Monday, June 25, 2007

More Open Space (Sean)

Well, GA is now over. Last night I was pretty wiped out, since it had been a non-stop day, without even a big enough break to get some notes posted here. After Closing Ceremonies we had dinner plans with a friend who lives in town. I'll talk about yesterday in some later posts -- I think I have several ahead of me.

Now that I've had a little rest and rejuvenation, I'd like to try to cover the continuation of the Open Space process from Saturday.

Before I get into that, though, I should mention an item from Saturday morning's plenary that I could not recall when I was typing my last post: The first item Saturday morning was the report on Breakthrough Congregation, First Unitarian Church of Portland. I'm not sure how I forgot that, other than my mind is turning to mush here, since it was a great report and we had remarked to each other about what a huge and vibrant church it was. The other item I omitted was the report on the implementation of past Statements of Conscience.

Moving on, as I mentioned in the last post, plenary ran over by a good bit. When we were done, I raced over to my assigned "domain" room for the Open Space Convergence session. Unfortunately, the plenary delay meant that I missed the first 20 minutes.

When I arrived, I counted only 18 people in my domain room. Louise went off to count heads in all ten rooms, for completeness, and counted about 174, so my room was fairly representative. And, her headcount included the 20 facilitators. When I came in, folks were sharing their observations on the process. There were several comments around the small number of people participating in the open space process.

At this point, facilitator Lois informed us that the written report, as it stands, which was handed out this morning, will be passed up to the board of trustees as-is. The report, which was the result of the break-out sessions, was a list of 105 "priorities" statements, the direct aggreagation of the written reports turned in by the group conveners. I'm not sure what happened to the other 15 reports, but I know there were a couple of empty slots on the schedule, and I observed that some break-outs simply did not happen.

Lois then asked all participants to think of three or four key words to include in the concept of the mission of our faith community. The process was similar to "brainstorming" -- all the words went up on flip-charts, and we will "vote" on them by placing sticky dots next to the words we think are most expressive of the mission.

I note here that this is a separate and distinct step from what had been done thus far in creating the 105 statements. At some point, it became clear to me that these two parts of the process are unrelated -- what we are moving forward with here does not carry forward any of the preceding work -- other than the earlier workshops perhaps informing our thought process as we craft and vote on the individual words.

At this point participant Rev. Kurt Kuhwald noted that many of the 105 statements do not speak to mission, but to strategy.

The complete list of words from our domain:

Great Turning
Earth Community
Spiritual Depth
Intergenerational Community
Religious Identity
Beloved Community
AR/AO/MC (Anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multi-cultural)
Dominator Culture
Faith Development
Youth Ministry
Youth-Adult partnership
Spiritual Growth

Note that several "words" contributed were actually phrases, even though, when someone asked if phrases could be used, the answer given was "no." Also, during this process, about half a dozen or so more people filtered into the room, and were asked to contribute words to the process. In the interest of completeness, the three words I contributed to the charts were Love, Respect, and Courage.

After this, each of us was issued four sticky dots to place as we saw fit next to words, which we all did. Then the session was adjourned for lunch.

When we returned from lunch, the facilitators had counted the dots, and here is our room's "top ten" list of words (in order of number of votes):

Intergenerational Community
Earth Community
Spiritual Depth

I counted only 16 people in the room at 1:10, plus the two facilitators.

Someone asked a question: What are these words supposed to speak to?
Answer: Same as the original Open Space Technology question: "What is the mission of our faith community in this complex world?"

Someone asked to clarify the OST process. Answer: the 105 statements from the breakouts will go to Boston for consideration by the board. Moving forward from here, the statements we will work on around these ten words will be what appears on the ballot in Plenary tomorrow. After we work the ten statements, we will again dot-vote to determine the top three, and those will move forward. So there will be 30 statements from the ten domains for the delegates to vote on.

We had a small group, so, after a brief discussion, the group immediately decided to consolidate several words:

Empire, Turning, and Earth Community
Faith, Spiritual Depth, and Religion

That gave us only six items to work on -- these two consolidations, and the other four words.

Upon further clarification, we learned that each statement is to be only about 15 words in length.

People then gravitated to words (or consolidations) that called to them. We ended up with people working on:

Empire, Turning, Earth Community
Faith, Spiritual Depth, Religion
Intergenerational Community

I observed here that will leave two words, Justice and Diversity, that no one is working on. It was agreed that groups finishing early with their focus could tackle them.

My belief is that when this process was created, the expectation was likely that there would be more people in the room and so ten words would have been more manageable. With a group of only ~16, we worked on only four topics (and one of those topics had a lone individual working on it).

I say "we", but of course, I did not work on any -- I simply observed the process and wrote these notes. One other person clearly did not want to work on the wording, but wanted to know approximately when the voting would be so he could come back.

During this time, I stopped into two other domains and counted 16 and 20, respectively. Again, in stark contrast, I also stopped into a traditional session hall running against Convergence 2, where a session was in progress on the breakthrough congregation in Portland (a follow-up to the morning's presentation in Plenary). I could not count in that room easily, but I estimated an attendace of around 150 -- nearly as many in one traditional session as are taking part in the entire Open Space process.

Our domain ultimately came up with five statements:

  1. Intergenerational community: "Our Religious communities become truly intergenerational as faith development is recognized as a lifelong task."
  2. Earth Community: "As UU's we must now lead the turn from our current empire culture to earth community."
  3. AR/AO/MC: "Recognize the work of the youth in the association regarding Anti-racism/Anti-oppresive/Multi-culturalism and incorporate it into the larger UU community"
  4. Justice: "UU's of all ages covenant to build a just world."
  5. Spiritual depth: "Covenant to deepen our spiritual practice, explicitly connecting our faith with action."
The results of the dot voting clearly chose the statements on Spiritual Depth (19 votes) and Earth Community (15 votes), with a runoff between the Intergenerational Community and AR/AO/MC statements (14 votes each). The Intergenerational Community statement won the runoff by a wide margin.

So these three statements rolled up to the list of 30 for the delegates to vote on. Unsurprisingly, these themes were commonly repeated in the roll-up from the other domains.

I realize this was a very long-winded post with an overabundance of detail, but I know several people are reading here for the explicit purpose of seeing how the Open Space process worked. I have several comments on the process, now that I've been through the whole thing, but I will hold them until after I have reported on the ultimate conclusion of the process in Plenary.

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