Friday 30 September 2016

Open Space and Graphic Recording

The inspirational new head of the HASS Faculty and Newcastle University has launched a Faculty-wide discussion about the values of the Faculty. She is pursuing this in various ways, and in conversation with her a while ago, we agreed that an Open Space event might be a valuable part of the process.

We held the event last week, at St James' Park (home of NUFC)  and around a hundred academics and professional support staff came along for the day.  As ever, I was slightly apprehensive at the start of the day: a hundred people and no agenda...  But as ever, people were full of ideas about the important questions to discuss, and quickly generated a large number of options.

Then there was the slightly messy business of constructing the agenda: people signing up for the questions they personally wished to discuss and then arranging the timings of the sessions so that as many as possible could get to all the topics they had chosen. Some people find this stage of the process uncomfortable,as it is somewhat chaotic and, finally, arbitrary. I always enjoy it: seeing order emerge from the chaos.  And in my experience, the group always manages to produce an agenda that works very well.

We had also invited John Ashton along - a graphic facilitator, recommended by Eleanor Beer, with whom I have worked before. John started with a blank sheet of paper, which mirrored our process of course, and over the day built up a comprehensive record of all the many discussions that had taken place. A number of participants were intrigued to watch this process, and the resultant poster (and electronic copies of it) will be very helpful both in reminding attendees and informing others who were unable to attend, of the range and key themes of the many rich discussion.

What I particularly enjoyed about the day was the huge, and unexpected, range of topics discussed: from how to have fun to how better to engage with the city and region.  But you can see the full range of the discussion in John's graphic poster, below. 

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