Using Open Space

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Southend in Transition ran their first Open Space event during the Earth Day event organised by the local South East Essex Women’s Environment Network, held at the Mayor of Southend’s official residence. The theme for the Open Space discussions was “How will Westcliff and the surrounding area feed itself beyond the age of cheap oil?”. The session began with screening a short film about the creation of a community garden at Leaf Street in Manchester – this provided inspiration and a real life example of what can be achieved through ‘people power’. Discussions were then organised into four breakout groups: ‘Onion’, ‘Kale’, ‘Courgette’ and ‘Carrot’. After explaining the Open Space concept, the overall question for the event was presented and participants were invited to fill out the timetable with four further questions or ‘sub-themes’. Discussions of the sub-themes were lively and generated a diverse range of ideas and inputs. Despite a few hiccups, including not being able to put the timetables up on the wall in case they left blue tac marks on the Mayor’s wallpaper, and not having enough time to properly feedback at the end, the event was a great success. Feedback from participants indicated that they enjoyed the Open Space format and found it much more interesting and engaging than traditional meeting formats.