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Posts Tagged ‘open space’

I look around the room at the couple of dozen people making a rough circle; some sitting, some getting coffee or tea, a couple of groups chatting. It’s coming up for the scheduled 2pm start, so I decide I’ll use the toilet then come back and call everyone together to get started. Off I go.

Returning about five minutes later, the circle has expanded and a steady flow of people is coming into the room. Before I know it, a couple of dozen people has become more like sixty or seventy, and I’m wondering what the hell I’ve got myself into. As it happens, I don’t have enough time to give that question full consideration; there’s an Open Space meeting to start…

That’s pretty much how the first event of The People’s Bristol 2050 got going. This is a response to another Bristol 2050, a business vision of what Bristol should look like in 2050. Co-ordinated by Business West, it “provides a clear statement about jobs, housing and infrastructure requirements to meet the needs of the area and to continue to develop and grow as the economic powerhouse of the South West”. As usual, these are the needs of the area according to business leaders; after all, business leaders have been doing so well in addressing society’s needs lately.

Whether historical coincidence or zeitgeist we may never know, but at about this time, Occupy Bristol had developed into two branches; one that wanted to move on from College Green, and one that wanted to resist eviction. The question of what happens to Occupy Bristol as a movement is one that will be addressed in a public meeting on Saturday 4th February, 2pm to 4pm, location to be announced (the facebook page for this is here).

Among the people who wanted to move on, the idea of developing a People’s Bristol 2050 to rival the business vision offered a new direction in which to aim some of the raw energy of Occupy. What these events demonstrate is that the Occupy Movement as a whole is a crucible from which many different things have the potential to emerge; it all depends on who directs their energy into the mix.

In more gestalt terms, the open space event on Saturday created a fertile ground with the potential to mobilise a wide variety of social actions. There is a buzz that I’ve noticed in every open space event I’ve been involved with, and I can only describe it as being plugged into a circuit of human power, rich with potential.

The downside to many open space events is that, as stand alone events, that buzz inevitably fades, leaving people with a sense of potential unachieved. This makes the People’s Bristol 2050 extra fascinating to me because the next event is already being planned for roughly four weeks time, with the intention being for a series of these meetings to take that buzz and develop it.

Except that there is no one centrally to develop it into anything; the idea is to support a process that challenges the people who turn up to take action for themselves. The idea is to move from a sense of “someone should really…”, to “I am going to…”. Instead of handing over power to someone else, the spirit of open space is to take a group of people and give them the minimum structure necessary to support self-regulation.

And to me, that sounds like gestalt therapy in action as a progressive social force.

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