Stories of Open Space 6

This is a story of very informal, almost “pop-up” Open Space.

A community who are interested in the topic of “innovation” are invited to an Innovation Conversation (View the invites here and here and here). They aren’t told they are coming to an event that includes Open Space. It’s just a conversation in a cafe. The format is simple – a very short, provocative talk, followed by a chance to have conversations on the chosen topic.

So, the invite is to come to a conversation, that includes a talk they are interested in. So, all attendees are volunteers, drawn to the event by the topic.

The talk is about ten minutes long. It’s informal, no slides, and raises plenty of questions.

The people arrive and gather in a circle (around a big table). Coffee and tea flow, the croissants smell and taste wonderful.

There are brief informal introductions in the circle.

The speaker talks for ten minutes, there’s a bit of discussion and Q&A on the fly. Then the participants are invited to offer to convene conversations, discussion, or whatever else they want to do, by hosting sessions at other tables in the cafe. Three sessions are offered. Two happen (There are 16 people in attendance).

There is no time set for how long they take. They both last for about another 45 minutes.


(Picture: One of the open space groups)

There is a huge buzz of conversation. One or two people leave for work. (It was a 9-10am advertised event). One session runs on longer.

Feedback is very positive.

Two people use the law of two feet without knowing what that is. One person, whose session had no one attend, sits with his notebook and does some writing before joining one of the other groups.


An invite to a talk and conversation. Informal open space in a cafe. Useful, powerful, fun, and the cafe owner was delighted! No formal introduction to open space, minimal fuss and even less facilitation! It felt important to begin together in a circle. The “Marketplace” happened easily and seamlessly. It could have gone on longer and there could have been more sessions. We set the event as an “on your way to work” happening.

They are going to happen monthly.

A few reflections…

– Cafes seem to lend themselves to pop-up open space and emergent conversation but choose a time when there are some empty tables, and a time when the cafe owner needs some footfall!

– informality works here in these spaces: minimal fuss, the “technology” of open space can disappear into the informal process

– no need to mention open space technology at all, the principles or even have a timetable (unless it runs for a lot longer)

– trust people to self-organise

– open space can be done in so many different ways, so play!

More stories of open space

Visit the Open Space Realm

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Colin Smith says:

    Brilliant. We all love to converse, even more so around the specific topic, to be able to host and contribute and to be heard.

  2. thomasperret says:

    Hi Paul, I’m interested in the invitation and I can’t get the link to work. Best regards, Thomas

  3. Paul Levy says:

    Thanks for the feedback – I have corrected the link and added two more examples – Paul

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