Open Space Technology: An Effective, Time-tested Facilitation Technique to Help Pro-lifers Get Organized

I want to encourage pro-life folks to study this method of facilitation because I think one of the reasons  we have failed to spread our message effectively is because we have used more traditional ways of organizing using top-down leadership and not encouraging people to use their gifts, talents and passions in their own unique way.  I want to share my experience of Open Space Technology (OST)  to give it more validation. I hope you will read

But before you read my experience, I hope you will check out this brief inspirational description. Here is a general description which includes more details of what the process looks like.

My best experience of OST was when I attended a OST training workshop with Lisa Heft in San Francisco. I had already attended several OST conferences and knew without a doubt that I wanted to learn how to be a facilitator. I was overjoyed to learn that OST conferences could help groups develop a strategic plan. The key elements are:

  • Have a compelling question such as “How can we unite the pro-life movement so that it can effectively end abortion and create a culture of life?”
  • Inspire people who were passionate about answering this question to attend.
  • Use OST to support the participants in creating a strategic plan that would be available to them when they left the conference.

I heard compelling and inspiring stories of conferences where this happened, and how they quickly achieved their goals through using the strategic plan.

I learned about OST when I attended a Permaculture Conference in North Carolina in 2000.  The two-day conference used OST, and I immediately drawn to this method for the following reasons:

1. Anyone attending the conference could lead a workshop connected to the topic. I was able to share my Nonviolent Communication skills with great satisfaction. I love to teach and share.

2.  The one law, “two feet,” gave me freedom to leave a workshop or discussion if I wasn’t interested. This met my need for being only in places where it was easy for me to be fully present.  Sometimes the topic of the group would draw me, but I found that the teacher was not interesting. Or perhaps I would realize that another topic was really drawing me.

3.  The idea that “bees and Butterflies” were perfectly okay was great. Bees were people who might not stay at one group the whole time, but would go and sample other groups, thus getting a bigger picture view. They also would cross-pollinate by sharing what was going on in other groups.  Butterflies might go to very few if any organized events. But their peaceful presence and availability for compassionate communications  offered enrichment to those of us who liked to go to the classes. It just seemed like there was a place for everyone.

4.  I learned a lot!  Although none of the classes went much into depth, I liked getting a broad perspective on the permaculture movement about which I knew nothing.

5. Networking was great.  Having plenty of time to meet people during meals, social events during and in between classes, I made new friends, including one woman who I ended up staying with when I needed a place while I was in North Carolina. I also met people from nearby Earthhaven Community where I really wanted to visit.

6.  The price of the conference was only about $25. It was affordable because we didn’t have to pay for a lot of speakers, but high quality people came to the gathering to both present and to be part of the great fellowship.

7. I was never bored!

I attended the Intentional Communities Conference in the same year I was delighted that OST was effectively used for this event, and experienced the same results as I did at the permaculture conference.

I used OST to create successful community gatherings with excellent results. I facilitated a 6 hour workshop where participants got a real sense of the potential of OST, and the feedback was very positive. My very best result was a 4 hour event in San Diego which really got participants excited about OST.

I have not attempted to promote a big OST conference for various reasons including needing to work full-time and homeschooling my daughter.  However, now that I am living a minimalistic life style, and my 19-year-old daughter has graduated from high school, I am much more free to pour myself into my purpose: to work with others to end abortion and create a culture of life.

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