MH WorkSpace
Main Website


WorkSpace | OpenSpaceTechnology | RecentChanges | Preferences | Random | Index | Search

Open Space Technology: A User's NON-Guide

What follows here is an overview of OST: A User's NON-Guide, a community-authored companion to OST: A User's Guide by Harrison Owen. The NON-Guide was discovered and compiled by MichaelHerman and ChrisCorrigan? in late 2001, early 2002.

The introduction, contents, and authors list can be viewed on this page. The full text (110 pages) and other publications are downloadable from here: OpenSpaceTechnology/DownloadPublications. It takes about two minutes on a 56K dial-up connection (888K).

Scroll down for Introduction, Contents, and list of 37 authors...


Like Open Space itself, this document was discovered, not designed. Its 37 unwitting authors are a small slice of the hundreds whose email writing and community learning fills the OSLIST online archive, which itself holds but half of more than 10 years of dialogue. Which is to say that this is only the tiniest excerpt of what has been going on, around the world, online and elsewhere, for a very long time.

The discovery and publication of this rich little taste is offered here in support of the worldwide conversation and practitioner community that is Open Space Technology. Paired with Harrison Owen's Open Space Technology, A User's Guide, it seems to form a simple, powerful springboard for trainings, workshops and practice groups. Unlike the Guide, however, this Non-Guide doesn't tell you how to 'do' it. What you'll find here are clues and support for the non-doing.

In this way, this Non-Guide is an invitation to go deeper... to invite, to experiment, to reflect and to invite again, deeper and deeper, organizing for yourself(ves) as you go. As you'll see, it's all about the self-organizing spirit that is manifesting everywhere in organizations that work, in open space.

And, yes, it's just a conversation... but how does it stir you?

As a community, we describe Open Space Technology (OST) in many ways: the energy of a good coffee break, the art of finding one more thing to NOT do, an invitation to maximize learning and contribution, and a simple, powerful way to raise spirit and catalyze self-organization. For more about OST, see Appendix A, but for now, suffice it to say that our online practitioner conversations have been all about all of this, and more.

OST practitioners have been learning together in online conversation since at least 1991. The OSLIST email listserve, as currently configured, has been around since 1996. At the time of these conversations, there were more than 300 people participating in that conversation, on at least six continents. We have included, as an appendix, our FAQ (frequently asked questions) document, which is updated and mailed to the list every couple of months. It presents the 'state of the list' at the time these conversations took place in late 2001, early 2002. It will give a bit more specific background on OST, the OSLIST and other online resources. It's also a seed document, of sorts, as other OS listserve communities are being born in local regions and in languages like Spanish, Russian and Haitian Creole.

The material in this particular document was collected from roughly two months of online conversations, after several of us noticed that perhaps a dozen or more threads all seemed to fit together. As we said, discovered not constructed. And in bringing this material forward for you, we have done virtually no editing, beyond the (relatively) simple, careful splicing together of many threads and branches into a single stream. Taken together, it seems to cover much of what we would want to see included in a training or workshop conversation for advanced practitioners.

Our hunch is that the combination of Harrison Owen's User's Guide and this community-generated Non-Guide gives new practitioner groups everything they need to begin their exploration of the deep spirit and technical practices that are Open Space Technology. We think these conversations about spirit and self-organization do much to support the spirit that is self-organization, everywhere. Maybe they will, maybe they won't -- but this our hope and our experiment.

Like Open Space itself, this material is offered free of charge, for your use and creativity, with one simple request... that you come back to share the stories of how you're using it and what you're learning. Visit and click "OSLIST" to join the worldwide, online, open space conversation or simply email any one of the authors directly.

And, yes, it's all just conversation... until it stirs us into action. So many thanks to Harrison and the rest of our colleagues on the OSLIST, for all the good conversing and all the good action that is coming of it around the world. Pour the tea, settle back in your chair, and let's go...

Michael Herman and Chris Corrigan
January, 2002

Table of Contents

Introduction 4
Self-Organization: Spirit Meets Science 6
Hunting and Gathering 16
Self-Organization: An Indian Perspective 22
The Theology of Self-Organization 27
Free-Will and Mediation 29
OST and Meditation 34
More Self-Organization 38
Open Space and Other Methods 45
The Spirit of Letting Go 52
The Meaning of Storytelling 60
Transforming Education 62
Self-Organization, Spirit ...and Invitation 72
Holding Space in Conflict 76
Phoenix Rising 92
Self-Healing in Communities 98
A Blessing 104
APPENDIX B: Books and Websites 111

Authors, in order of appearance

Birgitt Williams, North Carolina, USA
Harrison Owen, Maryland, USA
Larry Peterson, Ontario, Canada
Winston Kinch, Ontario, Canada
Tim Sullivan, British Columbia, Canada
Nino Novak, Germany
Kenoli Oleari, California, USA
Chris Corrigan, Bowen Island, BC Canada
J. Paul Everett, Washington, USA
Joelle Lyons Everett, Washington, USA
Jeff Aitken, California, USA
Prasad Kaipa, California and India:
Michael Herman, Chicago, USA
Reinhard Kuchenmueller, Germany
Jim Metcalf, Ontario, Canada
Julie Smith, Alaska, USA
Judi Richardson, Nova Scotia, Canada
Glory Ressler, Ontario Canada
John Engle, Haiti
Michael M Pannwitz, Berlin, Germany
Ralph Copleman, New Jersey, USA
Artur Silva, Portugal
Fr Brian Bainbridge, Melbourne, Aust.
Florian Fisher, Berlin, Germany
Meg Salter, Ontario, Canada
Peggy Holman, Washington, USA
Michael Molenaar, Tilburg, Holland
Toni Petrinovich, Washington, USA
Eric Lilius, Ontario Canada
Eiwor Backelund, Sweden
Chris Weaver, North Carolina, USA
Denis Hitchens, Australia
Tova Averbuch, Israel
Ken West, California, USA
Naomi Kahane, Quebec, Canada
Bernhard Weber, Austria & Mozambique
Robert Chaffe, Victoria, Australia

WorkSpace | OpenSpaceTechnology | RecentChanges | Preferences | Random | Index | Search
This page is read-only | View other revisions
Last edited February 26, 2006 4:41 pm CentralTimeUSA by MichaelHerman
© 1998-2020 Michael Herman and, unless signed by another author or organization. Please do not reprint or distribute for commercial purposes without permission and full attribution, including web address and this copyright notice. Permission has always been granted gladly to those who contact me and say something about themselves, their work, and their use of these materials. Thank you and good luck! - Michael