Monday, July 20, 2009

Open Space

Transition Town OKC hosted our first retreat last weekend. We had about 25 participants who gave up their Saturday to teach each other about peak oil, climate change, and the Transition Town framework, and to brainstorm ideas (using Open Space) on how to raise awareness about them.

Our retreat had a strict budget of $0. The labor to create all the materials was free. The facilities location was loaned to us, along with printing services (Thanks, V!). Catering was potluck. Easels, post-its, and markers were donated by our "parent" organization, Sustainable OKC. The optional showing of the short documentary Energy Crossroads was provided by the Sierra Club, and wine was provided by three ladies of our group.

We used the "cards" method for our morning sessions. We had three sets of cards - peak oil, climate change and the Transition Town framework. Each card has some information or a graph on the front, with the explanation on the back. The cards are divided up among the members of each group and each person takes turns sharing the information with the rest of the participants. It's a great way to avoid showing a Power Point presentation :), as well as stimulate debate and interaction. Most people had some in-depth knowledge on either peak oil or climate change, but usually not both, so I think everyone learned something. I plan to use this cards method in the future at other presentations - it's a nice change from the usual, although it does have it's shortcomings as well (e.g. less control over explanations).

After a delicious potluck lunch, we reconvened to experience Open Space. In this method of organizing, the sponsors only have to set the question and provide the facilities. The rest of the work is done by the participants. In our case, the question was "What are some ways to raise awareness about peak oil, climate change and Transition Town OKC?" (Reminder to self: In the future, WRITE the question up on the wall where everyone can see it.)

The Open Space method has only four principles and one law. The four principles are:

1. Whoever comes are the right people.

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could.

3. Whenever it starts is the right time.

4. When it's over, it's over.

And the Law of Two Feet says: If at any time you feel like you are not learning or contributing to the session, you should use your two feet to go to someplace where you are. The idea is that people should participate in whatever they are passionate about. Some people will float about, others will stay put and take notes, some will just learn.

We set up four rooms and two session times, for eight time slots. Seven of these slots were filled. Here were some of the ideas:

1. Working with neighborhoods

2. Envisioning an abundant future

3. Selecting a theme / logo

4. Growing the local food movement/ growing local food

5. Fuel rationing?

6. Using movies for outreach

7. Permaculture education courses

I only got to participate in three of the sessions (I floated around a bit but mostly stayed put). I particularly enjoyed the Neighborhoods session, since this is an ultra-local way to make change. I have written a few articles for my neighborhood newsletter, gone to a few meetings and I can see that if people got motivated, we could create a lot of change right here in Suggs Park. Phone trees (for information distribution), emergency management plans, crime watches, community gardens, bulletin boards, tool sharing, barter networks, and baby-sitting co-ops can all be at such a local level. And when an entire neighborhood gets mobilized, city government starts to take notice.

After the sessions, we gathered as a group to hear about the other ideas that were discussed. Although the debriefing wasn't as brief as I'd hoped, there was plenty of enthusiasm to go around. I hope that we can sustain this energy as our TTOKC group starts to evaluate these projects and allocate our resources towards them. As a positive omen, several people expressed an interest in coming to our next meeting.

1 comment:

Lewru said...

Way to go, Frau! You've got momentum now!