June 25, 2020: Exploring Virtual Open Space Events w/ MIT’s Unhangout
TL; DR: Exploring Virtual Open Space Technolgy — A Live Virtual Meetup on June 25, 2020
How do we run a virtual open space event or BarCamp with a large number of participants? Principally, we could use break-out rooms for organizing the sessions. The question is, though, how do we ensure that the law-of-two-feet still applies? By making everyone a co-host? Probably not the best idea in some situations.
Let us hence check out an MIT application that claims to provide precisely the solution we are looking for — Unhangout.
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Open Space Technology
BarCamps, un-conferences — we know open space events under different labels. They have become very popular in the last years, either organized by an independent community or within organizations:
When people must tackle a common complex challenge, you can release their inherent creativity and leadership as well as their capacity to self-organize. Open Space makes it possible to include everybody in constructing agendas and addressing issues that are important to them. Having co-created the agenda and free to follow their passion, people will take the responsibility very quickly for solving problems and moving into action. Letting go of central control (i.e., the agenda and assignments) and putting it in the hands of all the participants generates commitment, action, innovation, and follow-through. You can use Open Space with groups as large as a couple of thousand people! (Source.)
How do open space events work in practice? The Agile Camp Berlin describes the magic of self-organization at work:
Usually, people who share a common interest meet and work on topics. Meaning: Everybody can present a session, even is encouraged to do so. If there’s a topic you want to present, discuss, try out or you just want to ask the community for help: the pitching session in the morning of the BarCamp gives you the opportunity to propose your topic. After the initial pitching of sessions, all proposed sessions will be mapped to the spots and rooms. After that, the law of the two feet will apply. Law of the two feet means: if you decide that a session might be valuable for you, you show this by attending it. Sometimes there’s the situation that there are more proposed sessions than slots. In that case, we vote collectively, and the most popular sessions get a slot.
(Source: Agile Camp Berlin: What is Barcamp?)
The question is, though, how do we ensure that the law-of-two-feet still applies to a virtual open space event? By making everyone a co-host in Zoom? Probably, that is not the best idea in some situations. Alternatively, Manually assigning people to sessions in breakout rooms would not just create a massive administrative overhead. It would also introduce a dependency that might threaten what makes open space events so successful: autonomy, self-organization, and serendipity.
So, let us explore an MIT application that claims to provide precisely the solution we are looking for — Unhangout on June 25th, 2020 at 6:30 pm CEST — I hope that you will join us!
Note: If you are not familiar with this Liberating Structures microstructure, I strongly recommend investing some time upfront and familiarize yourself with the concept in advance.