What can happen in Open Space?
The following are some of the "tales from open space" that I tell most often. Some of them are mine and some of them are others' stories. A small slice of the thousands of stories that are out there in the world...
- In 1991, US West used OST for a 3-day, 175-person labor-management summit meeting to resolve escalating contract conflicts, avert a major strike, recover from a damaging flood, and prepare themselves for telecom mergers and the buildout of the internet. Labor pushed for the meeting, but both sides were well-served by the results.
- AT&T fast-tracked 10-months of design and planning work into ONE 2-day contractor summit when they were offered the opportunity to build their pavillion in the center of the 1996 Olympic Village in Atlanta. Twenty-five contractors came into the meeting with lots of difficult history and a blank page to design from. They produced a superb design, a full set of working drawings, and managed to have quite a bit of fun in the process.
- Lansing Community College gathered 145 people, from every part of the organization, for a three-day strategic planning summit meeting. In about an hour, they created a 70-workshop conference to address the most important issues facing their college and the surrounding community. When it was all over, they had identified 10 to 20 immediate action steps, in each of seven strategic areas, and captured it all in a 150-page report. They all left the meeting with a copy of that report in hand, next steps in mind, and the ability to explain those next steps to their co-workers throughout the college.
- Some years ago, TransNet?, the national transportation company of South Africa used OST to help build community connections and lay the groundwork for cooperative business activities in the midst of post-apartheid confusion. One meeting brought 300 senior transportation executives together. Another gathered 80 community choir leaders.
- At a time of similarly-intense confusion and conflict, peace activists and organizers in Jerusalem and Palestine are working together to bring people together in Open Space.
- Rockport Shoes held a 3-day, 300-person company-wide strategy conference in one of their warehouses and stumbled onto a couple of brand new product lines that netted $18 million in their first year of sales. The idea came from the security guard and made the previously quite skeptical CFO very happy.
- The Agile Software and Extreme Programming movement is encouraging a whole new way of software development that looks very much like OST. The marketplace wall becomes a table top with 3x5 cards, breakout groups become pairs of programmers, and morning and evening news sessions become 'stand-up' meetings between programming iterations. This new approach delivers working software every two weeks instead of every two years! AgileXpParticipantComments
- Wesley Urban Ministries in Hamilton, Ontario, adopted OST as the basis for organizing and managing their whole, 100-person staff. Over the next 3 years, they increased services delivered by 50%, with no added resources. On top of that, they had turnover of exactly 0%, in an environment known for high stress and burnout.
- In one of many OST events at Boeing, engineers used OST to streamline operations and simplify communications across the myriad groups responsible for designing and building pressurized airplane doors. The conference was run simultaneously in Seattle and Wichita, it's two major door-assembly sites. Another conference brought the full array of human resources functions together to synergize efforts on "people issues."
- In Racine, Wisconsin, 35 young people (ages 12-20) gathered for one 4-hour, afterschool conference in Open Space. As a result of that meeting they initiated a youth art newsletter, a downtown, lakefront skateboarding park, and the largest YMCA Earth Service Corps chapter in the country. They called themselves 'Youth Action,' used OST at all their meetings, and eventually ended up introducing OST to young leaders from all over the USA. YouthActionRacineInvite | YouthActionRacineStory | MichaelHerman
- In the midst of post-911 budget cuts and other major change issues, Peoria School District 150 held a 3-evening, 200-person summit meeting to create a community-wide vision and set new priorities for revitalizing their inner-city schools. The meeting was well-covered by local broadcast and print media, the 100-page proceedings was publicly available via the District's website, and the top priorities identified on the third evening became the working agenda for their new superintendent and school board.
- The school district in Fairbanks, Alaska (covering an area the size of the entire state of Connecticut) held a 2-day, 250-person conference on 'Becoming a Peacemaker.' Half the participants were students in the middle and high schools (ages 13-18) and all participants had some experience with mediation and conflict resolution. The kids did exceptionally well in Open Space and one high school student led a series of four breakout sessions to create an entire suicide prevention program that for the middle school students. The statewide suicide prevention hotline was up and running within weeks of the conference. FairbanksPeacemakersInvite | http://www.adsa.ws/BAP/4.19.02OSinFBX/FBXBAPApril2002.htm | mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
- The 'Peacemakers' conference in Fairbanks was followed by a 2-day OST training and practice workshop, attended by about 60 youth and adults. Six months later, they reported that they were holding 1-3 OST meetings per week, in and around Fairbanks. See proceedings and updates... FairbanksPeacemakersConferenceAndPracticeWorkshop
- As I was spending time with friends a few evenings ago, talk turned to what we were doing and thinking about. I talked a bit about the Youth Summit I had been involved in that day, and about much I was enjoying the OST process. A friend asked me what OST was. As I began explaining it to her, a look of recognition suddenly passed across her face and she said, "Oh, I know what that is, we did that at our teacher in-service a few weeks ago." I was surprised, because I hadn't heard about it. As it turns out, the in-service had involved staff from three of our elementary schools. When I asked her how it went she replied "it was the best in-service we've ever had." JulieSmith?, Fairbanks
- At Ridgeview Medical Center in Minnesota, a physician administrator has been leading a series of OST meetings, attracting 30-50 people, in order to catalyze and support a hospital-wide, cultural and operational shift to 'patient-centered care.'
- One year after it's founding, The Crossroads Church, in Kansas City, Missouri, invited their entire congregation into Open Space in order to establish strategic direction and set operational priorities for the coming year. They now run an annual 'direction-setting' retreat which is attended by almost all parishoners and in which they dissolve, review, re-establish and re-populate their entire operating committee structure. MichaelHerman
- In 1993, my colleague and I launched an organizational experiment. Our intention was to create two organizations--one in Haiti and one in the US--which would work together to promote justice and peace by fostering transformative learning among Haitians and N.Americans. We chose a non-hierarchical structure at a staff level with hopes of avoiding paternalistic tendencies which frequently characterize international development efforts, and lead to disempowerment and ineffectiveness. After nine years in Open Space, Beyond Borders and Limye Lavi Fondation continue to function without a hierarchy and have become models to other organizations working in Haiti. http://www.beyondborders.net | JohnEngle?
- In January 2000, 175 people gathered in Open Space from the poorest urban neighborhood in Canada to Discuss "Improving the Lives of Aboriginal people in Vancouver: Let's stop talking about it and let's start doing it!" In one day the group convened 47 discussion groups that led to an agenda for action that was still in place 3 years later. Homelessness, addictions treatement, improved child welfare practices, increased community governance over services and fighting child prostitution have all been issues that have been at the centre of the activity that has taken place since then. ChrisCorrigan?
- In northern British Columbia in March 2002, two career fairs were held in Open Space with nearly 100 First Nations youth. The youth posted topics about issues that impact their future, and invited mentors from a wide variety of fields posted offerings introducing youth to careers in the military, social services, law, resource industries, information technology and post secondary education among others. ChrisCorrigan?
- In Octobver 2001, 250 Aboriginal youth gathered in Open Space together with federal and provincial senir officials from every province in Canada to update the National Aboriginal Youth Strategy. They proposed 45 discussion groups and prioritized six areas for action. The recommendations were presented by the youth the the federal and provincial ministers responsible for youth and were accepted as the basis for a renewed strategy. ChrisCorrigan?
- A Health Services office at a major Canadian university used Open Space Technology to bring together faculty members and leaders from a variety of disciplines including medicine, dentistry, social work, nursing and physiotherapy to discuss the future of health services education focussing on patient needs rather than disciplinary distinctions. The gathering helped to clarify a number of issues and led to a great cooperation between faculties as they pursued a scenario of creating a joint faculty of health services. ChrisCorrigan?
- On Bowen Island, a small island near Vancouver, Canada, an Open Space event looking at the future of Bowen in the year 2042 attracted 30 community members who discussed what they valuied so much about their island and what it would take to live sustainably well into the future. Within a month of the meeting a Trust had been set up to lobby and raise money for the protection of the last parcel of undeveloped and privately held wilderness on the Island, a piece of land teeming with unique ecosystems and valued by islanders for it's role as a place to renew the spirit. ChrisCorrigan?
- In 1998 Parks Canada used Open Space to bring together its entire administrative staff in a retreat to discuss issues and opportunities related to transition from being a government department to becoming a government agency. 120 people gathered in a park centre in central Manitoba and hashed out dozens of issues related to the transition, preparing them for the upheaval that was to envelop the department March 1999 when the transition took place. The retreat dealt with immediate issues but also took the long view, and several years later issues that were dealt with in the retreat were only beginning to arise, and yet none of these were surprises to those who had anticipated them in Open Space. ChrisCorrigan?
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