1. Whoever comes are the right people.

If 50 people or just one person come to a session, then that is the right number. If nobody shows up, then that is also the right number. This is not a popularity contest!

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.

Open Space is not based on what should happen but builds on what can happen when people come together with passion and commitment to work a common issue. Your expectations about specific outcomes may not be met and things may turn out differently than you had hoped. Whatever happens is right because it is the result of the level of choice, passion and commitment of those participating.

3. Whenever it starts is the right time.

You will know when the session has begun. It will just happen.

4. When it is over it is over.

Similarly, you will know when it is over. You may have scheduled an hour's session but after 30 minutes it feels complete. If that is the case, then declare the session over and move on to something else. People will make the choice to stay or not. The only possible conflict could be finishing in time for the large group session which concludes each day which everyone is asked to attend."

The Law of Two Feet.

This means that you choose where you want to be and for how long during the day by voting with your feet. If you are in a group where you don't feel that you are getting what you want or can contribute what you have to offer, then move somewhere else.  Some people prefer to stay in one session from beginning to end, others tend to move from group to group ("butterflies" and "bumblebees") . All are important and contribute to the process. The "bumble-bees" who move from group to group bring insights and ideas from other groups, and provide cross-pollination, while those who remain in the sessions for the duration provide the continuity and stability that allows conversations to build and reach fruition. And anyone may be a "butterfly" for a while, and perch having another conversation, just be yourself!

Basic supplies needed for Open Space

  • Masking tape / blu-tack
  • Paper and pens
  • Flipchart paper – one set per group

Set up

  • On the bulletin board wall, create a time/space matrix outlining the number of timeslots and rooms available. This will be where the agenda is built. Start and finish times vary based on time available.
  • Make sure that the large room is free from all other furniture. It should be as clean as clear as possible to accommodate the participants. (some groups may prefer to stand during the first part of the session).
  • Post the Four Principles and the Law of Two Feet on the walls of the main room. In a large room, it is useful to have several copies of each of these on display.


Open Space employs four elements:

  • the circle,
  • the breath,
  • the bulletin board
  • the marketplace.

The circle is a natural shape that allows communion to take place. Other shapes and meeting formats encourage other dynamics. For instance, the traditional lecture set-up with the audience seated in rows facing a platform does not necessarily inspire creative dialogue among those present.

The breath is about creating space for ideas and discussion to flow – it is the expectation that Open Spaces sessions focus on possibilities, not day to day BAU.

The bulletin board is the third element of Open Space and it provides a central place for people to communicate with each other about what they have to offer and what they wish to explore. It gives visibility so that the individual can make an informed choice about how, where and when to spend their time most productively.

The market place is where it all happens and is the space in which we can move about and transact our business. It brings needs and resources together to help address the question.

In order to work most effectively, Open Spaces workshops assume three aspects are in place

1. A higher common purpose. Everyone is there to work on something together.

2. A willingness to work together. When each person can offer their passion and commitment to the success of the total venture by agreeing to cooperate and by seeing differences as useful perspectives.

3. A level of personal maturity and self-mastery. This helps individuals look at their own input and ideas as part of a system rather than believing that one person has the answers or the ‘right’ answer.

The role of the facilitator in Open Space is two-fold. It is to "create the space" (the space in which possibilities can occur) at the beginning of the day and to "hold the space" throughout the duration of Open Space.

  • The facilitator should be totally present and absolutely invisible.
  • It is not your role as facilitator to caretake or interfere with what is emerging as Open Space is based on the freedom of choice of participants.
  • As a rule, don't answer any questions about Open Space as it usually ends up as "rationalising".
  • The facilitator's job is to describe but not to "explain" the process.
  • OpenSpace is built on the premise that everybody is capable of and interested in working together, and that they are individually and collectively responsible for what comes out of the sessions.