During the meeting people are invited to form mixed work groups and participate in a workshop or studio, within a given framework. Everyone is given the opportunity to show their personal talents and gain new experiences. The work climate is characterized by openness, commitment, shared responsibility and self-coaching, with room for dialogue and the exchange of experiences in an informal yet inspiring atmosphere. On average, the various workshops take about an hour, after which the pieces of work that have been created can be presented on a central spot. If so desired, the work can be elucidated or commented upon by others.

Open Space Workshops are based on seven basic principles:

  1. 1. Whoever comes are always the right people
    2. Whatever happens is for the good.
    3. (Weather) conditions should be taken for what they are.
    4. The composition of the groups is determined by chance.
    5. Everyone may start whenever they feel like it.
    6. Everyone may stop whenever they think it is time to.
    7. Everyone is free to move around as they like.

Whoever comes are always the right people.
In the invitation phase, as many candidates as possible receive a letter inviting them to participate in the Open Space Workshop. Interest may be enhanced through an appealing mailing or poster campaign. Creating a certain tension or expectations in the preliminary phase increases the chance of a large turnout and proves the ones who stay at home wrong.

Whatever happens is for the good.
In consultation with the client and with assistants within the organisation a number of open workshops are presented. This course of action is not chosen to realize premeditated products or projects, but to get e process going in which all participants inspire one another to achieve a certain result, drawing frequently upon the collective memory and the (hidden) talents an skills that are present in each team.

(Weather) conditions should be taken for what they are.
According to the wishes and objectives of the Open Space workshop, an appropriate date is chosen and an appropriate location booked. Ultimately, the mood and the setting of the workshop will be influenced by all kinds of conditions. Whether the workshops are successful or not need not depend on the weather or the ambiance, however. One gets the weather one deserves and a good atmosphere is only created by the people involved.

The composition of the groups is determined by chance.
To get a large group of participants going and prevent cliques from forming, a random division into workable teams is made. Upon arrival, everyone is issued a badge at random with a text or colour indicating which team they belong to. Subsequently, large boards indicate with which workshop each group will start and from then on, people are referred to each successive item on the programme. Some groups will develop strong bonds, others may fall apart because team members quit and join another group. Anyone is free to choose.

Everyone may start whenever they feel like it.
None of the participants know in advance what is going to happen ­ nor can they anticipate the situation. Some of them may have expected something completely different, hoping for a sports day or a trip to a theme park. Other may show a rigid attitude: 'I wasn't hired for this, was I..?' and need more time to get acclimatized. Allow them some time to adjust; the supervisors will frequently encourage them to join in anyway and be loyal members of the group.

Everyone may stop whenever they think it is time to.
In most workshops the participants do unusual things and show unfamiliar sides of themselves in ways they are not used to. The aim is to create a stimulating work atmosphere in which people go from one surprise to the next, but surpass themselves and each other frequently as well. Not everyone has the same tension arc, however; at times one just runs out of energy. People tend to feel they are judged personally on their individual piece of work or their own commitment. Everyone should be accepted as they are and be free to decide when 'it' is ready.

Everyone is free to move around as they like.
As stated before, you have the right to move around as you like. If you feel you have landed in a situation from which you cannot learn anything or to which you cannot contribute anything: use your own two feet to walk to a more appropriate place. Feel free to walk around to look and discuss what is going on in other groups and join in when you like it. This way, participants take ideas and experiences from one group to another, which leads to cross-fertilization.

Open Space Workshop? 

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