“Open Space” is a technique for running meetings where the participants create and manage the agenda themselves. Sessions can be for between five to 2000 plus people (providing you have a big enough venue). This method is ideal if you want participants to gain ownership of an issue and come up with solutions. Participants agree on the areas of discussion that have importance for them and then take responsibility for facilitating the sessions.
Participants’ are seated on chairs arranged in a circle. There needs to be an overall theme or broad open question, for example, “How can we improve mental fitness in our organisation?” and then participants are invited to suggest sub-topics for discussion. Participants suggest topics for discussion by sticking post it notes on paper situated in the middle of the chairs on the floor or on the wall, which could be called a ‘bulletin board’.
The bulletin board needs to be divided up by ‘market stalls’ and time e.g. you might have 1.5 hours for discussion and allocate 45 mins for each discussion thus 2 discussions per market stall. Another area is set up close by – with several breakout spaces. Once the topics are agreed, participants will move to this area and move from one discussion to another so that they can contribute or listen to different discussions in a fluid way. This is known as the ‘market place’.
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