as an OD person. No I know I will be an Open Space person for the rest of my life too.

The bin -
Annual filing - requires a Washington state address for registrar and corporate address. Suzanne will complete the form and Peggy will remain at the main contact.

The next meeting is scheduled for July 16 - third Monday of the month (starting at 5:30 pm EST)

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