Open Space Technology (OST) is a method to run meetings of any size to address complex, important issues and achieve meaningful results quickly. This approach functions best where more traditional meeting formats fail: in situations involving conflict, complexity, diversity of thought or people, and short decision-times. “Technology” in this case means tool — a process; a method. In this sense, OST represents a self-organizing process: participants construct the agenda and schedule during the meeting itself. OST is also a method to allow a diverse group of people to jointly address complex and possibly controversial topics. Most important, it provides the space for everyone in this group to express his or her opinion and a way for that opinion to be heard and affect the final outcome.
For an OST workshop to be successful, the participants must be motivated and must prepare. OST requires that participants come to the workshop with definite interest, but the actual agenda becomes set at the meeting. Some metrics for selecting participants were:
The selected participants were contacted by workshop organizers to inform them about the workshop theme, describe the format and introduce them to the workshop web site where the basics of the OST workshop were described. OST meetings have a single facilitator who introduces and concludes the meeting and explains the general method. The facilitator has no other role in the meeting and does not control the actual gathering in any way. The participants in an OST Workshop, including the organizers, are equal. The facilitator only facilitates the emergence of the meeting agenda, and the progress of the discussions towards the final outcomes of the meeting. The openness of the space makes it impossible for one single idea or one single person to dominate the workshop. The agenda for an OST meeting emerges from the participants. (Excerpt from a workshop report, “Vision 2020: An Open Space Technology Workshop on the Future of Earthquake Engineering”, 2010)