Open Space Conferenz

Open Space is a method that can release energy in a unique way. With this tool, complex and important topics can be addressed by 15 to 1,000 participants at the same time.

The results normally exceed expectations, nevertheless Open Space is a very simple approach. Based on clear principles and values, Open Space workshops or conferences create an environment for innovation, problem-solving, creativity, teamwork and rapid change.

Open Space conferences do not have any predefined agenda, but rather a focus topic such as “Creating the Future” or “Strengthening Collaboration.” The agenda is developed by the participants during the first 60 minutes.

The participants are seated in a large round circle.

The facilitator steps into the middle of the circle and speaks about 15 minutes.

During this time, he clarifies the objectives of the conference, explains the procedures and the applicable principles and, above all, creates the atmosphere which inspires the participants to become actively involved.

The participants are asked to reflect whether they have something to discuss that would fit to the topic of the Open Space conference and that they want to work on with a group of volunteers for about one to two hours. If yes, they should step into the middle of the circle, write-down their suggestions on a piece of paper and then introduce themselves and their topic.

The barrier to introduce a topic is set deliberately high. It takes something of an effort to go to the middle of the circle and speak up to many other participants.

However, this ensures that only topics are mentioned that are supported by a participant who has some form of dedication for his area of concern and wants to have it addressed in more detail. And if the prerequisites for a successful Open Space are met, an ever increasing number of participants will come to the middle of the circle.

The topic initiators pin their topics onto the so-called notice board (see illustration 1) into one of the available time slots. As soon as all topics are pinned on the notice board, the so-called marketplace starts, i. e. all participants go to the notice board and register for those topics where they want to participate. Then, the participants go to separate group rooms where the different workshops are held. Each participant takes part in several workshops during the Open Space conference.

Documentation and results

The workshops are documented by the topic initiators during the Open Space conference, which means that they take minutes based on a predetermined template. 

The reports are briefly presented and prioritized towards the end of the conference. Then, the groups of the Top 5–8 topics meet again and prepare relevant further work. For example, they determine who is responsible for following up on these topics and who will assist them.

Outcomes and effects of an Open Space conference

  1. many specific initiatives

  2. frequently innovative solutions

  3. a rejuvenation of the spirit or a sense of euphoria

  4. a community spirit across department borders

  5. the possibility to learn from each other

  6. the shaping of an accountability culture

Open Space conferences help all people involved to understand that they themselves have to become active to initiate change. The frequently dominating pattern to live by top-down guidelines introduced by management is broken.

Prerequisites for successful Open Space conferences 

Management sets the aim and defines the irrevocable framework conditions. In addition, management must be able to let go of how exactly this aim should be achieved – both during and after the conference.

In addition, it is important that the participation in an Open Space conference is voluntary and that the entire range of those who may be able to contribute to the conference’s topics is invited to attend. A high diversity of the participants (if reasonable, also external parties) facilitates the success of the Open Space conference.

The topic of the conference should be important (or better still, urgent) and complex, and should leave some space for the participants’ creativity. 

Andrea SchmittInnovationstrainerinAm Mittelpfad 24aD 65520 Bad Camberg+49 64 34-905 997+49 175 5196446
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