Casa Weekly

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Experimenting With Open Space

Since April CatComm has introduced monthly Open Space meetings at our Casa community technology hub in Rio. We were first introduced to Open Space by Michael Herman at an community conference in Chicago in 2005. Since then we've been thinking up ways to incorporate this free, creative and constructive methodology in our work.

Approximately 25 community leaders have participated in the three Open Space meetings thus far, each one taking place on the third Wednesday of the month. Each meeting starts with participants quickly introducing themselves sitting in a large circle. The methodology is explained by CatComm staff. Large sheets of paper are distributed to each participant, and all are invited to suggest a topic that's on their minds or that's of interest to them. Anything from personal concerns to organizational issues they are struggling with, societal challenges, and so on. Because of the short nature of these meetings (we have 3 hours set aside for what might normally last a day or two), each suggested topic gets a 30-minute period assigned to it by its presenter. The posters are taped to the wall, with their suggested times, and participants sign up for those topics that interest them. Each person then participates in 3 30-minute topics. At the end, each group's presenter summarives his/her group's meeting.

The topics that have surfaced during the three preliminary Open Space meetings include:

  • Violence against the elderly;
  • Violence in general;
  • New activites at the Casa: how to make the Casa into a cultural center?;
  • How to impose limits for one's kids;
  • How to involve kids' families in activites run by community programs;
  • How to organize a particular community group called "Nosso Espaço," or "Our Space;"
  • Poor maintenance of public schools;
  • School councils - do they work? What's the alternative?;
  • Trying 16-year-olds as adults.

To read, in Portuguese, some of the direct quotes from the discussions that ensued, visit our Portuguese blog at

One exciting new project has come out of the first Open Space meetings: a community poet, Waldir Gallo, suggested launching monthly poetry readings at the Casa, inviting community poets to present. This project, "Café Com Verso," will be launched in late July or August.