What is behind the “Open Space” concept – part 2

This takes a second post of a series about the Open Space format. In the first part, we talked about how the Open Space format was born, when it’s appropriate as a format and the rules that guide it: the law of two feet and the 5 principles.

In this post we’ll cover the Market Place, the facilitator and the participants discussions. We talk about them, taking into consideration that the events can last from a few hours to more days.


The Facilitator

An Open Space facilitator creates an environment that encourages participants to share their ideas. There could be one or more persons for this role during an event.

The facilitator’s responsibilities are:

  • facilitate the opening of the Open Space
  • remind everyone the law and principles of the Open Space
  • energize the audience
  • find tools to facilitate information sharing between the participants
  • facilitate the closing session of the day

The Market Place


Being a self-organizing event, the Open Space participants create the schedule on the fly, every day before the Open Space starts. This “agenda” is known as the Market Place. It is a place in the room where people post the topics they want to discuss during the sessions.

Anyone who wants to discuss a topic places a post-it note on the Market Place, after choosing the time slot and the place for the session. The locations are clearly marked by the organizers. Sessions usually last between 30 and 60 minutes. After all the topics are posted on the Market Place, a negotiation can take place between the topic proposers. Some topics can be merged, split or moved to others time slots or locations.

The Market Place is an information radiator used by all the attendees to know the topics, the time and the place where the discussions will happen during that day.

Participants discussions

A very nice problem for the participants is to pick a topic from all those proposed for the same time slot. The Open Space law of two feet gives the solution to the participants. They can initially go to a session and when they are no longer interested in the subject, they can move to another one. That audience’s freedom to choose what is most interesting and important for them represents the biggest benefit of this type of event.

As you can see, the Open Space events allow everyone to learn and leave with many lessons learnt and information. (Un)conferences organized using this format create a good environment for knowledge sharing, practical learning and optimizing the time invested.

In the last part of this blog post series we’ll cover the Open Space stages: opening, building the schedule, discussion sessions and closing.

Have you experienced an Open Space event until now? How was it? Let us know in the comments!

You can experience the open space within I T.A.K.E. Unconference.

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