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Open Spaces Learning
Lessons (2011 . 2012 . 2013)
Reflecting Forward
This event has been a great learning experience. In general, it is never possible to do everything perfectly, but these reminders are useful for those doing their best.

Tips For Organisers

Timing and Sessions

  • More time for the first orientation and planning session (c. 2 hours for this conference)
  • Ensure there is a reasonable "morning circle" at the start of each day (i.e. from 2nd day: 15-30 minutes)
    • To connect, set the tone and remind the participants how we want to be together this day + announcements etc.


  • Specify the size of the postits (c. post-card size, at least)

Convenor Responsibilities Posters

Something like:

Convenor Responsibilities
  • Raise the issue/topic to be discussed in a session (e.g. on a post-it posted on the launchpad/space-time matrix)
  • Ensure that
    • the session happens
    • every voice is heard
    • a report is written up and shared (on the wiki with links to related outputs).

N.B. One or more of these should be clearly visible in each break-out room (i.e. so that it cannot be missed by convenors of sessions in those rooms/spaces).


For this group at this conference and as it turned out (a community of interest without a strategic outputs-driven agenda, 40 diverse people proposing a wide variety of topics and activities, ...):

  • Pre-event
    • Use e-mail more, augmenting the wiki (people my not be watching relevant pages). Copy some of the content (teaser) into the e-mail.
    • In addition to (e.g., ...): Atom, RSS, ...
  • Event preparation (building the wall, room layout, etc.)
    • Ensure all this is done the previous day (not the morning of the event)
      • Catalysts/facilitators should arrive at least two days before the event if possible.
    • Ensure the first facilitators meeting happens on the previous day if not before
  • Let the catalyst most knowledgeable about the domain do a rough clustering of topics as they are proposed and posted onto the launchpad.
    • Consider (e.g.) a grid with 3 rows (broad kite-level topics, sea level topics and fish level topics) and two venue-related columns (coding activity, discussion activity).
    • When all the post-its are up, bounce this clustering off the participants
    • Let them refine (or completely restructure) it
    • Then, work on one cluster at a time. For example:
      • Sort out the team dynamics, management and productivity cluster (in discussion rooms)
      • Sort out the concurrency cluster (broad discussion preceding coding sessions)
      • etc.
      • Convenors (and all) watch for clashes.
  • When the next session is about to begin, especially on the first day, have all participants come to the main plenary room and follow the convenor with a poster (A4) to the venue of their selected session.
    • Consider making laminated posters each with one of the venue names on it (in a corner) - (erasable) topics and convenor names will be written on these with whiteboard markers for the next session (make 2 sets in case one is left behind in between sessions).
  • At the end of each day, during checkout, have the next day's conveners eye-ball the space-time matrix and make any necessary adjustments.


  • Essential to have some in touch with a good cross-section of the participants to be in a position to pick up on any issues which need attention.