Open Space for Rapid Agile Adoption

what happens when agile adoption runs on invitation and self-organization, more like open space? here is an interesting case story

walmart has 4000 core IT employees and another 6000 contractors — and four agile coaches. they’ve gone from 10% agile to 80%+ agile in about 1.5 years. they don’t mandate scrum, XP, kanban, SAFe, etc. they’ve done 30 open space meetings for 300+ people each in about 8 months. until just recently, they considered OS an important competitive advantage and did not speak about it publicly.

when i talked with one of their coaches in an agile learning group, he shared that his SVP keeps asking him “what does the agile store look like?” (they have 11,000 stores). i sketched him a back-of-the-envelope, invitation-based, open space plan to touch all 11,000 stores in a year. he thinks it might take five. (probably we have slightly different done criteria.)

either way, agile in open space looks fast and effective, in IT and beyond. and, of course, this same approach would work with any other enterprise-wide transformation.

Developing Agile Culture in an Agile Way

Tana Linback and Chris Daily told a good story in their presentation to the APLN agile users group meeting last week. They titled their talk “Culture Eats Agile for Breakfast,” meaning the organization’s native culture will always be bigger and more powerful than any agile team or adoption initiative.

The brilliance of what they did, as an IT leader partnered with an HR leader, was to apply an agile approach to culture change. They created a culture change “backlog,” a vision, broken down into goals and then tasks that mirrored the usual Scrum backlog in software development. They created a “culture owner” as the analog to Scrum’s product owner. They formed teams, worked and experimented in sprints, and learned and adapted in retrospectives, and so on. And they seem to have achieved some enviable results, especially as measured by employee engagement surveys where key metrics more than doubled.

That said, I think they missed one deep and important distinction and opportunity: they started from the view that the customers of an organization’s culture are its employees. I think the customers of an organization’s culture is it’s actual customers – anyone who buys their products/services (consumers), plus job candidates AND spouses and families. For each of these groups, culture matters because of what it supports outside of the organization, in the real world. Culture determines what consumers can do with their purchases, what kind of people employees can be when they get home, and what job candidates can achieve if they buy in. This matters because agile and a Scrum backlog must be about delivering value AND because customers, hiring targets, and families are the ultimate arbiters of the value of the organization’s culture.

Once hired in, employees are ALL part of the development team, in Scrum terms. Culture is what we all create and evolve together. To say that employees are the customers of culture, automatically cuts the organization into culture-makers and culture-takers, the latter absolved of responsibility and limited in their ability to contribute to shaping the organization’s culture.

This defeats the point of using Scrum to suggest, and guide work in, self-managing teams. Cultural is a whole piece of work in which all employees are necessarily involved. The ideal to shoot for is having them all engaged in shaping and adapting it. The organization owes all employees, and requires of all employees, an active membership on the culture development team, continually learning and adapting together – not a finished “culture” product produced and delivered by a small, select, or senior team.

Tana and Chris described their ultimate result in terms of high engagement and widespread self-organization in their organization’s culture development work, exactly what you’d want and expect. So my comment is really about the way they tell the story, and how we might approach it from the beginning in other enterprises, rather than about the quality of their work.

The common experience is that corporate communications gets the story exactly perfect and the whole thing falls down in practice. This would seem to be just the opposite, where the story was a little bit off, but good results were borne out by sound practice.

Join the meetup group for their presentation.

OpenSpace Agility

Congratulations to Daniel Mezick and friends, who’ve done some great work to connect invitation, engagement, Open Space and Agile software development.  The OpenSpace Agility Handbook, v.2.0 has just hit the shelves at Amazon.  This is practical, powerful stuff – for every kind of change in any kind of organization.

OpenSpace Agility™ is a repeatable technique for getting a rapid, genuine and lasting Agile adoption. OpenSpace Agility can be used to effectively introduce any kind of change into any kind of organization. It works with what you are currently doing, and can be added at any time.

OpenSpace Agility encourages very high levels of human engagement. It incorporates the power of invitation, iteration, Open Space, game mechanics, passage rites, storytelling and more…so that real and authentic change in your organization can actually take root.

The Open Space meeting format is a primary tool of OpenSpace Agility. The OpenSpace Agility method leverages the amazing power of iteration and the Open Space meeting format to help you get genuine and lasting success with your Agile adoption program.

With this handbook, you will learn how implement the OpenSpace Agility method. You’ll learn about how invitation, iteration, Open Space, game mechanics, passage rites, executive storytelling (and more) can be used to achieve a rapid and lasting Agile adoption. Inside this book, you’ll find specific, actionable step-by-step guidance on implementing the method. You will discover:

  • Why people power the Agile practices, not the other way around
  • Why engagement is an essential ingredient in any successful Agile adoption
  • How invitation increases engagement, passion and responsibility
  • How to immediately put the OpenSpace Agility method to work … in your organization

Online Conference Report

The most remarkable thing about the four-day, online Open Space conference I ran with Lucas Cioffi at last week is how strongly it replicated what so many of us have experienced in face-to-face open space meetings and events.  See the complete proceedings document here. From my Summary…

The intention was to extend and expand the best of the Organization Transformation symposium (where OST started), Open Space on Open Space, and OSLIST and support the sharing of all manner of practices, innovations and learnings. The invitation was to bring forth what’s been working – and learn together how to make more of it…

The plan was simple: Invite the world. Do three Openings, with start times spaced evenly around the clock, around the world, each one followed immediately by a Discussion Session with multiple breakouts possible. Then twelve more Discussion rounds evenly spaced over forty-eight hours. Finally, we’d close with a series of three Closing Circles, starting eight hours apart in our fourth day. All sessions were scheduled for two hours, space evenly across all time zones. We didn’t know if we’d have four, forty or four hundred participants…

The invitation went out just about a month before the start of the event. Forty-five participants were registered by the first Opening and sixty by the first Closing. Together, they created, managed and documented 22 working/learning sessions to address their most important issues and situations. The live action was a rich mix of voices and faces, participating by phone and computer, audio and video, reading and typing, link and file sharing. Notes were taken in a Collaborative Notes tool available in every breakout session. The Openings and Closings, and really the entire event, unfolded in ways remarkably similar to how face-to-face gatherings do. We made several important technical adaptations to the platform, and how we used it along the way, each time making it even more like face-to-face gatherings…

The conference agenda wall and proceedings document were open for public viewing throughout the event, and remain open at

Virtual Open Space on Opening (All Kinds of) Space

Please join us for an experiment I’ve been working to organize…

Inviting Community, Sharing Learnings, Evolving Practice
Everywhere, July 8-11th or 9-12th (depending on where you are)

Conference Schedule | QiqoChat Platform and Registration | Questions

We have learned so much about bringing people together. We have imagined, invited, and unleashed. We are agile and appreciative, artful and improvisational. Our media is social, our networks are linked, and upstart movements can have national and international effects. We mix the newest technologies and the oldest human patterns. We work on peace AND high performance, passion and purpose, sharing and storytelling. We focus on what’s working, why it works, and how we can make more of it.

So what? And now what? The world is under pressure, in every time zone, maybe like never before – socially, politically, economically, environmentally, spiritually. Everywhere, complexity, diversity, real and potential conflict, and urgent needs are more obvious than ever. What is the opportunity here? What is our responsibility? What are the possibilities – and the practices that are working now – where you are? Full Invitation

Immersion eclipses engagement

Paul Levy told me this week that a group of young people in Brighton UK are using open space in something called “creating our future.” It looks a lot like open space, but the invitations that are issued for their gatherings are apparently, intentionally, and invitingly rough. Then they are openly edited by anyone who’s thinking about attending. Effectively, the whole conversation about what the invitation should be IS the invitation. And it’s not over until the people start to gather which is to say that it’s not over until it really just begins. Brilliant. Inviting inviting itself. Immersion eclipses engagement.

Free Speech, Free Listening

This is a remarkable little experiment with huge implications and potential. Lucas Cioffi took some dining room chairs down to the local pedestrian mall, put signs on the back offering “Free Speech,” reminiscent of Fran Peavey’s travels and invitation as “American willing to listen.”

When Lucas wondered if he shouldn’t add more rules or guidance to shape the dialogues that have emerged, I said I didn’t think so. Though as he had already used signs and the phrase “Free Speech,” I suggested “Free Listening” would be a powerful addition to the signs. The combination of the two, right and responsibility, seems like robust and complete guidance for these small groups, all the way up to our federal government.

Prime Moment for OS?

Daniel Mezick’s been doing with what he calls the Prime/OS™ approach, where two Open Space meetings bookend a 100-days period of intense experimenting, to create a rite of passage process in support of transformation in organization. Prime/OS is a generalization of his Open Agile Adoption practice, wherein the “transformation” being achieved is the understanding and embrace of Agile software development. Daniel’s approach effectively broadens and deepens the Inviting center of Open Space. This Agile Coaching Institute points to the needs served by Daniel’s approach:

…Many companies are responding to the turbulence of today’s world by adopting agile development in their product and service delivery. And for good reason: Agile provides well-­‐tested practices and frameworks that improve a company’s speed, customer satisfaction, and quality of delivery.

As many organizations are finding, however, Agile’s focus on team delivery alone is not enough. Consider a recent Version One 2013 “State of Agile” survey: respondents cited “inability to change organizational culture” and “general resistance to change” (at 54% and 42% respectively) as the two largest barriers to sustainable agile adoption.

These two issues have nothing to do with agile delivery methods per se. More and more, companies are already quite good at the nuts and bolts of agile team delivery. What they lack are new skills and practices at the management and organizational level to create an overall environment of agility…

The paper goes on to describe a “Sense and Respond” approach to leadership that fits well with what I called “Post and Host,” way back in 1998. Like my Inviting Organization story, they also rely on Ken Wilber’s work.

The Agile Leader, by Michael Hamman and Michael K. Spayd, Agile Coaching Institute.

Short OS for 400?

“We have a group of 400 people. We want to use Open Space. We have 90 mins or maybe up to 2 hours. How would that work?”

My short answer? “Not very well!” With many groups, especially that large, we’d normally take the first 90 minutes of 2 or 3 days to create the agenda for the whole program.

My better answer? A Lean/OS/Cafe.

The first alternative to OS that came to mind in this situation was a World Cafe sort of program, small groups meeting and mixing, through several rounds of pre-determined questions. The next iteration was something I’ve done before, where the first Cafe question is something like, “What are the most important questions for us to be thinking and talking about?” This effectively makes all the table tops into the equivalent of the marketplace wall where topics are posted in Open Space.

The most interesting and promising design springs from this modified OS/Cafe approach, with inspiration and a little logistics borrowed from something called Lean Coffee. The Lean technique is most commonly used with small groups, almost like a one-table Open Space where issues are identified and then the top one or few are addressed in order of importance, as determined by voting.

The Lean/OS/Cafe design envisions 40 tables of 10, perhaps with an extra chair at each table to facilitate some moving about. It starts with each table identifying a set of issues that’s most important for our participants, based on their context and purpose for gathering. At each table, the top issues are identified, posted up on a little table tent, and discussion begins.

In the opening briefing, participants are given the right and responsibility to participate at their table, or move about and find new table(s) where they can maximize their own learning and contribution to the overall purpose and question. Harvest all the issues raised, those chosen for discussion, any notes that might be taken for sharing, and as many closing comments as their might be time for.

And so, Lean/OS/Cafe was born, to tap the expansive spirit, personal freedom and sense of ownership that are characteristic of Open Space, with a dash of the quickness of Lean Coffee and intimacy of World Cafe.

Lean Coffee

For years I’ve been doing and suggesting others try running small meetings in a style informed by open space. The approach is simple: invite the people into some purpose (even if it’s the weekly staff or team meeting), show up for the meeting, create the agenda (issues and issue owners), and then just start picking off the issues, one by one. Choose the most important ones, the easiest ones, the most complex, according to group preferences, informally polled. Sometimes we’ve created two agendas by tagging some issues for “whole group” and others for “anyone who cares.” The latter sessions are then run in parallel, more true to open space, rather than in series with the whole group’s attention.

The way I understand it, Lean Coffee, a marriage of Kanban and Open Space (the coffee), adds timeboxes to the process, which apparently keeps the work clicking along and engagement high. The group votes more formally on which issues to discuss. Each discussion gets a 5-7 minute timebox and the potential to be voted into a 2-3 minute extension of that. If conversations need to continue, they can spin off into a separate table. Usually this would be done with a group small enough to sit around a single table, cafe or conference room size, and the whole affair might last 60-90 minutes. It’s guided by two Kanban principles: visualizing the work agenda (on a tabletop or in an shared online posting tool for virtual coffees) and limiting the work in progress at any one time. Use for learning community meetings, agile retrospectives, and quick status checks in community meetings or other working groups. Online tabletop tool options include trello, etherpad, hackpad, and google docs. Harvesting takeaways at the end is one option for closing.

Thanks to Harold Shinsato for this learning.

Short Open Space inside Larger Meeting?

I answer a lot of open space design questions, mostly about departures from standard practice. Here’s one from a recent email exchange, about doing a small/short open space inside a larger meeting/group:

…great that you’re reading the [ost] user’s guide [by harrison owen]. You’ve got too small a time slot to do anything but confuse people if you call what you’re doing “Open Space” but it’s very fair to tell them that you’d like to invite them into a process that’s *informed* by OST. That said, the things to focus on are the basic mechanisms… invitation, circle, bulletin board (post what’s most important), marketplace (room to move around and make choices for themselves), personal passion and responsibility for maximizing their own learning and contributing.

Forget about everything else, like going around and having everyone introduce themselves. If you ask what’s most important to everyone, what they want to be sure to discuss and address with some of the others who’ve gathered with you, read those out with their names, and post them on the wall — the group has done exactly that usual going around exercise, focusing on those folks most likely to take the lead (cuz they already have). Also, since you’ve appeared to ignore doing this obvious going around exercise, everyone will do some tiny version of that in their breakouts, all by themselves. No need for you to impose it on them and slow the beginning of the work. I say this as just one example of all the other things to NOT do.

Oh, and just have fun with it. As long as you don’t call it “Open Space Technology” (complete with drumroll), then it doesn’t “have to” be anything… it can just be a process that you cooked up, informed by, inspired by, OST. Simplest process that could possible work… for your meeting, at this moment.

Devoted and Disgruntled, an Open Space Roadshow

Improbable Road Movie from Improbable on Vimeo.

Here is a fantastic video made about an “open space roadshow” put on by Improbable Theatre Company in the UK, led by friend and colleague Phelim McDermott. Their theme was “Devoted and Disgruntled” and it all began as a single event seeking to rekindle the “community” in “the London theatre community.”

The roadtrip that emerged ended with Wosonos 2012 (World Open Space on Open Space practitioners’ conference) last year. This year they also did a mini roadshow so in all D&D Roadshow has done over 30 different open spaces nationwide in the last year and a half! Over 800 individual intertagged breakout session reports about theatre issues are posted online.

This particular video pulled together footage from three events, plus WOSonOS, but it’s more about Open Space than about theatre. This sort of open space roadshow could be replicated on any issue, in any sector or community, anywhere.

what makes open space training work?

a question came up today, on the OSLIST, about the design of open space training programs, and what the leader could do to make them “work.” this was my contribution to that conversation:

thinking back on the trainings i’ve attended, hosted, designed, and led, the single most important criteria is not what we as ‘trainers’ or ‘teachers’ bring. rather, just like in any other open space (cuz what we’re really doing is just opening a space for learning and exploration of open space itself), so just like any other open space, the thing that matters is the complexity, diversity, urgency and passion that comes in with the participants.

to increase or at least encourage these things, i used to ask early and often for them to bring real situations to work on and wrestle with. then during the sessions, it seems important to keep looking for those situations… not only where “ost” might be used in a meeting, but where each participant may have encountered open space somewhere else in their lives. open space is. and we find ourselves casting about in it from time to time.

how have we handled those times? how can we understand and learn from our responses to those moments? when have we been able to do nothing but “be with” one or more others in their work or even suffering? and as we turn these stones over, the thing we do is help folks understand that it’s all part of normal life, rather than something to be fixed, avoided or otherwise controlled. so we don’t so much as teach open space, but suggest that it’s normal, and useful… then it’s easier to deal with some of those complex, diverse, urgent, passionate meeting situations.

for a while i led training programs with others, and soon found myself callling them “practice workshops” and “practice retreats,” inviting as actively as possible participants to step across the line, between observing open space and actually diving in, or noticing that it is indeed everywhere around them. for some years, the way i’ve extended this is to give up the ‘program’ altogether and work one-on-one with people who want to learn the practice. that’s what i ended up doing inside the ‘program’ anyway.

my one requirement in the one-on-one work is that people bring one or more real situations, so that i can point out the many options and they can make real choices between those options. i think they learn the options better when they examine them all in the face of choosing one. so next time, they will again have all the options to consider, and perhaps choose differently because the situation is different. but mostly what this does is maximize the concentration of “reality” and minimize the spectating and ungrounded theorizing that sometimes bubbles up in training conversations.

the most important condition for learning open space would seem to be a willingness to be in it, in work, in life. if students are willing to make that leap: learning happens.

successful leadership cafe

the open space approach is best known for inviting meeting participants to craft their own agenda by taking personal responsiblity for issues they care about. the “world cafe” approach to “conversations that matter” is characterized by larger groups gathering in few-somes around bistro tables for several short rounds of conversation. usually there are several rounds, with table-mixing in between each, addressing a series of questions. sometimes the ever-shifting groups take successively deeper cuts on the same basic question.

last weekend we did something a bit different.

we hosted 100 scholarship finalists (high school seniors) and another 20 scholarship recipient students and alumni, in four rounds of conversations, each lasting 25-30 minutes, in a 20-table cafe. we had several purposes to accomplish. we wanted to promote the two hosting universities, give finalists a good taste of what it would be like to be part of this leadership scholars community, have conversations that mattered so that they would be genuine and useful (even to those who didn’t win the scholarships), and finally, this was still part of gathering data for evaluation and selection of scholarship winners.

the process

in the first round, we did something rather like open space. the question was, essentially, “what are the question(s)? or what should they be?” the task for each table was to generate a list of questions about leadership, community, how the world is, and how it should be. we asked, “what do young people know that nobody else seems to be noticing? what questions you are already living in, caring about and looking for ways to do something about? what questions do young people need to address on the way to leadership? what questions are you wrestling with and want to raise with your peers? what questions must young people raise in the organizations and communities you come from?” during this round, i went from table to table with a small tray, noticing progress and clearing away the last bits of box lunch trash. this round and three subsequent rounds lasted 25-30 minutes each.

in round two, each table chose one person to stay on at that table, and choose one question from their table’s list for the next round of discussion at that table. everybody else changed tables and twenty different, but important, conversations sprang up. notes were taken on flipchart paper, one sheet per table.

in round three, a new host stayed put while everyone else moved. the new host chose a new question, from the questions list at that table, from the list at their original table, or they could choose to recap and continue the previous conversation with new tablemates. again, 20 different conversations sprung up, as i pulled and posted the session two notes from each table. where a topic was continued, the group often kept their old notes for reference.

in round four, we changed hosts and tables as before, and asked one person from each new table to visit the snacks table, bringing some of everything to their tablemates. we also asked that the questions be chosen and conversations proceed with special emphasis on taking action in the next year or so, the first year of campus life.

at the end of that round, we invited everyone to turn toward the center, creating so many loosely concentric circles, sort of one big huddle. the task for the next 30-40 minutes was proposed as a whole-group conversation about “what happened here? what did you see, hear, feel, think, …notice? what did you learn? what do you want to remember or do as a result of what happened here today?”

as a finishing exercise, everyone was asked to reflect and write briefly on two questions… “what will you remember or do as a result of these conversations?” and “who were the 2 or 3 people who were most important to your experience today?” in this way, all of the scholarship finalists were included in the evaluation and selection process.

results …and replication

the individual tables buzzed through each round and i thought the plenary was remarkable for the level of ownership, engagement, and the genuine sense of community that had emerged. days later, my client confirmed a resounding success. turns out that several university and scholarship groups, and even some of the participating students, are eager to replicate what we did. the notes from each round will be shared with all participants, as fodder for reference and replication.

having a room full of “high potential” scholarship-seeking youth certainly didn’t hurt the quality of the conversation, but judging by what i’ve seen youth do in other places, this sort of competition is not the essential element for success. i’d expect any replications to meet with similar success, and the absence of the competition would allow for some tweaking of things like the evaluative writing task, which could become more of a moment of recognition, thanks and appreciation.

opening space for appreciative inquiry — and peace — in nepal and its government

romy shovelton emailed today, from her farm in wales, asking about mixing open space and appreciative inquiry. it turns out i have a pretty good story of such mixing, from grassroots to new national government, that i’d been meaning to update here.

on my third visit to nepal, i helped convene and facilitate a third open space event there, this one a first national summit for peaceful development. the first two meetings were a classroom presentation/demonstration of open space technology, for about 20 students and faculty at kathmandu college. the second was a city-wide event, organized on the success and with the skills gained in the first session, looking at the 20-year future of kathmandu.

at this second event, i made a point of having side conversations with as many of the 40 participants as i could, suggesting that we might do 4 days the following year, two days of open space, followed by two days of ost training. this was a model we’d used elsewhere and i thought it could give the depth of experience needed to accomplish the things that were being discussed for the next 20 years in kathmandu.

when i contacted my colleagues about returning for a third visit, they began organizing the event we’d discussed the previous year, with some important changes. it was to be four days, but it would be national in scope. it would be held in open space, but it would be based also on AI principles and the 4-D process. it would include training, as well, on both ost and ai.

i never would have believed it was possible, but my nepali colleagues never thought otherwise. so we did four one-day open space events, one on each of the four D’s, the first one shortened by opening speeches, the last one shortened by a grand closing ceremony that included gifts and acknowledgements and official thank yous in addition to the usual comments in a circle. the middle days opened with ost training observations and closed with evening sessions on how to do AI. we also started a blog that they used for several years.

since then they have had second, third and fourth national summits, sometimes in open space, sometimes with appreciative inquiry facilitated by ai originator, david cooperrider.

along the way, in the midst of the sometimes violent maoist resistance, a 6000(?)-year old landmark gate was destroyed in an explosion that also destroyed part of one of the organizers’ homes. the village where this happened was devastated by the loss, but this organizer emailed me almost immediately, saying that they were planning an open space to talk about rebuilding gate. i don’t know if that event ever formally happened, but having it there as a possibility in such a moment is surely worth something.

and now, after a fifth summit event just held in january, this one also in open space, and run totally on their own, without outside facilitators or consultants, they are planning a sixth national summit — this one for the 601 members of the soon-to-be-elected “constituent assembly” that is the budding solution to more than a decade of political, sometimes armed, in-fighting, and the governmental structure that will replace the ages-old nepali monarchy. the sixth summit will seek to infuse the new government with open space and appreciative inquiry.

Campaign by Invitation

In Sweden last week, I met Brad Blanton, author of five books on Radical Honesty and independent candidate, in Virginia, for US Congress. How about that for a leap… radical honesty in Congress!

What’s more, he’s campaigning by invitation, similarly to how I proposed it in April. He’s held five world cafe’s to bring voters together to talk about issues.

These aren’t traditional candidate-on-stage town hall meetings. He sits in one of the small group (3-5 people) clusters as one of 100 or more participants. He shares the notes with all participants, uses the output to craft his platform, and encourages connections that he hopes and expects will out-live his campaign – win or lose.

We may yet have real democracy in these United States… if he’d only tell the story of these events on his website.

Opening Space for No Mind

No Mind Festival, that is. Last week we put together a nice little design for a series of Spaces to be opened as part of the No Mind Festival in Angsbacka, Sweden next month, for 600-1000 participants. Registration is open to all!

The first week of the Festival, July 7-13, is the tenth annual, with a theme of “Celebrating Life”. This year they’ve asked me to run the second week mostly in Open Space, July 15-21. The theme for the week is “Living Our Gifts.”

The (rough draft) design is rather unique and runs like this…

On the evening of the first full day of the conference, we’ll do the first of four openings, setting the agenda for each of three breakout sessions the following day. The first three rounds of this will be on three sub-themes that are still being crafted, each articulated along the lines of “Inviting _____ “.

The last of the four sessions, will be a sort of Open Space on Open Space, the theme of which will be “Inviting Leadership”. This theme will let us do some brief teaching and noticing about what Open Space is, how it works, and invite people to consider the implications and possibilities for using it elsewhere, after the Festival. The nature of Inviting Leadership also generalizes away from Open Space, so to include all the other methods and views and approaches that will percolate around the Open Space sessions all week.

In making the distinction between the Open Space sessions and the pre-determined sessions, we thought about it in terms of viscosity. The pre-planned sessions are a little bit thicker, more viscous. The OS sessions, a bit more fluid. This helped us find the edges of each, with the pre-planned structures ultimately containing the OS sessions, like oil caps the water underneath it in a bottle.

Because the whole of the Festival runs on the contributions of 150 volunteers, willing invitees, we articulated the edge between the OS and other sessions in terms of time: the Invited festival is everything already invited and established, the Inviting festval is the OS part, the fresh, growing, edge of the invitation, where the structure is still taking shape.

Inviting Philanthropy

Chris Weaver shared a bit of his model for “State of Grace Philanthropy” today, by email. His approach focuses on projects and retreats and leads to “State of Grace” documents for sustained project funding and action — all of which got me thinking about my own model for what I might call Inviting Philanthropy. What follows is distilled from my work on Small Change News over the last two years, since the Giving Conference which Phil Cubeta recently summarized.

First, philanthropy is about love, care, and people. We might generalize to include all beings. We might acknowledge current use and practice and allow that it now means something about money and resouces, action and results. Inviting Philanthropy is about all of that.

Next, the basic model. Start with some people with projects, and also some people with funding. These can be all from one project or issue area, or a diverse group. Projects and funding at any level are okay, what matters is passion and a willingness to commit. Recognize that the project people have some money, and the money people have some ideas about projects. Ask everyone to write the answer to four questions, providing whatever one-on-one coaching is needed in order for them to articulate:

  • What do I want (to see in the world)?
  • What do I have to offer now?
  • What do I need to move forward?
  • What will I do when I get what I need?

Now, invite everyone together, in Open Space, to work on Philanthropic Action: Issues and Opportunities. All manner of caring and commitment are welcome, actively invited. The ticket to enter is that you’ve answered these four questions. Copies of everyone’s 4-part statement are available on a table. In the course of the conversations, people pass out these statements like business cards, and refer to them like we refer to websites… “oh, yes, there’s a bit about that there in my answer to #2.” In this way, what is wanted, what is available, what is needed and what is willing are all mixed together.

In the last segment of the Open Space meeting, imagine Sunday afternoon of a 2-day weekend program, there is an invitation to focus on specific projects that might go forward. The invitation is to merge any number of individual statements into one project statement. Add to that a “State of Grace” spin on things that will help the group ride out any potential conflicts.

Rinse and Repeat. Do this on an ongoing basis, probably quarterly, and allow all of the statements, for individuals and projects, to be updated and shared in a new round of Open Space.

Publish everything, the notes from breakout sessions, the personal statements, the project statements, and especially the project news reports, as things actually get done.

Invite care. Invite coherence. Invite conversation. Invite collaboration. Publish everything and everyone point friends and colleagues to the website, and bring colleagues to the retreats. Inviting Philanthropy.

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