Widening Conversational Scope: Doin’ It For Real, Part II

Honestly, we haven’t stopped talking about ‘widening conversation scope’. It just has a lot of parts to it. I make no guarantees how far we’ll get.

So, where did I leave off?

Family. Now, we have tools, modern social technologies (soon you’ll recognize these as the most valuable of all technologies, once you realize what we’ve lost and have to reinvent), that have begun to address our cultural, familial, and social poverty. You can throw ‘spiritual’ in there too, if you like. We can use these tools to start rebuilding and reinspiring our Family and Village culture.

Let’s start with one of my favorite tools, Open Space Technology.

OST, or Open Space, names a specific kind of gathering, familiar to most indigenous people, though modified for the needs of average modern folks. I’ve written a lot about Open Space here, you can do a search of the blog if you want more info, and it has lots of adherents on the internet in general. I should note that the ‘creator’ of OST, Harrison Owen, claims he developed its structure inspired by his experiences in a West African village during his time in the Peace Corps.

Coincidences don’t exist, folks. At least not random ones.

Open Spaces, by their nature, widen the scope of the conversation, by allowing the attendees to set the agenda in the first hour of the event, by offering a billboard-style ‘marketplace’ schedule, usually on a wall, for folks to place meeting announcements on. Any meeting, by any one, with any number of attendees, in any available time slot. A nicely widened scope, yes? But in order to work, Open Space must narrow its scope somehow.

OST does this by having a specific theme, and an invitation, that will attract the appropriate participants. But this still doesn’t narrow the scope all that much.

OST, as commonly used, errs on the side of inclusion. I think this colors the kind of results you can expect. Now we’ve entered the realm of speculation, but I have a bet, from looking at the success of tribal models:

The more unified the identity of the group, the powerful the impact of the Open Space Gathering.

This doesn’t necessarily mean small. This doesn’t mean ‘like-minded’, either. I use the word ‘identity’ very carefully. In so far as Open Space serves a group that (like the Gypsies) can only profit from outsiders, speaks the same language, and has intimate knowledge of each other’s lives (along with intermarriage, geographic proximity, etc.).

What does all that mean? To me, it speaks about passion, and responsibility, the two watchwords of the OST process. Open Space runs on passion, and responsibility. To increase the impact of an Open Space, you support the increase of the passion and responsibility of the participants. How do you do that? I believe identity holds a key here.

I’ve noticed that in teaching and working with foreign languages, the politics of identity always lurk in the shadows, periodically pushing hot buttons. Your own language, your own ethnic food, your traditions, all these things inspire great passion and responsibility in ordinary members of cultures with strong identities.

I think I just managed to get through a whole ‘nother blog post still without getting to the center of the tootsie roll pop. How many licks will this take?

Well, we’ll get there together.

Written by Willem