There is something very special about bringing out my tibetan cymbal bells for a new Open Space client. Tonight I had the pleasure to work with Kings College Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPNN to the know-crowd) and an array of arts practitioners and theatremakers who work with issues around mental health, the mind and the brain.
In 3hrs Harrison Owen’s amazing tool of OST moved a group of strangers into a group of passionate and connected beings, sharing a common goal, and beginning to understand two different languages. One of those present at the closing circle talked of this collaboration as being essential for “accelerating knowledge”. Another reflected on the event as being a decided help in understanding “the blindness to the otherness” that is possible between two different disciplines – academics and artists, with their different structures, financial imperatives, and pressure for delivery. One scientist floated the heretical idea that science may not now, or ever, be able to answer all the questions – but with the arts they may be able to answer a few more.
Over wine, fabulous sandwiches (including great gluten free choices), people met, challenged, shared, and inspired. One aim for the evening is to come up with a few collaborations which could generate public facing, innovative ways to “enhance understanding of mental health, the mind and the brain”. At least a few sessions of the 30+ topics covered in 2hrs were bouncing to say they had something very special to share and bring to fruition. Other sessions ranged widely and may take time to gestate into one, two, or many initiatives.
Open Space facilitators are in a blessed position. If you can do the preparation (and deal with the challenges), and then hold a space and draw your 70 slightly wary guests into a circle of trust, give the ground rules, and then get out of the way then…. You can settle back, hold the space, clear the coffee cups, and enjoy being aware of mighty important and passionate conversations buzzing around you. [If you have taken a moment to listen to Harrison’s TED talk, he tells us we can even take a nap…I am not at his OST-grade yet]
If you then get asked, as I have, to try and type up all the notes of all the academics and artist into a readable digest…then you have another challenge, but also the pleasure of entering each of those circles of communication and learning a tiny fraction of what was shared.
Thank you Harrison Owen for inventing Open Space. Thank you Phelim and Improbable for introducing me to the tools. Thank you to the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group for entrusting me with my first non-arts massive open space (oh sorry – didn’t I tell you I’d never done anything like that before). And thank you to the Cultural Institute of Kings College for finding me and giving me open space to welcome in so many conversations.
In two weeks time I work with Kings College again on a very different gathering, in an amazing space they have been offered. It is especially fun creating the environment for open space in unexpected spaces.
Do let me know if you’d like to experience self-managed creative space with a facilitator.