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A conversation exploring the use of Open Space Technology in community governance.

To contribute to this conversation, click on the "edit text of this page" link at the bottom of this page and add your thoughts to the bottom of the conversation. Better yet, help Chirs get over his attachment to his own writing and edit the stuff below directly, so it becomes the newly definitive document on this subject, the perfect blend of his words and yours. (Like this paragraph is now Chirs and Michael!) I think i'll start by adding a question mark at the end of his question. <grin> Click the 'other versions' and/or 'diff' links below to see my changes separated from what was already here.

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To begin with, I'll ask the question:

How can Open Space Technology be used to enhance community governance?

Looking at Michael's four quadrants model, note that as communities evolve towards "invitation" as a community practice, they go through the five stages of matter, body, mind, soul and spirit.

hang onto your hats and get a pen because i've made a fine mess of this next one... (this soul/spirit bit needs cleaning up)...

OST fits on the soul level, which means that it rests on the body of the community, and runs on the stories of mind, but has the potential to redirect and recreate those stories. To integrate OST with governance, I think the municipal government needs to care for the body and hold the vision that more can happen. When citizens then self-organize, using OST or other processes, the municipality needs to find ways to support that spirit, knowing full well that this is what it has been waiting for. Mostly, though, government needs to be willing and allowed to MOVE as attention shifts.

We don't know how coherent all of this sounds, but perhaps it's a springboard for more conversation. What do others think?

coming at this a bit fresher then...

resources (matter) aggregated into infrastructure (bodies), allocated by rules (mind), appreciated and understood and integrated through stories (soul), that are animated by spirit (spirit)

think it's important to erase the division between govt and business and people, specifically, and generally to erode the quality of attention given to government as a solid form. need to see govt, business, individuals, churches, etc as players in the one field, with new emphasis and attention on the field rather than one kind of player.

the way we talk about government seems to give the wrong understanding of their relationship to individual. as mark pixley told me in hong kong last year, when i asked about little taiwan talking tough with big china... "a country is only a country because we say it is a country."

also, govts can't give appreciation. can't tell stories. that takes individuals, telling stories, and listening, understanding, integrating them. the telling and the taking in are functions of the individual. and beyond that, we also see that individuals don't actually animate those stories, only trade them. animation is the work of the one spirit which we already are.

this then, from MichaelHerman's blog, at about this same time...

inviting leadership

PennyScott phoned from the BowenIsland/Vancouver? ferry last week to share this from fellow Chicagoan John McKnight?, a leader in the development of Asset-Based Community Development... Service systems can never be reformed so they will produce care. Care is the consenting commitment of citizens to one another. Care cannot be produced, privileged, managed, organized, administered or commodified. Care is the only thing a system cannot produce. Every institutional effort to replace the real thing is a counterfeit.

Care is, indeed, the manifestation of a community. The community is the site for the relationships of citizens. And it is at this site that the primary work of a caring society must occur. If that site is invaded, co-opted, overwhelmed, and dominated by service-producing institutions, then the work of the community will fail. And the failure is manifest in families collapsing, schools failing, violence spreading, medical systems spinning out of control, justice systems becoming overwhelmed, prisons burgeoning, and human services degenerating.Notice, too, that as systems degrade, the results show up as complexity of issues, real or potential conflict, increasing urgency and a real diversity of people and perspectives needed for resolution -- exactly the conditions wherein Open Space Technology works best! It doesn't cause the chaos, it merely acknowledges the truth of it -- and gives us room to deal with it peacefully and productively.

Having just posted an updated version of my own paper, InvitingOrganizationEmerges?, I will hasten to add that while really open space and genuine care cannot ever be produced by a system, they always be invited by anyone of us who already really cares. This, it seems, is the real work of leadership today... to invite care. And the only way to invite it is to be it... and be willing to be caught in the act.

inviting leadership continued

Coming back to the John McKnight? quote posted yesterday...

Care is, indeed, the manifestation of a community. The community is the site for the relationships of citizens. And it is at this site that the primary work of a caring society must occur. If that site is invaded, co-opted, overwhelmed, and dominated by service-producing institutions, then the work of the community will fail. Much of "management" and other forms of organizational leadership will rightly fall into this category of "service-producing" that invades and degrades our community living and working space. When management attempts to do thinking, caring, deciding, energizing, learning and other things FOR people that people can, in fact, do for themselves, the work of the organization eventually fails. On the other hand, when leaders invite passion and responsibility in Open Space, the work of the organization eventually flourishes. And so it becomes a question of time. If you're in it for the long haul, best to aim for eventual success!

...and on the subject of being "caught in the act of caring" at work, i say this not unfamiliar with the dangers inherent in such a willingness. so i will add a plug here for an excellent shield. Peter Frost's new book Toxic Emotions at Work: How Compassionate Managers Handle Pain and Conflict is based on research done at two major business schools and is published by Harvard Business Press. It does an excellent job of laying out the current needs, real dangers and practical options for caring at work.

how can ost be used to enhance community governance? by inviting people to tell their stories to each other, make them more visible, audible, tangible... to make the stories as real as the rules and rulings that must be informed by them. and to allow those stories the space touch and be touched by the spirit that animates all life, the space to notice that they ARE something bigger and before the rules/government, the infrastructures, the resources. they are a life together.

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Last edited June 24, 2003 2:54 pm USA Pacific Time (diff)