What is Open Space Technology ?
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Examples of Open Space meetings
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Four principles and a Law

  • whoever comes are the right people
  • whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
  • whenever it starts is the right time
  • when it’s over, it’s over
- and one law, the Law of the Two Feet:

If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds him or herself in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.

As a result of this Law, participants who like to hear themselves talk, risk finding themselves alone after 10 minutes …… the others have gone !  Discussions which are not productive enough stop quickly.


OST was first described by Harrison Owen in the 80-’s. Meanwhile there are several thousand facilitators who have been trained to use the method. When he found that participants to a conference he had organised found the coffeebreak by far the most interesting part of the program, he perfected a meeting method where the “coffeebreak” became the key element.

Harrison Owen realized after a conference he had organized, that his participants felt the best part of the conference had been the coffee breaks …….. The really important conversations had happened “in between” the offical program.

The secret of the success of the coffee break lies in the fact that you talk to those you enjoy talking to, about topics you care about, and for as long as it’s interesting enough – and if that’s no longer the case,  you leave ….

OST is a method in which a simple, powerful structure provides a framework in which the “coffeebreak” has been perfected to achieve impressive results.

OST is een methode die de kennis en ervaringen van deelnemers mobiliseert en waarmee grote groepen complexe problemen in 1-3 dagen kunnen oplossen: één dag voor een oplossing in grote lijn, 2-3 wanneer een volledig uitgewerkt, gecoördineerd en realistisch actieplan de doelstelling is.

The capaciteit of organizations and systems is only partially with its leadership: it is usually spread across a large number of persons or stakeholders. The time available to reach a solution is shortening, the need to create a support base for complex solutions and implementation strategies is growing.
For this reason, the popularity of Open Space Technology as a tool to quickly find solutions to complex issues where many are involved, has been rising.


OST is based on the belief that participants will contribute effectively in solving problems, if the problem is clear and important to them, and if there is an “Open Space” to organise themselves within the given framework.

It is based on the notion that participants in the meeting will work energetically and effectively to find solutions, when the challenge is clear and held to be important by all; and a clear framework has been created in which they can organize themselves. All Participants influence the agenda and the end result:
an opportunity as well as a responsibility for all.

Conditions for using OST

Other methods to work with large groups have been developed, and it is important to select the right one. OST is by far the most effective if four conditions are in place - but only then ......:
- there is a clear and important problem/question
- which is complex, either contentwise, there are different views/interests - or both
- the solution is unknown
- there is a certain time pressure.

If these conditionas are not met, select another approach !


There are 3 types of results of OST
- contentwise, all relevant issues are identified and discussed - as many groups work
  in paralel, many can be dealt with in a short time. All conclusions are processed and
  copied to all immediately, which makes follow-up easy and quick
- intensive networking takes place, participants talk to others they normally would not
  connect with
- participants feel very responsable for the results, and motivation and energy to carry
  on are created.

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