In this episode, I interview Harrison Owen the celebrated and iconic creator of Open Space Technology. In his typical fashion, Harrison provides insight in just about every sentence he utters. He describes how Open Space was “channeled” through him by the presence of good gin and inspirations from a village where he lived in West Africa that handled differences by sitting in a simple circle.
Open Space Technology has had probably more impact on how I think about systemic interventions to build common ground than any other. When groups are large, diverse, conflicting and passionate about figuring something out in a big hurry, there is no other process that I think can work magic like Open Space.
Open Space has been used in more than half of the countries on earth in what has been a 30+ year experiment in what Harrison observes as the “natural occurrence of peace and high performance.” In this episode, Harrison talks about how Open space evolved and why he thinks it works in high conflict situations. He describes some specific applications – the first, to a conflict between government agencies and Native Americans about where to build a highway on tribal lands and, the second, a meeting of 50 highly polarized Israelis and Palestinians in Rome.
“One of the interesting things that struck me early on (about Open Space)" he says, "is how hugely conflicting people who had spent a considerable amount of time trying to deal with a particular issue would, for whatever reason, find themselves in an Open Space and, more often than not, come out hugging and kissing – problem solved.”
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Cheers for now,