at Work:

A Personal
and Public
Invitation to
Open Space

Michael Herman

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Facilitating Open Space Meetings and Events:

The Role of the Facilitator


What follows on the next several pages are notes accumulated through the preparation and facilitation of numerous open space events. I use the material on this page as in client discussions, proposals and contracting -- to clarify the role of the facilitator. These are the things I know I can and will deliver as a facilitator of Open Space. Thanks to Michael M Pannwitz of Berlin, Germany for the beginnings of this list.



1. Support planning meetings and other preparatory conversations to address whole range of pre-event issues:

  • Strategic issue(s) or purpose for the meeting/event
  • Identification of the non-negotiable "givens" within which participants will be invited to work
  • Drafting of the invitation document and method of distribution
  • Development of the invitation list and process of registration
  • Determination of event location and timing
  • Answer emergent questions about design, process, outcomes, logistics
  • Clarify assumptions and expectations about what we know and do not know about what will happen during our time together in open space
  • Coach sponsors of event on how to answer questions from invited participants

2. Review the invitation, once it has been produced as a draft by the sponsoring organization(s) and/or planning committee. Write an "agenda" for the event, if required.

3. Visit the space proposed for the OS, meet site staff, and confirm availability of essential needs, tape-able wall space, open space for circle, breakout spaces.

4. Supply a detailed list of required materials and equipment and supporting their acquisition as necessary.

5. Set-up the facility before the event, including conversation with hotel/site staff to help them understand and work most easily with the open space environment.

6. Prepare a single sponsor/leader to open the space, introduction and 3-minute story of how we got to this moment of opening.

7. Facilitate the event, including opening agenda-making session, morning and evening news sessions, voting and prioritization of issues, next steps planning, and closing circle. This is usually the most visible and least time-consuming part of the facilitator's work.

8. Coordinate the production of a proceedings document for all participants:

  • Create proceedings document with cover, invitation, ballot, notes, participant list
  • Coordinate gathering and compilation of notes from workings sessions
  • Deliver document for overnight copying, pickup and distribute copies
  • Add "next steps" action-planning session notes to main document
  • Enable ongoing open space via website, email list and/or .PDF documents

9. Debrief with planners/leaders at the end of each day, as needed.

10. Facilitate a 3- to 4-hour follow-up meeting, 6 to 8 weeks later, with leaders, conveners and/or others, to see what has happened with "next steps" and determine what, if any additional steps should be undertaken.

A Checklist for Preparation and Follow-up
A Sample Script for Opening the Space
Pulling it All Together as an Artful Practice

Template for note-taking form given to participants as handout
Template for capturing proceedings in the computer (download MS-Word form)

See "michael's open notebook" for more facilitator resources, as they are developed.


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Evolution at Work: A Personal Journey and Public Invitation to Open Space, by Michael Herman (www.michaelherman.com)
© Copyright 1998-2002 Michael Herman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reprint or distribute without permission and full attribution, including web address and copyright notice. Permission will be granted gladly if you'll just say what you'd like to copy and where you'd like to share it. [email protected]