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Open Space

Open Space is a system of brainstorming which was introduced to the School by Bob Wright, a member of the School Assembly. Open Space is a sort of marketplace of ideas, which allows people to share interests, and organize them into coordinated groups. This lets people with similar interests find each other and develop plans.

Emily considering the cameraThis is how it works. The group gathers around and the moderator makes a few comments to start ideas flowing. Each person then takes sheets of paper and markers. Each idea is written in letters big enough to read from across the room. The person's name is written at the bottom of the paper, so that we can keep track of who owns each idea. Older people help the younger ones write their ideas down. When everyone has had enough time to make as many idea sheets as they like, with one idea on each sheet, then the moderator asks for the sheets to be passed in. 

The moderator then reads each sheet aloud to the group. After they are read, each idea is put up on the wall. Ideas that are the same are grouped together. If two people say that a baseball game sounds like fun, those two sheets will be hung together. If there are several ideas that are similar, they will be hung near each other.

When all of the ideas are on the wall, the moderator will ask if anyone can see any ideas that can be combined into one. So if one person says, "play a sport" and someone else says, "play volley ball" then the moderator might ask the first person if his idea could be combined with the second. If the person likes volley ball, he or she might agree. If that person had a different sport in mind, he might not agree.  Then the moderator might ask for suggestions of how to group the ideas, so that they can work together. If one person says, "go fishing," another says, "swim," and another person says, "go for a hike," then the moderator, or someone, might say, "we could go to Lums Pond and do all three of those things at the same place."

In this way, with the moderator calling on anyone who wants to talk, the ideas can be focused into a few which appeal to several people in the group.
Then, once the ideas have been boiled down to just a few, the moderator will ask who is interested in doing each one. If there are several people interested in one idea, then that idea can be scheduled to be done. If the same people are interested in two different ideas, then those can be scheduled for different times. If different people are interested in two other ideas, then they can be scheduled for the same time.

The "rules" of Open Space are:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people;
  2. Whenever it starts is the right time;
  3. When it is finished it is done; and, 
  4. You can vote with your feet.

In this marketplace of ideas, Open Space lets people hear about ideas and see if anyone buys them. This lets everyone hear ideas that they might not think of, and gives people a chance to come together to do interesting things.




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This page last updated on 25 February 2016

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