HOW DOES AN OPEN SPACE UNCONFERENCE WORK?
The Open Space unConference format creates space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. Open Space is a way to bring people who have a shared interest or who want to collaborate or work on something together.
HOW DOES IT WORK IF THERE ISN’T A PRE-SET AGENDA?
Open Space facilitates an agenda creation process at the beginning of the day so that all those gathered can put forward ideas for sessions. Because the agenda is made live in real time it is of direct relevance to those gathered that day (or at least for the person calling the session).
It is virtually impossible to figure out the topics that will be hot and need face time for discussion six months, three months or even one month prior to an event. Even if there is a committee of 1 or 3 or 10 they can’t ‘know’ all of what 50-600 people coming from different areas to an event around a topic need or want to talk about ahead of time.
Live agenda creation makes effective use of face-to face-time during the day of the conference instead of around the edges of events programmed many months ahead of time.
HOW WILL I KNOW WHAT WILL BE DISCUSSED IF THERE ISN’T A PRE-SET AGENDA?
When people register we ask them about what they might present or share, and what they are hoping to learn and discuss with peers.
HOW DOES AGENDA CREATION WORK?
Agenda creation is part of the Opening Circle at the start of the day and will be explained completely at that time by the Open Space Facilitator.
In both the online and virtual version of Open Space there is a blank Agenda Wall with time slots and multiple breakout spaces/rooms affiliated with each time slot. The facilitator will invite those who have a session they want to call, something they want to talk about related to the overall theme, come to the front and write on an 8×11 sheet of cardstock the title of the topic and their name. Or in a virtual circle to raise their hand and be called on to share the title of the session.
Once announced to the whole room they will put in a slot on the blank schedule. This goes on for about 15-30 min and voila now the attendees have co-created a full schedule. Those gathered then break up and go to the sessions they want.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO CONVENE A SESSION?
Really all you need is the spark of interest/passion. You do not need to do preparation in order to convene a session. If you get an idea the day of the event, call a session.
WHAT TYPES OF SESSIONS HAPPEN AT UNCONFERENCES?
The sessions convened will range from the formal to the informal:
HOW ARE SESSIONS DOCUMENTED?
When conveners host a session we ask them to work with the participants to take notes in the session. Each session has its own HackMD online document and posters. After the event is complete the notes from each session are compiled into a Book of Proceedings.
BEST PRACTICES FOR PARTICIPATING IN AN OPEN SPACE UNCONFERENCE
Go with the flow – This event is intended to help you and all the other people find the time and space to talk with and learn from each other.
Follow your passion – Go to the sessions that interest you.
Take responsibility for your own learning – If there are topics you are really interested in that don’t appear on the agenda at first, you need to put them on there.
WHERE DID THE TERM “UNCONFERENCE” COME FROM?
The term “unconference” arose as people in the technology industry started making conferences (using the principles of Open Space originated by Harrison Owen in ) that stepped out of the traditional models, which had involved presentations selected months beforehand, panels of speakers, industry sponsors talking about their products, and “trade show” exhibits.
DO ALL UNCONFERENCES USE OPEN SPACE TECHNOLOGY?
No, there are a variety of different interactive methods that all fall under the large umbrella of unconference methods including World Cafe, Spectrogram, Fishbowl amongst others. The key thing they all have in common is that they support participants interacting with each other and in ways that are alive and present and don’t have a pre-set agenda with talking heads.
WHERE DOES OPEN SPACE TECHNOLOGY COME FROM?
Open space was originated by Harrison Owen in 1985. It works best when the work to be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and the time to get it done was yesterday. It’s been called passion bounded by responsibility, the energy of a good coffee break, intentional self-organization, spirit at work, chaos and creativity, evolution in organization, and a simple, powerful way to get people and organizations moving – when and where it’s needed most. For more information check out Harrison’s book: Open Space Technology - A Users Guide