Open-space Learning in Real World Contexts*
Workshop Practice:Techniques for Problem-solving with Open-space Technology
Courtesy of Paul Sutton, Artistic Director, C&T; http://www.candt.org
View as a PDF Problem Solving
1. Design your ‘invitation:’ the brief or issue that you want to explore in your
Open Space event. Frame the invitation carefully: make sure it is open, genuine
2. On the day of your event set our your space with
a) locations in which the subgroups are going to meet;
b) chairs, pens, paper and digital resources;
c) a place for the ‘Marketplace’ – where you are going to post the timetable for the event.
3. At the session outset, draw participants’ attention to the invitation. Ask them to
propose sub-groups to discuss questions, issues or themes that cascade from the
4. As each group is proposed timetable at the ‘ marketplace’ on a wall.
5. The ‘marketplace’ is a simple grid of timeslots and locations in the room: when
and where to meet. Make sure you have calculated your timetable and
groupings carefully. Too many groups and you won’t have enough participants
to discuss things, too few and people will feel frustrated at a lack of choice.
6. Remind ‘convenors’ of these groups they must record the discussion and
conclusions of their groups.
7. Set out the ‘Law of Two Feet’: don’t stay in a group discussion when you want
to move on. Feel free and empowered to move on. People won’t be offended.
8. Set out the conventions:
The People who come are the right people – you can make the right decision
Whenever its starts is the right time
When its over its over – overrun if you need the extra time
The outcome is the only thing that could have happened
Bumblebees – cross pollinating ideas between groups is good
Butterflies – observing and looking pretty is fine
Giraffes – straining your neck to listen to other groups is ok.
9. Once the invitation and conventions are set up, invite suggestions for group
10. When you timetable is full, open the marketplace for people to choose.
11. Run according to your timetable.
12. Let groups facilitate themselves.
13. At the end, allow space and time for a plenary.
14. Collect in the report sheets.
*A National Teaching Fellowship Scheme project, funded by the Higher Education Academy, 2009-11.