how to change the world

How to discuss something complex?

There are various ways in which you might coax a vision of a desirable future out of your community. Some use community brainstorming tools like Open Space.
— Rob Hopkins, The Power Of Just Doing Stuff

By John-Paul Flintoff

What’s the best way to bring together a large group of people, to discuss a really urgent topic with multiple points of complexity?

I hope soon to find out, in an experiment I’m running with a lot of other authors.

The conference was suggested by Dan Kieran, founder of Unbound, the author’s crowd-funding publisher, and himself an author. I loved the idea, and seized the chance to get involved. (We’ve just set up a Facebook page, here. Please “Like” it.)

We’re determined that this should be no ordinary conference, where delegates are talked at. Instead, we’re want to make it possible for absolutely anybody to call a session, on any topic – and for anybody to join them.


Open Space

There’s a name for this kind of conference. It’s called Open Space. It was designed by people who realised that the best bits in many conventional conferences are the self-organising coffee breaks.

In Open Space, everybody meets on equal terms – which in our case means bestselling authors and beginners alike. Experience and expertise are shared generously, with no strings attached. As a result, we create a passionate community, determined to do something about publishing.

I’ve seen Open Space work beautifully in other contexts – in campaign groups, and the theatre world. In huge groups, and very small ones.


How does it work?

There’s only one law in Open Space: the Law of Mobility. If at any time you find yourself in a situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, simply take yourself where your time will be better spent – only you know where this is.

This way, everybody in any session truly wants to be there. And sessions are charged with a thrilling sense of possibility.

You get to see that things will only change if we decide to make them change. And that you won’t have to do it alone – because we have immediate access to the people who can help us.

As well as the Law of Mobility, there are five principles:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people.
  2. 
Wherever it happens is the right place.

  3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. 

  4. Whenever it starts is the right time.
  5. When it is over, it is over.


Where could you use this?

The format is incredibly simple. But it respects participants by eliminating presenteeism. And it respects participants by eliminating heirarchy.

Can you think of a place, in your own life, where you’d like a format that did that?

Posted: February 1, 2015