Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

A word about Open Space Technology

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Have you ever heard of Open Space Technology?  Well, up until a few months ago, we never had!  However, at the VSO volunteers conference that was held in Kumasi in August, we got to participate in our first OST session. 

VSO volunteers reviewing the key recommendations coming out of the sessions

The principle at first sounded daunting;  have a conference, come up with key recommendations, but place no rules, time constraints or boundaries around what you do!  We admit – we were sceptical that anything could be achieved, given such wide parameters!  But we were definitely impressed.  The concept of Open Space Technology is one that allows people to participate and share their ideas on topics that matter to them.  The participants themselves drive the agenda, decide the topics, and vote on what is most important to them.  It is an organic type process that really works in getting everyone involved!

chatting poolside about one of the topics the participants themselves selected

In Ghana, we were so pleased that the topic we had facilitated ended up being the #1 recommendation coming out of our deliberations.  This issue was related to ethics and human rights, and ensuring that VSO has some policy and procedures in place to deal with these sensitive issues for volunteers while in placements.

Open Space Technology - Perth style!

When we got back to Australia, we wanted to get back into feeling part of our community once again…. so we attended something called “world cafe day” that was hosted by the Town of Cambridge (where we live).   Much to our surprise, we found that the day’s session was to employ OST!   So we felt very much veterans (heck – we had already participated in one, right?  We felt that made us veterans!) and we jumped in with much aplomb and enthusiasm.  Although the group size was smaller (about 12-15 of us, compared to about 50 at the previous one), it was still a very worthwhile way to structure the day. 

As we had only just returned home at the time the second one was held, there were a few things that struck us.  The first was that there were no black people!  Regrettably, Perth is not as culturally diverse as we might like, and certainly the area where we live is considerably whiter and far less colourful than what we had gotten used to! 

A second observation was the comparative wealth of hosting something in Australia like this, compared to hosting a community based meeting in Ghana.  We *almost* started on time;  only 15 minutes late, compared to up to 1.5 hours late which would be de rigueur in Ghana….

There was an amazing bounty of food provided;  morning and afternoon tea (consisting of fresh pastries, croissants, etc…) as well as tea and coffee on demand throughout the day….

A fabulous spread placed out at lunch….  many fresh salads, fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, and bread.  Quite over the top, we thought…and certainly not what we had become used to!

We were gratified to see, though, that everyone was encouraged to take a “doggy bag” home, as there was food leftover, and we did not want it to go to waste; particularly because the day’s focus was around sustainability!  (also a regular buzz word heard in the Ghanaian NGO community). 

So as much as there were differences, at the end of the day, it seems that people around the globe are trying hard to focus on what is really important, generate community spirit, and work towards ensuring the future of our planet is in capable hands!

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Written by Mar(k)

December 13, 2010 at 7:09 am

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