Open Community Encounters – How safe do you feel in your skin?

I was asked to attend the Open Community Encounters group in November to help visually record their discussions and add another dimension to the meetup. I must say, it was a really inspiring, informative and enjoyable session!

The Open Community Encounters group meet up to discuss different topics which are pressing issues in South Africa, with the intention of opening up a dialogue for people from different backgrounds. It is amazing that Alison Gitelson and Susan Williams give of their time to create safe spaces for people to introspect, discuss and share experiences and ideas. The topic for the November session was: How safe to you feel in your skin? 

This topic is such a pertinent one in South Africa… here are some ideas that were shared in the session:

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These were created live in the session – bar a few headings and preparation.

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I would really encourage those living in Johannesburg, South Africa to attend these sessions. I know it definitely won’t be my last.

For all the pictures and more info, visit their group and engage with the community.

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Open Space Technology

What is Open Space Technology? 

“Open Space (Technology) is a simple way to run productive meetings, for five to 2000+ people, and a powerful approach to leadership in any kind of organization, in everyday practice and turbulent change. ” – extract from OpenSpaceWorld.ORG

We have used Open Space Technology (OST) often within our organisation and for clients as a way of collaborating, solving problems and highlighting opportunities within companies.

Although it encourages self-organisation by allowing participants to facilitate their own discussions, there is a lot of preparation work and positioning of the Principles and concepts to ensure that the session is set up correctly and the participants understand the approach.

How to Run an OST session

My colleague, Angie Doyle, who is a fantastic facilitator and has run many of these sessions, coached me through the first one that I ran. I jotted down some notes which I found extremely useful, and have now finally put them into a one-pager sketchnote.

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Setting up

OST begins without a pre-set agenda. It is advised to set a Theme so that it focuses the topics around a pressing issue. The philosophy behind OST is to encourage people to discuss what is important to them at the time and allow the conversations to unfold around topics that people are passionate about.

From a practical perspective, this means creating a visual, visible framework (“empty agenda”) in which people can propose topics to talk about. Depending on the number of attendees, which can range from a handful to thousands, you would work out the time allocations and number of stations where the conversations can happen.

I’ve sketched a rough example of a setup below. We have used tape on the walls in past sessions to create the framework. The time slots were large enough to fit an A4 page to encourage large, visible writing. We then worked out the timing for the sessions according to the duration that we had. Ideally, you would want 45 min – 1 hour per time slot.

Participants would then write down topics, and their name, and place it in one of the time slots.

OST setup

Additional Information

There are tons of resources available online to read up on OST. The best way to learn about them and to see what works is to run one.