The idea of Open Space is for the participants to organize their own discussion groups right on the spot, according to their passions, instead of having pre-planned workshops. It’s called self-organization, following the Law of Two Feet, which says that it’s OK for you to move from one group to another at any time. Two groups with overlapping topics may choose to combine, while a group without enough people or excitement may choose to dissolve. Everything is OK as long as the group facilitator makes sure that everyone is heard, no one dominates, and discussion is respectful.
For this Summit, the goal of each Open Space group is to explore how to collaborate on some aspect of the discussion topic. This means collaboration among UUs from very diverse congregations, UU justice groups, even unchurched UUs. But it also means, how do these UUs, when networked with each other, collaborate with other groups, both secular and religious. UUs as individuals often work with, or support, a huge variety of justice groups, but our collaboration as UUs, though effective, has been much more restricted.
Here are the mechanics. If you want to propose a topic, write down the topic and your name on the “Possible Issues for Open Space” sheet in the morning or at lunch. If another proposer has a similar topic, or writes his/her name by yours, talk to them about collaborating to lead one group, instead of two, if this works for both of you. During the Open Space introductory period, one of you will have one to two minutes to give a brief overview of the issue to everybody, and you’ll be assigned a room (or corner of a room) to meet in and post your topic. Topics not covered in the first session may be proposed for the second session, first come, first served.
We’ll have six meeting spaces, with chairs arranged in a circle, and two Open Space sessions, each for 30 minutes, with a 15 minute introductory period for the overviews. With only 30 minutes, you should expect these sessions to only initiate collaboration, perhaps with tentative action plans, perhaps not. Participants will need to follow up later. The website being developed by the NW Justice Network will facilitate this.
After all overviews have been heard for a session, the participants go to the groups that most interest them. If a group is too small to be viable, join with another group. If a group seems too big, consider splitting in two. The group proposer normally acts as facilitator but he/she could ask someone else. A volunteer notetaker is also needed, with newsprint provided (wall or easel). A member of the Summit organizing committee will act as time keeper / process observer.
At the end of both Open Space sessions, the notetaker or other designed person for each group will give a one minute report back in the wrap up session for 3 to 4 pm – sub-topics discussed and who wants to work on what. After all report backs, there will be a general discussion on the opportunities that have been identified, leading to Next Steps. During the reception you can read the posted notes for details of the discussion and talk to people with common interests about how to work together. Add your name to a topic if you’d like to be included in subsequent collaboration. A leader must emerge from this process to initiate such collaboration. A volunteer will compile and post the notes on the website.