Inviting the World We Want

Two years ago I worked with Phil Cubeta and some others to create something we called The Giving Conference. Since then, at least two Omidyar Network member conferences, something called Recent Changes Camp, staff meetings in Rio de Janeiro, and a bunch of other things have happened as results. Now there are conferences trying to happen in Thailand and Chicago.

Phil offered the following in the Thailand planning thread. This is why my facilitation of Open Space Technology is morphing into a larger practice of Inviting Leadership.

…the secret to a good open space is the invitation and also the invitation list. “Whoever comes are the right people,” but be sure to invite the right people. Go for broke would be my suggestion. Go for significant potential funders, political leaders, media, civic leaders, nonprofit professionals, thought leaders, moral leaders and religious leaders. Ask yourself who can convene these networks. Go to those “mavens” and enlist their support in not only emailing or writing the key people, but actively and personally inviting them.

The real work of open space is in networking networks together. That has to be done as the pre-work before the invitation goes out. In fact, the invitation will be drafted and redrafted, negotiated if you will, by each of the co-conveners as they insert phrases of important to their networks.

Michael Herman and I did this together three years ago for the Open Space on Giving. Our invitation was ultimately gibberish, because so many people pulled it in so many directions as a precondition of their inviting their networks. But the revision process led to their buy-in; and their personal invitation, not the words used, but their willingness to invite people over the phone, is what got the key players there. So treat the words as flypaper. Get key mavens stuck in the glue. The more they struggle with the the words the more involved they become, until the exact words no longer matter.

Phil and I worked by email two years ago, and lots of phone time. We traded 37 different drafts, many of them major revisions, of the invitation. We went round and round with words, but around a core purpose: Giving. And that is what’s been sustained and sustaining everything since then, that core purpose, in so many different languages. It’s just great to see so many ripples from something so simple as one short “invitation.”