Emergence of a free space festival

This is the backbone of what I shared at Ci2i Global in Chiang Mai in February 2014.  Check out my initial thoughts on return from Ci2i here.

We started CoCreate Adelaide to build networks and communities – to connect people that have a vision for the future of Adelaide.  Better connected, stronger communities are better able to make our visions real.  This is true individually as well as collectively.

Our first event in April 2013 proved the value of Open Space as a tool for community building.  Don’t just use Open Space to host powerful conversations… host powerful conversations about passion & intent within a compelling narrative of cocreation.

So when it came time to ask whether people were keen to hold another big event, the response was a qualified ‘yes’.  ‘Yes’ – but can we also have music – food – share our projects – make art – have more – of everything…  We were invested in cocreation, and jumped at the opportunity to embody our passions and visions.

Of course what we described wasn’t Open Space Technologies.

So without a clear guide except what had worked so well already, we set about cocreating a festival – a reflection of the community we had become, emerging from the Open Spaces of our past.

Our ideas started with Open Space, but we knew it needed breaking – a blank grid of discussion sessions was not free enough a canvas to capture our visions.  We didn’t start with a methodology, we just started with some ideas about what our approach needed to make possible.

Putting together pieces of the puzzle we learned gradually what seemed to work and what did not… As time went on we drew more and more heavily on the Open Space methodology we’d cast aside – with a growing understanding of what makes it tick.  And learning along the way how these patterns can be stretched and hacked to work in unlikely ways.

An unstructured free space would be chaos – creative maybe, but not a space to welcome and foster cocreation.  Open Space has boundaries within which people can experience a comfortable, emergent freedom.  And they’re boundaries that participants understand well enough to know how they can (inter)act – empowering participants to self-organise.

This is as true of a collaborative lead-up as it is of the event itself.  Only the crazy commit without knowing what they’re in for.  Fortunately we have a fair few of those we can rely on…. but other people need to understand and navigate spaces they can engage with.


Open Space

Physical space ~ extending the dimension

Discussion space

Announcement structure (hourly; schedule)

Grid setting structure (each session; schedule)

Structure and guarantees

– above

– philosophy / brand?

– minimum activity

Structure and guarantees

– above

– focus question / challenge / purpose

– people?

Freedom to move ~ active choice

Freedom to move ~ active choice (similar)

Open invitations

Open invitations (similar)

Activity preparation ~ additional dimension

Informal prior thinking or discussion

> Prior information structures

No prior information structures

The journey has been interesting, but it leaves some business unfinished.

I had jumped into saying we created a methodology (which I had called Freespace – partly in reverence for [ freespace ], though I have no interest to tread on their toes).  But now I feel I should have retreated from that edge.

We could polish up our lessons into a model that would probably work – if you need it.

But the real lesson for me is not that we have created a functional new model… but that by stretching the old beyond its limits we can uncover deeper and more generative patterns for how to be together.  That these patterns give us a much stronger basis for developing models in response to whatever context we find ourselves in.

I don’t yet know what these patterns are, or even what form they might take, but I know our experience with CoCreate is a valuable start.  I look forward to connecting with you over the coming months to see what we can learn.

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